Work begins at DeVoe Moore Center to analyze subpoenaed documents

Published: Oct. 23, 2017 at 3:34 PM EDT
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By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News

October 23, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Florida State University's DeVoe Moore Center is launching an in-depth research project looking into thousands of federal subpoenaed documents.

The City of Tallahassee was hit with two federal subpoenas back in June. One, to the City of Tallahassee; the other to the Community Redevelopment Agency. The subpoenas requested five years of communication between the city or CRA, a short list of developers and about a dozen business entities. In its entirety, 90,000 documents were turned over.

Then, in September, the city received a third subpoena demanding documents from city commissioner Scott Maddox and a few of his closest business associates. In that case, more than 150,000 files were turned over.

Samuel Staley, Director of the DeVoe Moore Center, said at this point the center has only requested the original set of documents. The price tab was nearly $10,000. But, the center has entered an agreement with the Tallahassee Democrat to purchase the records.

Staley did not disclose the exact amount each entity will pay, but said the center will use money from its operating funds to pay for the records.

He noted there has long been an issue of transparency and accountability in local government and he hopes the data will provide an opportunity to understand how the system is operating.

“Because urban development projects are so complicated, no one really understands how they work. So it’s actually very easy for cronyism to slip in. It’s easy for corruption to slip in because it’s not very transparent in terms of process,” said Staley.

“I think that’s a big part of where we see the city now. We’re not even sure if anything criminal has happened but there’s so much ambiguity and so little transparency in the process, very few people trust the city or the county. So we believe this is a good example of where we need some good third party analysis,” he said.

The center received the documents electronically last week and is currently working to build a team to analyze the data. Those working on the project will go in with an open mind, letting the data guide the research.

“First thing we’re going to do is start looking at patterns. We want to look at the relationship between key parties, we want to look at the degree to which those relationships led to certain decisions. We want to look at the dollar amounts in these. But, then we want to know if they’re significant. If they’re meaningful,” said Staley.

Staley said the center is not looking to target any people caught up in the investigation and at this point he is not planning to release specific names as to how they relate to the findings. Rather, he hopes to provide a ”meaningful” and “significant” contribution to public discussion.

“This is a very unique moment in a researcher’s history where trajectories can change," he said.