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The Corruption Probe Imposes On The Historic Campaign Of The Democrat For Florida Governor

Tallahassee Governor Andrew Gillum's surprise victory in Florida's Democratic Congo Governor nomination was fueled in part by a compelling personal biography: The son of a school bus driver and construction worker, he was the first of his parents. seven children to complete high school and go to college. At the age of 23, he became the youngest city commissioner the capital had ever met

"Between my mother and father, they are the best examples of hard work I have known to this day," Gillum said Tuesday after Progressives support vaulted him over older and better-funded primary opponents.

A less palatable narrative threatens to collide with this encouraging story of origin. Last year, a Grand Jury in Tallahassee conducted a corruption investigation. The probe drew little attention beyond the capital during the main campaign, but with Gillum's bid to become the first African-American governor of the nation's largest swing nation and Florida's first Democratic governor in 20 years, it caught the eye.

Steven Andrews, a lawyer representing former city director Rick Fernandez, said his client testified before the grand jury in July and was not asked about the mayor.

Nonetheless, he said, "This was a cloud that hung over the city, and unfortunately it will hurt him for Gillum and the state of Florida, it's all a pity, because Gillum has such a great history." [1

9659002] Over the past year, details of Gillum's relationship with lobbyists and the wider investigation have surfaced in the local press – a report was jokingly photographed by a city commissioner in Las Vegas with undercover agents and dwarf entertainers. These reports are expected to spread a million-dollar flood of attack ads while the GOP is struggling to keep the governor's house under control for decades.

The exact contours of the probe are unknown, but the investigators have summoned information about lobbyist Adam Corey, a longtime friend of Gillum, who once served as treasurer of his campaign. Three people who claimed to be out-of-town developers or businessmen who married officials for more than a year – before they suddenly disappeared – are now widely regarded as covert FBI agents. Last year, two of the alleged developers in New York met with Gillum and Corey. Gillum has acknowledged that the trip is under investigation by the Ethics Committee, as Gillum has done with Corey and other lobbyists to Costa Rica.

No one was indicted in the federal investigation, and the FBI declined to comment

The scope of the probing is indicated by several subpoenas by Grand Jury, correspondence between the city and its community re-development agency between several people and their lobby and real estate companies were looking for.

Three of the subpoenas were seeking documents about Corey and the Edison, a restaurant he and his partners were building with taxpayers' money.

A spokesman for Gillum said FBI agents assured the mayor in June 2017 that he was not a "focus" on the probe

"I acted in accordance with the law in every way," Gillum said. "I have complied with the law in every way."

Chris Kise, Corey's lawyer, said his client was not a target and did not do anything wrong. He refused to answer certain questions about the investigation.

Gillum's opponent, Ron DeSantis MP for Florida's 6th congressional district, wasted no time in winning the Republican nomination on Tuesday before alerting to the mayor's ethics lawsuit for the FBI rehearsal.

"He is involved in many corruption scandals," DeSantis said on Fox News. "This guy can not even run the city of Tallahassee – there's no way Florida voters can entrust our entire state to him."

Gillum personally named the trips to New York and Costa Rica, saying he went his own way and discussed no business in the city. But at times he has refused to answer questions about the trips, and has not yet fulfilled a promise to release revenue of his payments. Gillum declined the past year, for example, to say whether he saw Broadway banging the musical "Hamilton" with his lobby buddy while he was in Manhattan. (He did, he told the Washington Post on Thursday.)

"It's easy to see these things in the light of the aftermath:" Oh, lobbyist. "What about friend, someone I knew before he was a lobbyist?" Gillum said. "In the episode you look back at these things and you go, now that you see them in the light you do, if you're just a person who does not know the relationship," Well, why is the mayor with one Hang out lobbyists? "It's not like that."

Although it was not publicly known at the time, the federal investigation began in 2015, when undercover agents swept the city as "real estate developers and medical marijuana" to get access to various city officials, "according to one of them The FBI Search Warrant.

They soon made development proposals – and sociability – a "developer" called Mike Miller began training in a gym with Corey and Gillum in the morning, Gillum said.

In May 2016, Gillum made and his wife's vacation with Corey and other lobbyists and their major roommates in a Costa Rican villa offering sea views and rentals for $ 1,400 a night, a web post said, and the mayor said he paid his part of the villa in cash .

While in Costa Rica, Corey Gillum sent an electronic invitation for tapas and drinks to the Edison Mi later in the month t "Miller" and a Miller employee who went by the name of Brian Butler after an e-mail that was released upon a public request.

Corey and his associates had invested $ 2.1 million in taxpayers to build the Edison. He turned a 1920's township-owned powerhouse into a chic brick-built restaurant overlooking a park of palm trees. In 2013, Gillum, as city commissioner, agreed to finance the project. The city's judicial officials found that he had no conflict of interest, it says in records.

Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for Gillum, said the mayor recalled the meeting at Edison as "remarkably inconspicuous," as an elected official often assumes people who are interested in doing business in the city. The men said they were interested in building on the south side of Tallahassee but had no concrete plans, Burgan said.

Three months later, the congregation arrived in New York. Gillum was on his way to work for the People for the American Way Foundation, the charity of a liberal advocacy group. Corey wanted to meet, Gillum said. According to Tallahassee Democrat's Google calendar invitation, "Miller" arranged rooms at the Millennial Hilton and trips to a Mets game and a boat trip.

In June 2017, the summons began to arrive at City Hall. They did not call the mayor.

Around the same time, the public got what many thought was an unusual window in the investigation.

Josh Doyle, an FBI agent, had applied to run the Florida Bar. In his application, Doyle described building a team of 20 people, including "Undercover Investigators, Forensic Accountants, Intelligence Analysts, Accountants, and Auxiliary Workers."

"I recently completed a delicate two-year covert investigation," Doyle wrote. The application was published by the Tallahassee Democrat along with a video of his job interview. His comments led many in the city to believe that prosecution was imminent.

Doyle declined to comment.

Gillum began asking questions about the trip to New York in August 2017 when local TV station WCTV released a photo of Corey, Gillum and "Miller" – his face blurred at the FBI's request – on a Statue of Liberty boat Background. Gillum told the TV station that the excursion was personal without spending any city money or discussing city business.

Then the reporters asked about his rumor mill at a performance of "Hamilton."

On Thursday he told the post office that he had not asked any questions when his brother Marcus Gillum handed him a ticket.

"I'm sketchy in the details, all I know is that I got my ticket from Marcus, we're going to & # 39; Hamilton & # 39 ;," Gillum said. "I enjoyed it a lot. I had a great time."

They sat in what Gillum called one of the upper floors of the Richard Rodgers Theater, where tickets can cost hundreds of dollars. Gillum said he did not ask how much the ticket costs or who paid for it. He said he assumed his brother had paid for it; The two often buy concert tickets for each other, he said.

"I would never ask, 'How much did that cost?'" Gillum said.

Florida law prohibits elected officials from accepting a gift worth more than $ 100 from a lobbyist or vendor doing business with the city. However, these rules do not prohibit gifts from family members and do not require such gifts to be reported.

Gillum said he learned later that Corey's ticket he used had been given to his brother for a ticket to a Jay Z show. This detail emerged, Gillum said, when a lawyer he hired to investigate state ethics interviewed his brother Marcus. Gillum did not refund anyone for the ticket, Burgan said, and neither Burgan nor the mayor said they knew how much the ticket price was.

In a brief interview on Thursday night, Marcus Gillum declined to answer questions about the New York trip.

In February 2018, the Tallahassee Democrat reported in another unexpected window on the investigation the contents of a search warrant filed under seal but unintentionally published. An FBI agent wrote in a sworn statement that city commissioner Scott Maddox ordered a carpooling company to hire his former lobbying firm, Governance Inc., and then issue a regulation that benefited the firm. Maddox received tens of thousands of dollars from the government during this period, wrote the agent, and hundreds of thousands since 2012.

Maddox served as mayor of Tallahassee and chairman of the Florida Democratic Party and launched three unsuccessful campaigns for [19659002] Maddox & # 39; s lawyer, Stephen Dobson, said: "Misleading or incorrect information has been incorrectly disseminated by wrongdoing that has never occurred, Scott Maddox has served his community with distinction and honor and is known as an honest official." [19659002] In an interview with Jonathan Capehart of The Post in June, Gillum spoke about the investigation and the affidavit. "It's clear that this investigation is based on a colleague of mine whom I deeply regret, and perhaps some other people," he said.

He also said that he separated from Corey, his 20-year-old friend

"We are all entitled to be disappointed with our friends if they disappoint us," Gillum said. "Nobody should draw the conclusion, and I certainly do not believe that there is any evidence that I have done anything inappropriate as far as my voice is concerned and how I am to act on the City Council." [196592002] Kise, Corey's lawyer, accused the mayor of "throwing Adam under the bus."

"The best thing that has happened to Andrew Gillum is that he is now the Democratic candidate for the governorship of a large state," Kise said. "But perhaps the worst thing that happened to him about the ongoing investigation is that he is now the candidate."

"When he was a rane, nobody really pushed the hard questions," he added. "Well, as it ultimately applies to all of us, comes a day of reckoning, and he is much more studied."

Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

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