Florida’s Gillum discloses receipts related to ethics probe
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, in an effort to answer lingering questions about trips he took that are being investigated by the state’s ethics commission, released receipts on Monday that he says show he paid for his travel.
Gillum, who last week won the Democratic primary for Florida governor, met Tuesday with investigators from Florida’s ethics commission to discuss the trips to Costa Rica and New York City. The commission inquiry is separate from an ongoing FBI investigation into city government, but there are links between the two.
In a statement, Gillum maintained he was being open and repeated his promise to cooperate with the FBI. He knocked his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis for being a critic of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and whether President Donald Trump or his close allies colluded with Russia.
“The FBI has a job to do — and whether it’s Washington, D.C., or Florida, Congressman DeSantis and President Trump should allow the agency to do its work,” said Gillum. “Here in Florida, we’ve done everything we can to aid the agency, while Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump have done the exact opposite — demonizing the FBI and making the case that collusion is not a crime.”
But the disclosures released by the Gillum campaign do not include all expenses related to the two trips that Gillum took in 2016 before the FBI probe became public. A Tallahassee businessman filed an ethics complaint once the trips were revealed.
Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for DeSantis, said that “these receipts do nothing to shed light on his luxury trips to Costa Rica and New York City with lobbyists and undercover FBI agents. In fact, they simply raise more questions about Gillum’s ongoing involvement. The people of Florida deserve answers, and Andrew Gillum keeps refusing to provide them.”
Gillum has said he has talked to the FBI and that he is not the target of an investigation. The first open knowledge of the probe came in June 2017 when a federal grand jury subpoenaed five years of records from Tallahassee and a local redevelopment agency that involved high-profile projects and developers, including an ally of Gillum. The FBI earlier this year asked for more records, dealing primarily with an upscale restaurant that is located in a city-owned building. The Edison received $2 million in financial assistance from the city and the local community redevelopment agency.
One of the owners of the restaurant was lobbyist Adam Corey, who once served as Gillum’s campaign treasurer and has known him since college. Gillum vacationed at a luxury resort in Costa Rica in May 2016 with Corey, as well as another investor in the Edison. During that trip, Corey set up a meeting between Gillum and FBI undercover agents.
Gillum said he paid for the cost of the resort in cash and produced bank records to show he withdrew $400 to pay for his share of the $1,400-a-night villa that was shared by several couples. He also produced credit card expenses showing other trip expenses.
During the New York trip, Gillum met with Corey and undercover agents and attended a showing of the Broadway show “Hamilton.” Gillum produced a hotel bill for two nights, but said he spent a third night in a hotel room rented by his brother. He said his brother, Marcus Gillum, gave him the Broadway ticket and that he learned later his brother swapped a concert ticket with Corey to get the “Hamilton” ticket.
Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for Gillum, said he did not know the value of the two swapped tickets. He also said that the New York airfare was paid by People for the American Way, who was Gillum’s employer at the time. The campaign did not produce a receipt for the air travel.
Christopher Kise, an attorney for Corey, disputed the account given by Gillum. He said that Corey won the Costa Rica lodging through a charity auction and “to date Mr. Corey has not received any cash from the mayor.” He added that Corey did not purchase the Hamilton ticket or swap it for a concert ticket.
“The idea that Marcus Gillum would have exchanged something for the Hamilton ticket is nonsense,” Kise said.
Gillum’s campaign on Tuesday contended that the investigation is focused on “another elected official.”
In February, a federal search warrant was accidentally made public on a court website and detailed that the FBI launched its corruption investigation in 2015 and that agents posed as out-of-town real-estate developers and medical marijuana entrepreneurs in order to gain access to various city officials.
The warrant stated that agents were focusing on City Commissioner Scott Maddox, a former head of the Florida Democratic Party, and his former chief of staff and whether Maddox was paid to help out businesses seeking help from the city. He has denied any wrongdoing.