A federal investigation into top circles of Tallahassee politics has led to the indictment and arrest of one of Florida's most prominent Democrats.
Tallahassee City Commissioner and former Mayor Scott Maddox, who used to be the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, was indicted on Tuesday by a federal grand jury on public corruption charges, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. Paige Carter-Smith, executive director of the Downtown Improvement Authority Executive, was also charged in the 44-count indictment as part of the City Hall probe, according to federal court documents.
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It’s unclear whether the FBI’s probe into Tallahassee city politics is coming to a close or just getting started.
Maddox was arrested Wednesday morning by FBI agents and Carter-Smith was scheduled to surrender to the FBI the same morning, according to court documents. They are scheduled to first appear before a judge this afternoon.
Maddox denied the charges back in February, and Carter-Smith’s lawyer said she will be cleared.
With Maddox indicted, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Florida’s junior senator-elect, could suspend him from office. If he did so, Tallahassee city commissioners could appoint someone to fill his place on their five-person commission, and if they don't within 20 days, the governor would then have the option to do so.
This comes more than a year after the grand jury subpoenaed the city for Maddox’s communications with aides, including Carter-Smith.
The Democrat has reported extensively on the corruption probe’s look at Maddox’s alleged pay-to-play scheme, which involved a public relations firm he started and companies such as Uber Technologies:
In February, the Democrat obtained federal court documents showing Maddox and Carter-Smith were central figures in its public corruption probe. A search warrant affidavit for Maddox’s personal emails and texts said the two engaged in a pay-to-play scheme involving their firm, Governance, Inc., and city vendors. The affidavit was sealed by a federal magistrate judge but later inadvertently posted on a federal court website.
The FBI alleged that Maddox sold Governance, a firm he started in 1999 when he was mayor, to Carter-Smith sometime between 2010 and 2012. But he continued to secretly control the company and profit from it, the documents said. Over a roughly five-year span, Governance made nearly $400,000 in payments to Maddox or Maddox and his wife and nearly $200,000 more to his family members.
The affidavit said Maddox took official actions to benefit a "ride share delivery service" that appeared to be Uber Technologies but was identified only as "Company One." It also referred to a "waste services provider" that appeared to be Waste Pro USA but was identified only as "Company Three."
While Tallahassee’s city commission was revising regulations on vehicles for hire, Uber hired Carter-Smith to be on its lobbying and consulting team, although she never registered as a lobbyist. When an ordinance with provisions favorable to Uber came up later on, Maddox voted in favor of it.
The trash vendor Waste Pro paid Governance more than $170,000, according to court documents, and it is cooperating with investigators.
Maddox’s indictment is not a surprise to many following the corruption scandal. He has been photographed with undercover FBI agents and was even recorded telling one of them to pay $20,000 per month to Governance.