Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum agreed Wednesday to a settlement with the Florida Commission on Ethics involving five charges that Gillum improperly took gifts from lobbyists while serving as mayor of Tallahassee.
As part of the settlement, four of the charges involving free hotel rooms, trips and a ticket to the popular play Hamilton, were dismissed after Ethics Commission attorneys decided there was insufficient evidence to show Gillum violated any state ethics rules.
“Obviously, this has taken a lot of time and energy from my wife, myself, my family,” Gillum said in reacting to the announcement of the settlement. “Obviously, all of this happening in the context of a statewide election didn’t it any easier.
Gillum said he and his attorney, Barry Richard, were fully prepared to present their case when they arrived for the scheduled 9:30 a.m. hearing. Instead they were called to a back room by ethics commission attorneys to discuss the settlement. After meeting for more than a couple of hours behind closed doors, the two sides emerged to say an agreement had been reached.
“Today, we were approached with a settlement agreement that I believe keeps intact what I have said all along and throughout this process,” said Gillum. “But as any adult, when you learn more information, you have to step up and take responsibility for what it is that you come to know.”
As part of the agreement, Gillum did admit to one violation of state ethics law when he improperly accepted a gift a lobbyist worth more than $100 when he went on a boat ride around the Statute of Liberty during a trip to New York. The trip was paid by Gillum’s friend at the time, Adam Corey. The two men no longer associate with each other.
Gillum faces a fine of $5,000 for accepting the gift.
“That is the basis for his agreeing to it,” Richard said. “The rest of them, which were all the more onerous charges, had been dismissed because of a lack of evidence.”
Richard said the agreement was the result of additional information that came to light in recent weeks, specifically discrepancies in the bookkeeping records of Cory whose information was a key factor in the ethics commission’s findings of probable cause against Gillum earlier this year.
Richard said dates that Cory’s records showed he met Gillum for dinner or supposedly arranged a hotel room for him were discovered to be inaccurate.
“We learned things. The (commission’s) advocate learned things. I learned things that nobody knew at the probable cause hearing,” Richard explained. “Andrew Gillum knew he hadn’t done these things, but nobody else did.”
The settlement reached Wednesday is considered a recommendation and will be sent to the ethics commission to decide whether to accept the agreement.