Ethics Commission finds former Gillum aide and Tallahasseee mayoral candidate violated state’s code of ethics

by | Apr 22, 2021

Dustin Daniels is the latest Tallahassee politician to have violated the state’s Code of Ethics.

Daniels is former chief of staff for the former mayor of Tallahassee and 2018 Democrat gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum. Daniels also ran for Tallahassee mayor in 2018 and narrowly lost to John Dailey.

According to a release by the Florida Commission on Ethics, on April 16, it considered an order from an administrative law judge regarding Daniels. In its final action, the commission found Daniels violated the state’s ethics code by “misusing official resources as to a campaign-related mass email utilizing City equipment.”

The commission increased the $250 civil penalty to $1,000 and recommended a public censure and reprimand from the governor for Daniels.

This case stemmed from a 2017 complaint against Gillum, which alleged the then mayor used NPG Van campaign software, belonging to the City of Tallahassee, for his own personal campaign use in his race for governor.

However, an investigation determined since Daniels, not Gillum, bought the software and was the only one with access to the software’s password, it was Daniels who committed an ethics violation by using the software to send out campaign emails, even though it was done for the benefit of Gillum.

Gillum’s ethics violation stems from several incidents uncovered during an extensive FBI investigation while he was Tallahassee’s mayor. The ethics complaints involved trips to Costa Rica and New York in which it was alleged Gillum received gifts from lobbyists and undercover FBI agents. The investigation was a big issue in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign in which DeSantis won by a slight margin.

In 2019, Gillum pled guilty to one unspecified ethics violation and reached a settlement agreement in which he agreed to pay a $5,000 fine.

That agreement was sent to DeSantis, who imposed the penalties in February of 2020. Gillum has paid the $5,000 fine.

According to Tallahassee Reports, in early 2019 City Manager Rick Fernandez acknowledged violations of various ethics statutes related to a $4,700 discount on the catering price for his daughters’ wedding reception and the use of FSU sky box tickets for four different home games in 2016.

The settlement recommended a public censure and reprimand and a civil penalty totaling $6,000.

Fernandez resigned from his city manager position with the City of Tallahassee on January 3, 2018 and, as part of the separation agreement, received $94,000, or 18 weeks of pay, according to Tallahassee Reports.

Another former Tallahassee mayor, who was also the head of the Florida Democratic Party, is facing much more that an ethics violation penalty. On August 6, 2019 Scott Maddox pleaded guilty to three of the 44 federal charges stemming from a federal indictment. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop the other 39 charges facing Maddox and his business partner Paige Carter-Smith.

Almost two years later, Maddox and Carter-Smith have still not been sentenced and face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, three years of supervised release and up to $250,000 in fines and restitution for charges of mail fraud and tax evasion.


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