Costa Rica News – Local businessman Erwin Jackson filed another state ethics complaint against Mayor Andrew Gillum over a 2016 trip he took to Costa Rica with his wife and a number of others, including lobbyists Adam Corey and Sean Pittman.
Jackson filed the complaint Monday with the Florida Commission on Ethics. The agency wrote Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard, who’s representing Gillum, the same day saying it was treating the complaint as an amendment to one Jackson filed last year about a 2016 trip Gillum made to New York City.
The most recent complaint says Gillum may have violated ethics laws that prohibit public officials from accepting or soliciting gifts from lobbyists and vendors. Corey is co-owner of The Edison restaurant, which received more than $2 million from the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency. Pittman, a lobbyist for the city, is an investor in the restaurant.
“That trip was a gift compliments of Adam Corey and his business partners,” Jackson told the Tallahassee Democrat. “And it wasn’t reported.”
“As we have said before, the Mayor and Mrs. Gillum paid for their own share of this trip, which included several other couples and individuals all paying their fair share,” Van Pelt said. “This is a baseless claim, and it is unfortunate to see the state ethics process being used as a political tool.”
Just last week, based on a complaint by Jackson, the Ethics Commission found probable cause that former City Manager Rick Fernandez committed 20 violations of ethics laws by accepting luxury FSU skybox tickets from Corey and a nearly $7,000 catering discount from The Edison.
As reported by the Democrat earlier this month, Gillum went on the trip to Costa Rica in May 2016, staying at a $1,400-a-night luxury resort on the Pacific coast. Van Pelt earlier said the trip was personal in nature, no city business was discussed and Gillum paid for all of his and his wife’s expenses, including his portion of the villa and food and drinks. Jackson pointed out in the complaint that Van Pelt initially said Gillum paid cash for all of his and his wife’s expenses but later clarified to say he paid cash for the villa and used a credit card for other expenses.
In the earlier complaint, Jackson alleged Gillum may have violated statutes when he traveled to New York City and went on outings with Corey and a presumed undercover FBI agent posing as a developer named Mike Miller.
He alleged in that complaint that Gillum and the others went on a boat outing around the Statue of Liberty and took in a Mets game and a performance of the Broadway hit “Hamilton.” Mayor Gillum, who’s running for governor, has declined to discuss the trip in detail.
Corey is a key figure in the FBI’s long-running investigation into local public corruption. He and Gillum were friends since college, but Gillum has said he cut off ties with him following revelations involving the FBI probe. Gillum maintains the FBI has told him he is not the focus of its investigation.
Richard, a noted trial attorney, represented George W. Bush in the botched presidential election of 2000 and former Mayor John Marks in another ethics complaint filed by Jackson. After a hearing, the Ethics Commission voted to dismiss the Marks complaint.
By Jeff Burlew, From the Tallahassee Democrat