by the Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew
March 9, 2017
It was a bombshell development in a story that could have implications for both City Hall and the Florida governor’s race. Gillum, a Democrat, announced last week he is running for governor in 2018.
“We are going to review it, investigate it and see if it has sufficient probable cause,” Sheriff Walt McNeil said Thursday evening. “And once we’ve completed an investigation, (we’ll) submit it back to the State Attorney’s Office to see if there is sufficient probable cause to indicate that a crime has occurred.”
Gillum responded by saying in a prepared statement that the state attorney has a duty to follow up on complaints his office receives.
“While I am certain there are no grounds for further action, I will fully comply with the Sheriff’s Office,” Gillum said. “I have apologized for the human error and reimbursed the city for the expense of the software. I look forward to bringing this inquiry to a speedy conclusion.”
McNeil agreed to conduct an investigation after State Attorney Jack Campbell sent him a written complaint Thursday from a Jefferson County man about the Gillum emails. The complainant, Paul Henry of Monticello, asked for a grand jury investigation into possible grand theft.
“Actions such as these erode public confidence in our government, so it is my hope your office will diligently investigate these allegations,” wrote Henry, a retired Florida Highway Patrol lieutenant who works as a lobbyist for the Liberty First Network.
Campbell said he contacted both the Tallahassee Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office to discuss the matter.
“If I have a report of a crime, I’m going to either investigate it myself or refer it to the appropriate agency so that we can understand the facts on whether a criminal prosecution needs to be conducted,” he said. “I wasn’t really asking them to do it. I was just saying I expect all of us to be called in on this and we might as well start working on it.”
Last week, on the same day he filed to run for governor, Gillum apologized for emails his office sent that were not government related. He said the emails were “inadvertent” and reimbursed the city for general fund dollars used to buy the software. The Mayor’s Office spent $6,850 on the software, including $4,965 from the general fund and $1,875 in leftover campaign dollars.
Gillum’s office in 2016 began paying fees for software purchased from NGP VAN, a company that provides technology to Democratic and progressive causes and campaigns. Over the course of a year, the Mayor’s Office sent 60 mass emails through the system, including several with political logos, messages or invitations.
Republicans on the local and national level have been blasting Gillum over the emails. The Leon County GOP called for his resignation and ledged to file complaints. The Republican Governors Association said Gillum showed “an alarming and unacceptable lack of accountability.” [READ MORE]