Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 6.23.17 — ‘Somebody’s going to emergency, somebody’s going to jail’

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


When one of Tallahassee’s top white-collar criminal defense attorneys won’t talk about a case, you know things are bad.

An assistant to Steve Andrews ‘no comment’ed on Thursday to Jim Rosica, our man in Tallahassee, when Rosica asked if the firm was representing any of those named in federal subpoenas made public earlier that day.

As the AP’s Gary Fineout first reported, “Federal authorities have launched an investigation into redevelopment deals that involve business owners and developers as well as an ally of (Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, now) running for governor.”

A Democratic consultant supporting Andrew Gillum’s campaign told POLITICO Florida, “I think he has to drop out.”

Still another person involved with the investigation told Rosica, “This is serious. Very serious. I’m sure that everyone named in those subpoenas has lawyered up. I won’t be surprised if charges are filed in the next few months.” (That individual asked not to be named.)

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in north Florida and the FBI issued subpoenas to the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) for “documents, records, bids, applications, or proposals,” as well as “emails, letters, and memoranda” and “copies of checks or wire transfers, or any payments.”

The list of those named in the records include many of Tallahassee’s movers and shakers: Adam Corey, the lobbyist/developer behind the city-financed Edison restaurant; and Paige Carter-Smith, CEO of the Downtown Improvement Authority (DIA) and a longtime ally of former Mayor and now City Commissioner Scott Maddox.

Maddox was not named in the subpoenas, though his former consulting firm, Governance Inc., was.

Others named in the subpoenas are Kim Rivers, now the CEO of Trulieve, a Florida medical marijuana treatment center; and J.T. Burnette, who among other projects helped develop the city’s former Radisson hotel into the tony Hotel Duval, now a Marriott property.  

Rivers is the DIA’s chair and Corey is the vice-chair, according to its website. Rivers also has been a “business partner” of Burnette in the Inkbridge “financial engineering” firm, according to a 2012 interview she gave 850 Business Magazine.

Inkbridge was named in the subpoenas, as was Hunter+Harp, where Rivers was once vice president, according to her LinkedIn page, and Burnette was a partner.

What are the feds looking for? No surprise, they weren’t talking Thursday.

Whatever it is, it’s not a good look for Gillum, the city’s mayor since 2014.

Over the last few months, he’s taken it on the chin with criticisms over last year’s Hurricane Hermine response, a sheriff’s inquiry into his political use of a city-owned email program, and accusations he exaggerated his gubernatorial campaign’s contributors.

One issue could be The Edison, “the product of a public/private partnership that received more than $2 million from the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency to renovate the three-story building, formerly used as the city’s power plant in the 1920s,” as the Tallahassee Democrat has reported.

“Local government watchdogs questioned relationships between Corey and restaurant investors,” the paper reported in April. Corey, who has denied any impropriety in that deal, also was campaign treasurer for Gillum’s mayoral run.

Still another source said Josh Doyle, a Tallahassee FBI agent soon to become the next executive director of The Florida Bar, had been “deeply involved” in the ongoing investigation, which “goes back about two years.” Doyle wasn’t in the office Thursday.

According to the subpoenas, FBI Special Agent Evan Hurley and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kunz, both based in Tallahassee, are on the case.

A federal grand jury looking into the matter is scheduled to meet on July 11.

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“Rick Scott gets more time to respond to judicial appointments lawsuit” via Florida PoliticsThe Florida Supreme Court on Thursday granted Gov. Scott’s request for 14 extra days to respond to a lawsuit claiming he doesn’t have authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term. Scott general counsel Daniel Nordby filed the request Wednesday, asking to move the deadline to July 19. “Multiple extensions of time for the same filing are discouraged,” the court’s order says. “Absent extenuating circumstances, subsequent requests may be denied.” Nordby’s reasons for extension included the need for legal briefings on bills still on the governor’s desk (68 as of Thursday morning), and “official duties associated with Section and Committee meetings at the 2017 Annual Bar Convention,” meeting in Boca Raton this week.

“State announces Medicaid managed care bid date” via Florida Politics The Agency for Health Care Administration said Thursday it will post material for the next bidding for the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program “on or around July 14.” That’s when the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for the re-procurement will go live on the Florida Department of Management Services’ Vendor Bid System website. Companies who put in a proposal will be subject to a 72-hour blackout period, in which they can’t contact “any employee or officer of the executive or legislative branch concerning any aspect of this solicitation,” according to a state law.

Final rules set for House Speaker’s race voting” via Florida Politics – With just one week until freshman House Republicans are scheduled to vote for their leader, it appears lawmakers have agreed upon rules governing the election. According to a copy of the rules obtained by, members will not be allowed to abstain from the vote; discussion between members between the announcement of the eliminated candidate and the next vote will be prohibited; and “the vote count will not be disclosed under any circumstances prior to the final vote.” Unlike traditional Speaker’s races, the class has agreed to hold a vote by secret ballot. The election is being coordinated by Rep. Larry Metz, the chairman of the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues.

Legislative leaders announce committee week schedule — Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran outlined the interim committee week schedule in memos to their respective members Thursday. The schedule, as it stands right now, includes one week in September, two weeks in October and November, and one in December. The first week of committee meetings begins on Sept. 12. Members will then return for meetings during the week of Oct. 9 and Oct. 23. They’ll be back in Tallahassee for meetings during the week of Nov.6, but both Negron and Corcoran note “meetings will conclude prior to the observance of the Veterans’ Day holiday” on Friday, Nov. 10. Members will be asked to return to the capital city for committee meetings during the week of Nov. 13. The only committee week scheduled in December is during the week of Dec. 4.

— “Is U.S. Term Limits coordinating a grassroots campaign against Jamie Grant?” via Florida Politics

Fix inequitable treatment between charter, traditional schools, George Gainer says” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – Gainer, a Panama City Republican, was expected to oppose HB 7069 in the state Senate’s final vote. He spoke against the imbalance of treatment between charter schools and traditional public schools during that debate, and said he wouldn’t take much more special favors for charters. In the end, he backed the bill but said he would take the issue under greater consideration going forward … without fixes, problems lie ahead … he remains “very much a fan of the governor,” however, he adds to Kelley’s warning that that if lawmakers don’t return next session to fix the inequitable treatment between charter and traditional schools “we’re all in trouble.”

“Absent any takers, Senate mural in limbo” via Florida Politics At least 10 museums or other institutions have declined an offer from the Florida Senate to donate its “Five Flags Mural“—now in storage—that formerly adorned the wall outside the chamber’s 5th floor public and press galleries in the Capitol. “Most cited the size of the mural and their limited capacity for storage as the reason why they could not accept it,” Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said Thursday. The nearly 40-year-old mural, installed during construction of the current 1978 Capitol building, is 10 feet by 16 feet. But it may not help that it also depicts a Confederate general and flag. Contention has been stoked recently across Florida, including Tampa and Orlando, and the South as cities debate and have begun removing Confederate statues and other memorials.


Gillum releases women’s contraception coverage plan” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Gillum said in a statement Thursday he would push for statewide legislation that would require health insurance policies that cover prescriptions to include full coverage for any FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drug or device. Gillum’s proposal would prohibit insurers from imposing co-pays co-insurance fees or other costs for contraception. In announcing the plan, Gillum’s campaign noted that contraception drugs also can reduce risks of certain kinds of cancer, manage debilitating symptoms, and treat diseases. His plan would allow for exemptions for religious-based organizations, including hospitals and universities, similar to such an exemption in the Affordable Care Act. “As governor, I’m going to stand with women and ensure that neither the government nor their employer, stand between a woman and her doctor in making the critical health decisions that affect her life,” he said in a statement. “This is an essential part of providing better quality care and economic security and stability to more Floridians.”

Happening today: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is scheduled to speak during POLITICO Magazine’s “What Works” series, which kicks off at 8:30 a.m. at the Eden Roc, 4525 Collins Ave in Miami Beach. The program will feature a series of one-on-one interviews with mayors what they are doing to foster innovation, promote sustainable cities, and implement change in their region. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh are also scheduled to attend. The event is held in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Orlando.

— Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach Saturday for mayors’ convention via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald – A friend of Miami Beach Mayor Levine, who lobbied to bring the event to Miami Beach in 2017, Clinton will speak at the day’s luncheon at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. It is closed to the public. No details were released on Clinton’s speech, but he will be addressing mayors during a lunch with a theme of “city livability.”

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will host an “Up & Adam” breakfast for supporters at 9 a.m. at The Club at Candler Hills, 8139 SW 90th Terrace Road in Ocala.

Scoop –Mike Miller looking at run for Congress in CD 7” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican state Rep. Mike Miller is considering running for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy next year. … “I’m strongly considering it. I think it would be an incredible honor, but if I do I want to make sure I do it for the right reasons,” Miller said. If he does, he could draw stiff Republican primary competition. State Sen. David Simmons from nearby Altamonte Springs has said he is 98 percent certain he would run for the seat, but he has not yet pulled the trigger.

Florida doctors back Pepi Diaz in SD 40 — The Florida Medical Association is throwing its support behind Jose Felix Diaz in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. “The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Rep. Diaz for Senate District 40. During his time in the Florida House, the FMA has worked closely with him on many important issues and our physicians have appreciated his unwavering support,” said Dr. Mike Patete, the president of the FMA PAC in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our work with him in the Senate and moving forward important healthcare legislation.”

Dennis Ross backs Ben Albritton in SD 26 — Rep. Dennis Ross announced Thursday he was endorsing Ben Albritton in his bid to replace Denise Grimsley in Senate District 26. “Ben Albritton is a committed and consistent conservative,” said Ross in a statement. “He has a track record of principled leadership in the Florida House, and his integrity and genuine concern for people have served his constituents well. I look forward to continuing working with him when he is in the Florida Senate.” Ross was first elected to Congress in 2010, after serving four terms in the Florida House. He is the vice chair of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee, and serves on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Congressman Dennis Ross is an outstanding public servant, and I am honored to have his support,” said Albritton. “Throughout his career at both the state and national levels, he has been a stalwart conservative, and I look forward to continuing to work together on policies to strengthen our area and our state.”

“Jay Fant touts endorsements from outside Northeast Florida” via Florida Politics — Seven legislators — Rep. Mike Miller of Orlando; Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs; Rep. Rene Plasencia of Titusville; Rep. Joe Gruters of Sarasota; Rep. Stan McClain of Belleview; Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland; and Rep. Julio Gonzalez of Venice — announced they were endorsing Fant in his bid to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018. “I’m honored to have earned the support of these colleagues in the Florida House. I’ve worked alongside my fellow House members on legislation important to all Floridians, and I hope to continue working with them from the executive branch,” he said in a statement. “We have a vision for Florida consistent with our values that freedom comes first and that we have a duty to protect our citizens from too much government.”

Save the date:

Save the date: Democrat Emma Collum will host a Fourth of July Kick-Off fundraiser for her House District 93 campaign at 6 p.m. on June 30 at Funky Buddha, 1201 NE 38th Street in Oakland Park.

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Census: Latino growth fastest in exurbs of Orlando, Tampa” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Among counties with more than 100,000 residents, St. Johns County near Jacksonville led the state in Latino population growth rate from July 2015 to July 2016. The county’s Latino population grew 7.5 percent, to almost 15,500 residents, in that period. Counties with the next-fastest Latino growth rates were in exurbs of Tampa and Orlando: Hernando, Lake, Polk and Pasco counties. These central Florida counties had Latino growth rates ranging from 6.5 percent to 7.2 percent. Miami-Dade continued to be the county with Florida’s largest Latino community – about 1.8 million residents, or two-thirds of the county’s overall population. Its Hispanic population increased by just less than 27,000 residents, or 1.5 percent, from 2015 to 2016.

Board of Governors agrees on university performance-based funding” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The State University System’s Board of Governors approved $245 million in state money for performance-based funding for universities. The University of Florida, who scored 95 points on the performance metrics, received the biggest portion of the pot — $55.1 million — followed by the University of South Florida and Florida State University … three universities did not qualify for new state performance funding in the budget year that starts July 1: Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida A&M University and the University of North Florida. The allocation of the state funding, which the Legislature increased by $20 million this year, is based on 10 measurements of performance by each of the 11 institutions, including a six-year graduation rate, salaries of recent graduates, retention of students and student costs.

Bob Buckhorn: It was Hillsborough, not Tampa, which voted to keep Confederate monument” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “Confederate monument in Tampa will stay put” is the headline published on CNN’s website … Buckhorn sought to make sure everyone knows that it was the government of Hillsborough County – and not the city he runs – which made that controversial vote. “There is no honor in treason and there is no valor in enslaving people because of their race,” said the Mayor. “That statue represents the worst of humanity not the Tampa that we aspire to be. This decision doesn’t speak for our city and the people that I represent.” On social media day, angry citizens noted that all four commissioners who supported the proposal to maintain the monument – Stacy White, Victor Crist, Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman – are all running on the 2018 ballot, and they vowed retribution at the polls.

Designated player games return to Florida poker rooms” via Nick Sortal of the Miami Herald – … thanks to a change of heart by the state. The state formally gave approval in 2014 after card room operators persuaded them that the games were classified as poker, under the reasoning that patrons vied against a designated player, rather than the house. The Seminole Tribe, which like most casinos has Three-Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ’em in their table games pits — not in the poker room — argued that the racetrack casinos were infringing on the tribe’s exclusive rights to table games, and in December 2015 Gov. Scott ordered the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to withdraw its approval. The tribe also filed suit, and in November 2016, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle declared the racetrack’s version of the games “egregious example of the cardrooms’ attempt to evade the prohibition on banked card games,” and ruled that their existence carved into the tribe’s exclusivity. But after the Legislature failed to agree on terms for a comprehensive gambling bill this spring, or even new terms to the Seminoles’ compact, the card rooms are revving up their games, with state approval.

FCC proposes record fine for faking robocall numbers” via David McCabe of Axios – The FCC proposed a $120 million fine against a Florida man allegedly behind millions of robocalls that used faked numbers. It’s the largest fine the agency has ever proposed. The agency says Adrian Abromovich‘s “operation apparently made the spoofed calls in order to trick unsuspecting consumers into answering and listening to his advertising messages.” Spoofing is when a robocaller fakes the number the call is coming from so the called consumer will pick the phone up. The agency said that the “proposed fine is based on 80,000 spoofed calls that the Commission has verified.” The FCC decision was to lodge its allegations against Abromovich. Now he has a chance to respond, and then the process proceeds from there.

FLORIDA TODAY building for sale” via Wayne Price of FLORIDA TODAY – The expansive facility is located off U.S. 1 between Rockledge and Melbourne. When purchased, FLORIDA TODAY’s news and business operation will move to a yet-to-be identified space in Brevard County. There is no timetable for that move. “We will miss the rich history this home served for Gannett, USA TODAY and FLORIDA TODAY,” [FLORIDA TODAY President Jeff] Kiel said. “However, needs have changed from mixed-use manufacturing, warehousing and office operations to space that allows us to deploy more technology with open and collaborative space and specialized work areas. We believe this is critical to our continued success and growth.”


“Scott reappoints picks to State University System Board of Governors” via Florida Politics Gov. Scott announced the reappointment of Syd Kitson and Darlene Jordan to the Board of Governors of the State University System. The move comes after the Florida Senate, which must confirm Scott’s appointments, failed to do so during this year’s Legislative Session … Scott also appointed Alan Levine. His term runs concurrent with Kitson and Jordan, from Thursday to Jan. 6, 2024.

AppointedKymberlee Curry Smith to the Florida Elections Commission; Jason Robbins to the Workers’ Compensation Panel; Dr. Diana Worrall to the Florida Building Commission; Raja Shekhar Komuroji to the Board of Employee Leasing Companies and Ted Feaster to the Construction Industry Licensing Board (following the Florida Senate’s failure to consider him for confirmation before Sine Die).

“Personnel note: Amy Zubaly named new head of FMEA” via Florida PoliticsZubaly has now gone from interim to permanent executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA), and the first women to head the organization, according to a Thursday press release. The board of directors in January had tapped Zubaly, then deputy executive director of public affairs and strategic communications, to helm the association while it looked for a new leader … Now, Zubaly will continue “to manage the day-to-day operations of the association, handle member and board relations, oversee the association’s government affairs, communications and education functions and provide strategic planning.”

“Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers seeks to enter FAMU hazing case” via Florida Politics – The association, known as FACDL, asked the court for permission to file a friend of the court brief. The justices will consider an appeal from Dante Martin, convicted in the 2011 hazing death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion. Martin and Champion were both members of the school’s famed “Marching 100” band. Champion, 26, succumbed to internal injuries after a brutal beating ritual with fists, mallets and drumsticks in a band bus that was parked outside a game in Orlando. Martin, now 30, was sentenced in 2015 to 6 years and 5 months in prison on felony manslaughter and hazing charges, according to the Department of Corrections website.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Tanya Jackson, Adams St. Advocates: Unisys Corporation


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James will discuss “GOPs stealth health care plan” with political analyst Dr. Lawrence A. Miller.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include Tampa Bay Times Deputy Managing Editor for Politics and Business Amy Hollyfield, Tampa Bay Times reporter Chris O’Donnell, attorneys Ron Christaldi and Brian Willis.

Former Congressman Ander Crenshaw will provide insight on This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on “food deserts,” getting nutritional food into areas where access to such food is limited, with David Overfield and Deepa Mathew from the Orange County Department of Health, and Lakeisha Hood from the Florida Department of Agriculture. Also, they will examine the Goldsboro area of Sanford (In Seminole County) and talk to people about what they have to do to put good food on the table.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Longwood Republican State Sen. David Simmons talked about the 2017 Legislative Session, budget deals, education funding, environmental policies and more. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim about the American Health Care Act.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will talk with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week, Justice will speak with former U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who represented Jacksonville in Florida’s 4th Congressional District. Also appearing is Florida TaxWatch president and CEO Dominic Calabro.

— ALOE —

At James Madison’s home, slaves’ lives matter as much as the man who owned them” via Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post – With the help of a $10 million gift from philanthropist David Rubenstein, the staff [at James Madison’s Montpelier, in Orange, Virginia] has devoted new attention and resources to that untold story. The result is a series of reconstructed dwellings in the South Yard and a new permanent exhibit, “The Mere Distinction of Colour,” on the basement floor of Montpelier. The new galleries, which opened June 5, do something radical: They treat the people who were enslaved at Montpelier as if their lives were as worthy of historical examination as that of the man who owned them. These displays at Montpelier provide ample evidence for visitors to consider as they reckon with the fact that the same James Madison who drafted the Bill of Rights also spent considerable time trying to track down a runaway slave named Anthony. (Madison’s own enslaved valet, John, went to his grave without telling Madison anything about Anthony’s whereabouts.)

Disney permit signals future work at Epcot” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel – A recently approved permit signals parking changes could be part of the work being planned at Epcot. The plan is to reconfigure an existing canal to “to provide a more contiguous area for possible future changes to parking capacity and back of house areas within Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center,” according to a staff report included with the permit. The project also includes creating two dry retention areas for water treatment at the park “where future construction is planned,” the report said. “It will be more Disney. It will be even more relevant than it is today,” said [Disney executive Bob] Chapek, who oversees the theme parks. “And, at the same time, it will stay true to our original vision. Stay tuned, there’s a lot more to come on Epcot.”

Ritz-Carlton isn’t all about hotels anymore. Now it’s launching a cruise line” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald – Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is launching a luxury cruising yacht line scheduled to hit the water in the fourth quarter of 2019 … Ritz-Carlton will enter a crowded field of luxury cruise lines. In doing so, it follows a path similar to Disney when it founded Disney Cruise Line in 1996. Ritz-Carlton, part of Marriott International, is planning to build three 298-passenger yachts for its new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, to be based in Coconut Grove. The Yacht Collection is a venture created by maritime experts Douglas Prothero, who was the CEO and founder of the Canadian Maritime Group, and Lars Clasen, former president of Aida Cruises. Each ship will feature 149 balcony suites and two duplex penthouse suites.

Happy birthday belatedly to Drew Weatherford and Amy Young. Celebrating today is Rep. Bryan Avila. Celebrating this weekend is my friend Rich Newsome.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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