Updated: Mar 25, 2022
For commissioners who place so much public emphasis on ethics reform, the recent bomb-shell from the Tallahassee Democrat reveals a very different narrative.
The Tallahassee Democrat recently released a flurry of text messages, obtained through a public records request, which revealed a last-ditch series of text exchanges between political operatives, City Commissioners, and County Commissioners, during a pivotal meeting of the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency. At the center of it all is a “former” lobbyist, and current gossip blogger Max Herrle.
Herrle, texting back and forth with Commissioners Kristin Dozier and Brian Welch, illustrated his close ties with both of these commissioners. While he was at it, he managed to insult several sitting commissioners, referring to Commissioner Nick Maddox as a “dumb little bastard”; laughing at a text calling Commissioner Bill Proctor a “coward”, and revealing an almost obsessive (if not dangerous) hatred of Mayor John Dailey.
Ethics Reform For Thee But Not For Me
Beyond the insults and the bold-faced rhetoric, these texts reveal an extreme level of hypocrisy. City Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter, both big proponents of ethics reform in the city’s independent ethics office, have shown, yet again, that the rules don’t seem to apply to them. One of the tenets of their platform is creating more transparency in the way lobbyists interact with local government.
When asked by the Tallahassee Democrat, Commissioner Porter, who is currently dating Max Herrle, firmly indicated that “as a condition of their relationship, Herrle agreed to quit lobbying.” City records show he officially withdrew from lobbying in late March. Yet, here we see him advising several commissioners on a policy issue.
Further, Matlow has come out against political campaign operatives using their connections to lobby. Herrle, who was an integral part of Matlow 2018, Porter 2020, and ran Commissioner Welch’s 2020 campaign, asked Welch “[c]ould you say ur fine with getting information? I think we shouldn’t close the door to further action in the future”.
Besides lobbying his own former candidate, Herrle texted Commissioner Dozier that he wished he “...had time to beat Dianne, Nick and John all this cycle” clearly indicating he has not hung up his campaign hat. All this would seem to openly clash with Matlow and Porter’s public stances. Yet, so far, neither Matlow or Porter have disavowed the actions of their former campaign manager.
Dude, Where’s My Texts?
While there is a lot to unpack in what was released in the request, perhaps the most concerning thing is what is missing. Are we expected to believe that Matlow and Porter had so few communications about this agenda item?
We do know that Herrle had some line of communication open with Matlow, as in response to Commissioner Welch calling Commissioner Proctor a “coward”, Herrle responded “Jeremy told him that lol". Additionally, Herrle was observed huddling with Commissioner Matlow’s Aide, Ryan Ray, and Porter’s Aide, Kristellys Estanga, throughout the meeting.
Commissioner Porter, no stranger to hypocrisy, also offered very little in the way of public records. As she is currently dating Herrle, this casts concern on what she considers to be a public record, and to what extent the lines between personal and professional have been blurred.
Without knowing the parameters of the records request, it is possible that the date and time specifications were not broad enough, or that the request did not extend to city staff and there was a “relay” system of communication. However, the almost total lack of messages leaves a lot of room for doubt.
Behind the Curtain
The comprehensive investigative work of the Democrat has given our community a lot to think about: 124 pages of text messages that reveal the motivations, intentions, and backroom conversations of those who want to control our city. It calls into question whether they can be trusted to lead our community forward. There is a lot more to discover in these messages and, over the coming weeks, we will highlight some of the major points in these disclosures and the potential implications for our community.