Survey shows rampant public distrust of Tallahassee, Leon County governments

From the Tallahassee Democrat

More residents are losing trust in city and county government, especially in the last two months, results from an independent survey show.

Tallahassee’s crime rate — the highest in the state for three consecutive years — and an ongoing federal public corruption investigation are two factors responsible for the erosion of public confidence.

Sachs Media Group released the 24-page survey titled “Trust in Local Government and Attitudes Regarding City-County Consolidation.”

The firm’s research division received 1,469 completed results after sending questions from Oct. 26 to Oct. 27 to random email addresses found in voting records. The margin of error is 2.5 percent.

Results show 83 percent of respondents are very or somewhat concerned with possible corruption at the City Commission level compared to 72 percent at the County Commission Level.

In June, the federal grand jury demanded voluminous records involving the city, the Community Redevelopment Agency and eight high-powered business leaders, more than a dozen of their companies and their interactions with staff and commissioners.

City Commissioner Scott Maddox is the only elected official named in the subpoena,along with his current and former aides and associates, including Paige Carter-Smith, executive director of the Downtown Improvement Authority.

In August, as investigation details trickled out to the public, Sachs Media Group conducted a survey with identical questions. Survey results showed 65 percent of respondents were concerned about possible corruption at the city compared to 58 percent at the county.

Since then more details have emerged about the behind the scenes relationships between the city’s political and business elite.

Most survey respondents are satisfied with services provided by the county, although they credit the city with better strategies for economic development. Leon County is dinged for the community’s overall inability to tackle crime. On Oct. 13, the shooting death of 28-year-old Alfred A. Johnson represented Tallahassee’s 18th homicide, a record for the most in one year.

The county appears to be feeling the fallout with the double whammy of the alarming crime rate and the FBI investigation, said Ron Sachs, president and CEO of Sachs Media Group.

“Overall, the numbers show a deep level of concern about perceptions and an investigation into alleged corruption that seems mostly focused on city government,” Sachs said.

“People are not happy with the status quo,” he added. “People are overwhelmingly open to a conversation about change and changing the structure of local government.”

Sachs’ research division, led by Karen Cyphers, conducted the survey after Sachs talked with business leaders regarding ongoing public concerns. He said the survey is not client based.

“Once we got all of the results in, we made sure to balance it based on the demographics of Leon County voters,” Cyphers said, adding results were analyzed based on gender, ethnicity, voter affiliation and geographic location of respondents in the city or unincorporated areas.

Contact TaMaryn Waters at or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.

Survey Snapshot by the Numbers:

  • 1,469 completed responses 
  • Average margin of error is 2.5 percent
  • 83 percent very concerned about city government
  • 72 percent very concerned about county government
  • 88 percent were aware of the FBI investigation compared to 70 percent in August — representing a 26 percent in two months. 
  • 64 percent expressed some level of support regarding the consolidation of both governments
  • 58 percent said a consequence of consolidation is higher taxes