TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – After City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow penned an opinion piece critical of the business climate in Tallahassee, the Chamber of Commerce responded with a public censure.
The op-ed was published in the Tallahassee Democrat on July 30.
Commissioner Matlow explained why he wouldn’t be attending the upcoming Chamber Conference in Amelia Island, drawing parallels in the ongoing corruption trial of Tallahassee businessman J.T. Burnette to representatives and members of the Chamber.
The Chamber’s censure was the first in its nearly 100-year history.
Commissioner Matlow argues what’s happening in the trial shows not enough has changed in Tallahassee since the days when former City Commissioner Scott Maddox was in office.
“Really what’s come to light is, this is so much more than one or two people,” said Commissioner Matlow. “Multiple businesses have been identified as paying official acts. We have a black eye. We have to own that. But we have to show collectively, that’s local government, that’s our business leaders, that a new day is here.”
Matlow argues the City has done its part, passing ethics reform and auditing contracts related to Maddox; however, he says the Chamber has not done enough.
“They’ve been very silent on this issue. And so the point of the op-ed is, why?” he asked.
Matlow says the trial has shown red flags in the way Tallahassee does business.
In his op-ed, Commissioner Matlow points to a recent 3-2 City Commission vote on selling two plots of land downtown to a hotel developer for eight million dollars. He and City Commissioner Jack Porter argued against the sale, saying the no-bid process was not in line with City policy.
“That’s what we need to cast aside. And it’s not saying that that deal was bad, or its wrongdoing. But it opens the door for somebody who wanted wrongdoing to be able to do it if we don’t have very strict rules in place. So that’s really what I’m asking the chamber, join us, help us write this ship,” he said.
Matlow argues in the wake of the corruption trial, everyone needs to be held to a higher standard.
“As a business owner, if I’m looking at communities that I want to move to and expand my business, and I see that that City does no-bid contracts, they’re playing favorites, I don’t even have an opportunity to bid when they sell land, that’s going to make me look to other cities,” Matlow said.
The Chamber responded strongly to the op-ed, posting a public censure of the Commissioner that evening.
The censure says the Commissioner has an “outrageous pattern of egregious comments and irresponsible behavior,” and adds that the op-ed is a “brazen, unacceptable attack,” requiring a strong response.
The Chamber also writes that Matlow has “broken the public trust by a reckless pattern of attack on business and community leaders.”
The Chamber also writes in its statement that it is united to make Tallahassee a better community.
You can read the Chamber’s full censure below or by clicking here.