What a grand jury said about a Democrat’s emails

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue gathering in Hollywood in June.

The city of Tallahassee’s email system was used for personal or political purposes at least once and perhaps four times under Mayor Andrew Gillum, a grand jury concluded — but the grand jury also found no evidence Gillum directed the emails and no basis to file any charges against the mayor, who’s a Democratic candidate for governor.

The Leon County grand jury’s 11-page report removes one cloud for Gillum. There’s still an FBI probe into corruption in Tallahassee in which Gillum said he’s been assured he’s “not the focus of an investigation.”

Gillum used leftover campaign money to buy software for the city’s email system from a firm, NGP Van, that calls itself “the leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations.” When the campaign funds were gone, the city used $4,966 in taxpayer money to continue using the software in 2016.

Leon County Sheriff’s Detective Tyler Epstein determined that four of 106 emails sent on behalf of the mayor qualified as “political advertisements.” But the grand jury found that staff — not Gillum — were behind the content.

“No evidence was found to suggest that Gillum directed, or was personally involved, in the decision to send the four political emails or any other communications using the NGP Van system,” the grand jury found.

Gillum reimbursed city taxpayers for $5,082 in March.

His campaign on Tuesday hailed the grand jury report as vindication.

“Today’s announcement makes clear what we have said for months — the Mayor did nothing illegal and he has been the victim of a vicious smear campaign by those threatened by the most viable progressive campaign in Florida history,” campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said. “This news should put an end to the smears and return the focus to the issues people care about — affordable healthcare, good-paying jobs, and social equality.”

 

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