Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is settling his dispute with the Florida Ethics Commission. Gillum’s trial was scheduled to begin Wednesday before an administrative law judge.
The commission is dropping four of the five charges against Gillum as part of the settlement. The fifth, for accepting a gift over $100, carries a $5,000 penalty.
It’s the result of a two hour, closed-door meeting between lawyers for Gillum and the ethics commission. The parties gathered at the state Department of Administrative Hearings for day one of the trial, but instead announced they’d struck a deal.
Gillum told reporters after the hearing he was thankful for the people who stood with him, though he didn’t take questions.
“Today we were approached with a settlement agreement that I believe keeps intact what I have said all along and throughout this process," Gillum said. "But as any adult, when you learn more information, you have to step up and take responsibility for what you come to know.”
Gillum’s lawyer, Barry Richard, said the settlement was unexpected.
“Mayor Gillum did not request a settlement," Richard said. "We entered into settlement negotiations because this judge – as do most judges – ordered that we do so. And the parties reached an amicable settlement agreement. Mayor Gillum fully embraced the agreement and is fully satisfied with it.”
The dispute stems from two trips Gillum took while in office: one to Costa Rica and the other to New York City. Officials allege Gillum illegally accepted free lodging and tickets to the play “Hamilton,” among other things.
Richard said he doesn’t know which gift is included in the settlement. But Gillum believes it’s a boat ride around the Statue of Liberty, paid for by the former mayor’s friend and a lobbyist, Adam Corey.
The ethics investigation played a central role in Gillum’s 2018 bid for governor. In a race decided by just four tenths of a percent, now-Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly slammed Gillum throughout the campaign for being a corrupt politician.
"He wouldn’t accept responsibility for getting a $1,000 ticket from an undercover FBI agent at the last debate," DeSantis said during an October 2018 debate. "We now know he lied about that. At some point you got to demonstrate leadership and accept responsibility for what you've done.”
In a statement after the hearing, Gillum said today’s results are a “vindication” and confirm what he’s said all along.
He stressed he’s excited to get back to registering voters for the 2020 election.
Yet, the Leon County GOP took the opposite stance. Chairman Evan Power said in an email after spending months denying the allegations, “it was about time Andrew Gillum admitted his guilt today.”
Though this isn’t the end of the complaint. It’s now sent back to the ethics commission for approval.