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More opponents accuse Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey of bullying; he denies charge of misogyny

A man in a suit and tie and a woman with long hair sit in front of microphones with an American flag behind them
Lydell Rawls
Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey and Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier speak in a candidate forum as they compete to be the city's next mayor

The pro-choice group Ruth’s List endorsed Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier for mayor, calling her opponent’s behavior toward women “misogynistic and demeaning.” Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, running for re-election in a tight race with Dozier, denied it emphatically. But now others -- including elected officials -- are speaking up.

Dailey has dismissed the charge of misogyny as untrue and a campaign tactic. But more people are coming forward with tales of unpleasant exchanges with the mayor. Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, who supports Dozier, says Dailey accosted him as he was eating dinner with Commissioners Dianne Williams-Cox and Curtis Richardson, who are Dailey supporters.

“And the mayor stormed up to the table very aggressively and confrontational, and he’s like, ‘So you’ve been requesting our emails, huh?’ And kind of in my face.” Matlow said. “And the whole table was quiet. And at first I was shocked that he would approach me so aggressively. But the allegation wasn’t true.”

Williams-Cox and Richardson say they don’t recall the exchange, which allegedly occurred during a city commission break on the 3rd floor of City Hall. Matlow provided an email exchange dated November 2019 that shows him following up on questions about a records request from the director of records. It was this request which he says, prompted Dailey’s inquiry.

Kim Ross, a well-known environmentalist, posted a video to Facebook during the primary campaign, explaining her opposition to Dailey’s candidacy. She says he yelled at her when she and city staffers couldn’t resolve an issue, although she wouldn’t have had a problem if he’d said no.

“I’d have been, like, ‘Okay, the mayor said no’ -- especially if he’d given me reasons. I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with me,” she said. “It was the fact that he got blustery and wouldn’t let me even finish my sentence that really upset me, and I tried again a couple of different ways and any time I tried, he just got angry.”  

Most of those accusing Dailey of intimidation have been women. But Matlow says there’s more to it.

“We’ve heard from people who have different issues before the city that have the same treatment,” he said. “It just seems like if you have a different opinion than the mayor, you’re trying to do something he doesn’t want to do, he has no problem trying to use fear and intimidation to stop you.”

Recently Dailey and Dozier were part of a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, the Tallahassee Democrat and WFSU. The moderators asked Dozier if the charge of misogyny was true. She said yes. Dailey called out Ruth’s List for making the accusation.

“I actually think the endorsement backfired on Kristin, as apparent at the women’s forum that took place the other night, where overwhelmingly the audience was packed with my supporters wearing John Dailey for Mayor t-shirts because of the outrage of the endorsement coming from somebody from out of town that never picked up the phone, that never called anybody, that never checked anything,” said Dailey. “They just took the word of Commissioner Dozier’s campaign. And so yeah, it’s a tactic for the campaign season.”

City Commissioner Jack Porter jumped in the next day. Last year Dailey had cut her off when she was trying to speak and abruptly adjourned the meeting. He later apologized. But last week she uploaded a video to social media that went viral. She told WFSU she’d gotten a lot of support as a result.

“One of the things about a culture of fear and intimidation is that people are much less likely to come forward,” Porter said. “And that is why it is so important that other leaders, other elected officials speak out about this. And I hope that the voices of others and the experiences of others are in some way validated by my sharing my experience and that they feel more empowered to do the same.”

Dailey didn’t reply to texts and voice-mails asking for his response.

Updated: November 4, 2022 at 5:07 PM EDT
This story has been updated with Williams-Cox and Richardson's response to Matlow's comment and to clarify when and where the alleged exchange between Matlow and Dailey took place.
Follow @MargieMenzel

Margie Menzel covers local and state government for WFSU News. She has also worked at the News Service of Florida and Gannett News Service. She earned her B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University and her M.S. in journalism at Florida A&M University.