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Matlow: Judge Dempsey, VancoreJones Client Should be Recused from Blueprint Sunshine Lawsuit

Matlow's lawsuit against the 1% sales tax agency, which hopes to force Blueprint's IMC to meet in the Sunshine, has a new motion filed, requesting the recusal of Judge Angela Dempsey for her close relationship with VancoreJones from overseeing the case.

// June 22, 2022,

7:13 am

Updated:June 22, 2022

Florida Division of Elections expenditure records from Judge Angela Dempsey show payments of $194,000 to VancoreJones since 2007 retaining their services as political consultants. | Florida Division of Elections, Accessed June 2022.
An example political advertisement that VancoreJones produced on behalf of Judge Angela Dempsey. | Committee to Re-elect Angela Dempsey, 2020.
Judge Angela Dempsey in front of the Florida Supreme Court for violating judicial canon due to VancoreJones conduct during their 2008 campaign. | Florida Channel Archives, 2010

Jeremy Matlow, City Commission Seat 3, has filed a motion to disqualify Judge Angela Dempsey from overseeing his lawsuit against the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency.

Judge Dempsey has a fifteen-year relationship with VancoreJones and has paid the firm nearly two hundred thousand dollars since 2007, which Matlow says is grounds for Dempsey to be disqualified, the formal legal term for recusal, from the case. 

Dempsey was appointed to the Second Circuit Court in 2005 by Gov. Jeb Bush. Trouble began in 2008 when Dempsey had to run for election to the bench and hired VancoreJones to run her campaign. She ran a campaign video on YouTube asking voters to “re-elect” her when she had never been elected. She also claimed in campaign materials that she had 20 years of legal experience; however, she had only been admitted to the bar for a total of 14 years.

The Florida Supreme Court reprimanded Dempsey for the campaign violations writing: The finding read in part: “the misleading information contained within Judge Dempsey’s campaign materials was placed within the materials deliberately and was done for the purpose of bolstering her own experience and credibility to the voting public. Without a doubt, Judge Dempsey’s conduct was wholly inappropriate.”

“You employed the services of a political consultant for whose campaign conduct you are responsible,” Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince said at that time, part of her first public reprimand. 

Once the case begins, Matlow seeks a temporary injunction against the agency to halt further Intergovernmental Management Committee (IMC) meetings that are held outside of the Sunshine. 

The lawsuit also seeks a declaratory judgment that would force Blueprint staff to hold future Intergovernmental Management Committee (IMC) meetings in the Sunshine.

VancoreJones proposal documents to Leon County obtained by Our Tallahassee show that the firm’s relationship with the sales tax agency spanned from before the ballot measure was even passed, from the initial 2014 vote to the day-to-day handling of public engagement, which allegedly stopped in 2020. One proposal provides previous deliverables to Blueprint, highlighting messaging that the firm had developed around the oversight of the $900 million sales tax agency, emphasis added ours.

Judge Dempsey has twenty days to address the motion to disqualify.

Proposal documents highlight VancoreJones role in selling the sales tax agency to the public. | Leon County Procurement public records, Our Tallahassee.
Proposal documents show VancoreJones boasting about previous election success side by side requests for public dollars from the sales tax agency, awarded through the IMC, which the case centers around. | Leon County Procurement public records, Our Tallahassee.
Proposal documents show VancoreJones admitting that they made and update the Blueprint and OEV website, the agency in question in the lawsuit. They also have represented the Judge overseeing the case for the past 15 years. | Leon County Procurement public records, Our Tallahassee.

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