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Dianne Williams-Cox Developer PAC Recording Shows Donations, Influence Intersection | WATCH

Williams-Cox met with the developer group in January. A recording of their meeting is being released by Our Tallahassee for the first time.

“I’ve been accused of not being a tree lover,”  City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox boasted to a room of developers.

“If trees are moved, we replant trees… somewhere,” Williams-Cox told Grow Tallahassee at their January 19th ‘Advocacy Uncorked’  event.

A grin of laughter is heard throughout the lobby of Happy Motoring, a casual inside-outside bar in the South Monroe corridor. Just one block away sits SoMo Walls, a property by developer and Grow Tallahassee Secretary Bugra Demirel, who called the South Monroe area “Tallahassee’s upcoming playground for young professionals.” 

Our Tallahassee obtained a recording of Williams-Cox’s appearance, which captures her nearly forty-five-minute talk to the group. In the last election, the group’s political committee spent tens of thousands of dollars backing their endorsed candidates, including City Commissioner Elaine Bryant, County Commissioner Bryan Desloge, County Commissioner Carolyn Cummings, and City Commissioner Curtis Richardson. Richardson was also in attendance at the January event with Williams-Cox. 

“What I want is for us to work together,” Williams-Cox told the group.

“Tallahassee’s upcoming playground for young professionals.”

Over the past two years, they’ve lobbied for the Welaunee Comprehensive Plan Amendment, the Northeast Gateway, and the $27,000,000 Doak Campbell stadium seating deal

“I had a great conversation a little bit ago with Bugra [Demirel] about some of the things that are important to this group and some of the things you’ve been working on,” Williams-Cox said of Demirel, who controls the group’s political action committee donations. 

“How you started, as a networking group, but you have become empowered,” Williams-Cox said, referencing the group’s status as both a 501c4 organization and a political action committee. 

Bugra Demirel (bottom), and Jared Willis (top), watch during the final vote to approve the $27,000,000 Seminole Boosters deal, which the group endorsed. Grow Tallahassee says Willis is no longer involved with the group. | Our Tallahassee, February 24th, 2022

The group’s political committee was initially chaired by Justin Ghazvini, the oldest son of the Ghazvini family patriarch, Steve Ghazvini, Tallahassee’s most prolific residential developer.

“And that’s what we want. We want you to become empowered,” Williams-Cox said.

“We want you to be in power,” Williams-Cox said. “Help us shape the future.”

“The middle name is action, we can’t just talk about it, we have got to have action,” Williams-Cox said.

“That’s how we’re going to Grow Tallahassee,” the city commissioner said.

In the recording, Jacob Leoni, the son of Steve Leoni, the CEO of Student Housing Solutions, Tallahassee’s largest student landlord, complains about working through a pending land deal he and his father were involved in. Leoni told Williams-Cox that the Planning Department worker that he met with about the deal to bring a Starbucks to West Pensacola Street. According to Leoni, the Planning worker told him, “well, you just might need to tell them to build somewhere else,” Leoni complained.  “Like, do you not understand, what this could do to the area?” Leoni said.

“Our staff are human beings too, they are not all created equal, like we’re not all created equal, some are new, some have been there a long time,”  Williams-Cox said. “I don’t know who you got, sometimes people think outloud, and they probably shouldn’t, so, don’t let that be the end of it,”  Williams-Cox said. 

“Don’t take no for an answer,” Williams-Cox said. 

“No, we’re not,” Leoni said before Williams-Cox continued.

“Some of these zoning laws have been on the books a long time. And some of these zoning laws prevent us — help us– keep those predators out that are coming in and taking advantage of our community, so we’ve got to have some gatekeeping, I was talking to someone earlier about gatekeeping, we have gatekeepers in our community,” Williams-Cox said. 

“If there is an issue, perhaps there is an issue that person didn’t understand… or you need them to get another person,” Williams-Cox suggested to Leoni.

“Then that’s what you need to do, feel free to call your Commissioners, because, when I get an email, I get a call, I send them right over to Reese Goad, if it’s dealing with what you’re talking about, it goes to Wayne Tedder,” Williams-Cox said.

“I want somebody to tell me what’s going on, because I want to be able to respond to you, so, don’t take no for an answer, until it really is no, or maybe not no, but maybe we make some adjustments – some alterations,” Williams Cox can be heard saying to the developer.

Renderings for Demirel’s project, SoMo Walls, which was celebrated by Williams-Cox in public comments and received $560,000 in public funding is planning on building a yoga studio and coffee bar. | City Public Records, 2022

On February 17th, Demirel donated $1,000 to Williams-Cox’s re-election campaign. On April 25th, Ghazvini companies donated $10,000 to Williams-Cox’s through ten different shell companies with the same address.

Two months later, on June 23rd, Demirel’s project, SoMo Walls was voted on by Commissioners to receive $560,000 in subsidies from public tax dollars collected in the Greater Frenchtown-Southside Community Redevelopment Agency. At that meeting, Richardson made the motion to support the project, which was seconded by Williams-Cox. Commissioners adjourned the meeting at 11:25 AM

Forty-four minutes later, Grow Tallahassee posted an announcement on Facebook.

“After considering all candidates and platforms, we are excited to announce the initial roster of 2022 candidate endorsements!” the group posted, sharing their endorsement of David Bellamy, Mayor John Dailey, and Dianne Williams-Cox.

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3 Responses

  1. … and this is why Dailey, Bellamy, and Dianne William-Cox will lose in August. People are tired of this corruption associated with the Tallahassee Mafia AKA the Ghazvinis who pay/bribe our elected officials with bundled contributions. But, do they provide health insurance for their employees, I don’t think so, but they have money to bribe our elected officials. Where is the FBI?

  2. Wishful thinking for Matlow to beat Bellsmy. Aint gonna happen. There’s too much money, media and action on Bellamy’s side. And too much passivity on Matlow’s side, maybe from overconfidence that the same people who elected Porter will be enough for Matlow. It wont be enough.

    1. You are confusing passivity with civility and integrity. Commissioner Matlow has the accomplishments and the record to secure his re-election. Money and PR reps associated with Tallahassee corruption is unimpressive and working against Bellamy. Money can’t buy integrity.

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