Tallahassee Chamber Gets $112,013 in Leon Tax Dollars Designated for Children’s Services

Chamber of Commerce to receive $112,013 in tax dollars originally designated for the "preventive, developmental, treatment, and rehabilitative services for children", some money spent on creating promotional videos for Chamber members.
Grant disbursement documents from the Leon County Children's Service Council show that the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce ranked 5th overall out of 24 non profit groups, raking in $112,013 total. | May 26th, Children's Service Council Documents.
Grant disbursement show which groups applied, but were denied funding, passed up by other groups, including the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, which received $112,013 in children service dollars. | May 26th, Children's Service Council Documents.

On Thursday, the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce received sign-off on $112,013 in Leon County Children’s Service Council tax dollars. Those dollars were initially collected for “preventive, developmental, treatment, and rehabilitative services for children.” 

Our Tallahassee obtained the package of all applicant proposals. The complete list can be viewed here through Google Drive.

The Chamber’s application was labeled under “Youth Development.” Below is a screenshot of an excel document outlining their budget for the project, which will run for 60 days over the Summer. 

The Office of Economic Vitality’s (OEV) Director Cristina Parades submitted a letter of support for the Chamber’s proposal. OEV is the 12% “economic development” side of the 1% sales tax intergovernmental agency which recently approved the use of $27,000,000 to the Seminole Boosters luxury stadium seating deal.

Also submitting letters of support for the Chamber’s funding request was Kim Moore of Tallahassee Community College and Shelley Bell of Lively Technical College. Moore sits on the board of the Chamber. Lively Technical College is run by Leon County Schools. Under Florida Statute, Shelley’s boss, the Leon County Superintendent of Schools sits on the Children’s Service Council. Bell posted on Facebook in response to the article “This is not money for the pockets of the Chamber, but instead looking at building a talent pipeline for our community,” Bell’s comment reads in part.

James McShane of CareerSource Capital Region also submitted a letter of support for the Chamber’s request.

Budget documents found in CSC public records shed some light to the Chamber's often opaque finances. | May 26th, Children's Service Council Documents.
Public records show the Chamber's $112,013 children service program is largely going towards expanding their jobs site to produce videos for members of the Chamber of Commerce. | May 26th, Children's Service Council Documents.

Children Service Dollars will help Chamber buy Promotional Videos

The Chamber’s proposal states that it’s to expand their TalentHub website, which was created from federal COVID stimulus dollars through the Office of Economic Vitality (OEV). Their application says some of the funds will go to film workplaces demonstrating what it’s like to work at those jobs. 

“Job Seekers can watch a video portrait of a real person in that line of work and see general information about their skills and responsibilities. We currently have 24 videos featuring workers from Leon County. We look to increase the number of local jobs with local videos,” the successful proposal reads.

As of May 26th, the video above featuring AJAX CEO Jay Smith, the immediate past president of the Chamber had one view on the talent portal. 

A review of the Chamber’s “TalentHub” shows that those videos workplaces are all members of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, but the application for public funding doesn’t mention whether the promotional videos will only be filmed at Chamber member businesses.

Chamber CEO  Sue DickChamber public relations consultant Hammerhead Communication’s Skip Foster, and Prime Meridian Bank CEO Sammie Dixon did not respond to a request for comment Thursday about whether the Chamber board signed off on the Chamber’s funding request for children’s services dollars. You can read their application here.

In the children’s services application, under a question asking for the Chamber to give a “brief overview of the primary entity including vision, mission, and history of service”.

The Chamber’s response includes in their history of service that they are looking to “advance policies that promote a welcoming business environment and being a resource to help market our community for private sector opportunities”, which includes two goals to “create governmental relations/advocacy strategy,” and “develop and identify future local government candidates.”

Advertisements produced by VancoreJones Communications for Our Kids First, the political committee backing the 2020 ballot amendment highlighted the need for a Children’s Service Council: 

“Making sure every baby is a healthy baby, stopping child abuse before it happens, and helping keep kids off the street.”

After publication, Jeremy Matlow, City Seat 3 posted on Facebook, asking “When has the Chamber’s mission ever been to serve children?”

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8 Responses

  1. The worst fears of citizens who opposed the creation of this special taxing district are realized.

  2. Good reporting! It almost makes up for your getting scooped by the TLH Democrat’s hard-hitting investigative reporting on the location of the first Wawa in Leon County.

    I wonder, IF they ever mention that the Chamber is getting CSC money, will they acknowledge that this information was “disseminated” by Our Tallahassee?

    1. Yes, the TD put out an article by TaMaryn Waters extolling the virtues of the CSC director. It is nauseating and they should name her as an accomplice and co-conspirator to this crime of misappropriating CSC taxpayer dollars.

      I’ll bet the publisher and Ms. Waters of the TD already have their reservations for the Chamber junket in Amelia Island in August… Buffalo Pool Party here I come! Ms Waters forgot this disclaimer at the end of the article.

  3. Why don’t they just make the checks out to Vancore Jones, Sean Pittman, and 4TLH’ s Skip Foster running the campaigns for Mayor Dailey, Nick Maddox, and David Bellamy.

  4. The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and the Tallahassee Democrat both have had an anti-black agenda from the earliest days of Jim Crow. When Reverend K.S. Dupont became the first black person to run for the City Commission, Tallahassee Democrat executive editor Malcolm Johnson ran an editorial stating that it would be best “if the white man wins.”

    Don’t forget the “Tallahassee Trustees.” It was a corrupt secret arm of the Chamber consisting of the most powerful business interests in Tallahassee. Even the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper was a part of this group that helped finance a secret bond fund to bring Tadiran, an Israeli war contractor, and General Dynamics, an American war contractor, to Tallahassee in the name of economic development.

    This was in defiance of a United Nations mandate that prohibited the supplying of military hardware to the apartheid government of South Africa.

    This diabolical scheme was so egregious, especially the role of the Tallahassee Democrat, that it was reported in a Sunday issue of the New York Times dated November 13, 1988.

    Now we have the Children’s Services Council, an annual $8 million slush fund that is even more corrupt than the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). It is in bed with big tobacco through the Southern Group lobbying firm, and is being used by the Chamber of Commerce as a vehicle to stuff money into their pockets in the name of poor children.

    This is but one more example of how the poor are used for the economic aggrandizement of the rich and the powerful.

  5. What we need is MORE CLASSROOMS in the Elementary and Jr. High Schools to lower the Number of Students per Classroom LIKE WE VOTED ON YEARS AGO.

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