Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor is accusing the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce of trying to make a power grab by pushing the consolidation of city and county government.
In a letter to the chamber, Proctor notes members of a work group set up to study consolidation don’t represent all parts of the county—notability the urban core, south and west side.
Heidi Otway, Chairwoman of the Tallahassee Chamber's board, says Proctor is right on certain points which were also raised by its committee members.
“We need to make sure we represent all areas of our community, including the South side. We need to make sure we’re considering those who have and have not. We need to make sure whatever we do, we’re bringing other voices to the table so we can hear perspectives we may not have as a group," she said.
Proctor accuses the chamber of trying to grab power at a time when the city commission, slammed by ethics and corruption problems, is weakened. Most members aren't running for re-election, and Mayor Andrew Gillum is running for Governor.
"You are taking advantage of a City Commission that is a mere shell and ghost of a municipal governing body. There exist a vacuum of city leadership and the Chamber is seeking to push its agenda through their vacancies," Proctor writes.
Otway refutes the assertion that the Chamber wants to put the issue on the November ballot, saying that’s not the intent. Yet, she does make it clear given the ethics and corruption concerns of the past year in the city that the “status quo” doesn’t work.
"We need change. Change is not easy. Change is hard. And I appreciate this group for stepping up to help us determine how can we change our community. Looking at it starting from the economic perspective and bubbling up to all the other issues we need to address in our community."
City Manager Rick Fernandez resigned earlier this year after he was accused of accepting discounts and football tickets. Commissioner Scott Maddox is the subject of an FBI corruption probe.
Otway says the group is still in the information-gathering phase. Members of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce visited Nashville last year to get business tips. Otway says they repeatedly heard consolidated credited for improving the areas business climate. From there, the Chamber commissioned a study on consolidation that was released in January of this year. It found the potential to improve services and save money.