Have you heard about the Tallahassee Mayor’s trip to Qatar?
What about the conference he attended in the oil-rich Persian Gulf state with his close friend and lobbyist who is under FBI scrutiny?
Not to worry. Not many others have heard about it, either.
Not even some of his colleagues on the City Commission.
During the Memorial Day week of 2016, Mayor Andrew Gillum flew to Qatar to participate in a conference on Middle Eastern economics sponsored by the UCLA Center for Middle Eastern Developments and the Permanent Committee for Organizing Conferences of the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Gillum also pulled some strings to get his longtime friend and lobbyist Adam Corey, who happened to be traveling in the area around the same time, into the conference.
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The “Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future Conference” was held at the Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel from May 30 to June 1, 2016. Doha is the capital of Qatar.
“He was invited to speak on a panel focused on the presidential race and the state of U.S. politics, and his flight and accommodations were provided by the university,” said Jamie Van Pelt, the Mayor’s community relations coordinator. “All additional expenses were incurred by the mayor himself.”
“Any time a Tallahassee official has the opportunity to represent the city and share ideas on a state, national or international level, the notoriety and knowledge gained is a benefit to our entire community,” Van Pelt said.
But the Democrat could find no records that Gillum, who at the time was heavily entrenched in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, has ever talked publicly about the event. A Google search of Gillum’s name and Qatar turns up the event schedule 15 items deep.
Commissioners Gil Ziffer, Nancy Miller and Curtis Richardson said Gillum did not mention the trip to them. Commissioner Scott Maddox did not respond for comment.
“I’m hearing about this for the first time,” Richardson said on Friday.
Van Pelt said the mayor is often invited to speak at events.
“He doesn’t always publicize them,” Van Pelt said.
Gillum made the trip nearly a year before he announced he was running for governor.
An aide asked on Gillum’s behalf whether UCLA organizers could get Corey into the invitation-only conference.
“Are any of the conference sessions open for his colleague to attend as the Mayor’s guest?” asked Angie Whitaker, Gillum’s internal affairs coordinator.
An organizer said he could attend, if he already planned to be in Doha at the time. “Note that we cannot arrange a hotel room or transportation for them,” said Sammar Smesme, the logistics coordinator for the Center.
“This is fantastic news,” Whitaker wrote back. “The information will be relayed to Mr. Corey. Thank you for the gracious favor of this opportunity.”
Van Pelt said Gillum nominated Corey, who was registered to lobby the city on behalf of several clients, to attend the conference “due to his background working in the Middle East.”
From 2008-2011, Corey worked for International Oil Trading Company, a supplier of oil to the military. The company is owned by defense contractor Harry Sargeant III, who at the time was a top GOP money man.
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The Democrat first learned of the trip from a public records request of Gillum’s emails, which showed calendar entries for his trip to Qatar.
According to those records, Gillum flew out of Tallahassee to Miami on American Airlines, and from Miami to Doha via Qatar Airways.
After the panel discussion, he returned June 2 via Qatar Airways to Miami, and American Airlines from Miami to Tallahassee.
The emails documenting efforts to get Corey into the conference were obtained after the Democrat partnered with the Florida State University DeVoe Moore Center and paid $3,000 for records the city turned over in response to an FBI subpoena as part of a federal investigation into the city’s community redevelopment agency.
The city delivered over 90,000 records to the FBI in response to those two subpoenas, and has since delivered another batch of 150,000-plus records in response to a third subpoena issued in September.
Corey, a state and city lobbyist who received $2.1 million in local taxpayer-backed subsidies to build the Edison Restaurant at Cascades Park, is named in the first two subpoenas.
Corey and Gillum have been traveling companions before.
In February of 2016, Corey, Gillum and his chief of staff Dustin Daniels flew to Tampa on an affordable housing developer’s private plane for Gillum to meet the developer, Peter Leach, and the two previous Democratic nominees for Governor, Charlie Crist and Alex Sink.
Gillum paid for the trip out of his office account, which can only be used for official business related to his elected office.
Last August, Corey and Gillum were in New York City around the same time. Records show Gillum was there on business for his former employer, People for the American Way.
A photo surfaced of Corey and Gillum on a boat in New York harbor with a presumed undercover agent named “Mike Miller.” Miller spent over a year hobnobbing with city and county leaders while pitching a multi-million dollar development on the southside.
A state ethics complaint against Gillum claims he violated state law by accepting gifts from a lobbyist or vendor doing business with the city. Documents obtained by the Democrat show Corey sent an email saying that Miller had arranged hotel rooms and outings for Corey, Gillum and his brother.
Gillum’s aide said that no gift disclosure was required for the Qatar trip.
“As this was an official appearance by the mayor, he under law is allowed to accept support for his participation in the event and does not have to disclose it as a gift,” Van Pelt said.