© 2024 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'This smells': The unusual offer that left a West Palm Beach commission race wide open

Martina Tate-Walker
Joel Engelhardt
Stet Palm Beach
Martina Tate-Walker

A West Palm Beach City Commission candidate said she dropped her bid for office in November after an unusual offer: A $2,000-a-month job — but only if she didn’t run.

The job offer to Martina Tate-Walker came from Glades activist Tammy Jackson-Moore, who paid Tate-Walker $1,000 in cash in November but did not pay her for work in December and January until contacted by Stet Palm Beach.

The cash payment came before Tate-Walker submitted paperwork in November to withdraw from her race against City Commissioner Cathleen Ward, handing Ward the District 1 seat without an election.

Ward and her campaign consultant, Rick Asnani, said they had no involvement in the job offer. 

Tate-Walker, 75, signed a six-month contract, believing, based on paperwork she was given, that she would be working for an entity called the United Faith Leaders Association.

However, no organization with that name is registered with the state. In an email Friday to Stet Palm Beach, Jackson-Moore called it “part of an informal coalition of faith-based leaders to help organize supporters focused, at the moment, on the legislative session.”

She added: ”My company does not disclose our clients, strategy or tactics but we are legit and doing the Lord’s work.”

A voice outside

Tate-Walker said she had difficulty deciding whether to take the job because it required that she drop her campaign for City Commission.

“If I ran for office that was it,” she recalled Jackson-Moore as saying. “I couldn’t be in the political arena. I had to be a voice outside.”

Tammy Jackson-Moore
Health Care District of Palm Beach County
Stet Palm Beach
Tammy Jackson-Moore

Tate-Walker, an ordained minister, said she thought it odd that a homeless advocacy group would not want to be associated with a member of the City Commission. However, she had run unsuccessfully for commission four times before and even if elected, she felt, her ability to do good on the commission would be limited.

The offer to focus on eradicating homelessness proved irresistible.

“I feel like I can do more on the outside by helping the homeless people,” she said. “I weighed it out to help more people. It’s more of a win over here than over there.”

Jackson-Moore, who has championed the position of sugar growers as a leader of a group called Guardians of the Glades, said in her email that she never insisted that Tate-Walker drop her campaign.

“When she was being hired she told me she was running for office and really busy,” Jackson-Moore wrote. “Her campaign overlapped with the legislative session this year. I asked her if she had the capacity to do both things and we discussed that she could even wait until after her campaign was finished and start the project later in April, but that was her decision.

“We talked about it but there was no stipulation or suggestion that she couldn’t run. I just needed to know that she could put in the time and get the job done.

“Her decision to not run was her choice.”

Even before she accepted the job offer, Tate-Walker told a friend, city activist Sandy Matkivich, about the requirement that she give up her campaign to get the job. Matkivich corroborated Tate-Walker’s account.

Also, Tate-Walker’s four-page contract with Jackson-Moore included a fifth page, a pre-drafted one-sentence candidate withdrawal letter, which Tate-Walker provided to Stet Palm Beach.

Tate-Walker said she did not use the letter when she withdrew, instead submitting a hand-written note to the city clerk.

United Faith Leaders

Once hired, Tate-Walker said she began working to sign up faith leaders interested in helping the homeless.

Jackson-Moore had given her a signup sheet emblazoned United Faith Leaders Association to Eradicate Homelessness, Tate-Walker said. Another form was headlined United Faith Leaders Association to Expand Healthcare Equity Access.

But Tate-Walker said she couldn’t get Jackson-Moore to return her calls, texts or emails and she did not get paid in December and into January.

That changed last week, when Stet Palm Beach reached out to Jackson-Moore and Ward’s campaign consultant, Asnani. Within two days, Tate-Walker received a Zelle payment for $1,000 and two checks totaling $3,000 to pay her for December and January.

Ward, who won a second term without opposition when Tate-Walker withdrew, and her campaign consultant, Asnani, say they knew nothing about the job offer to Tate-Walker and had nothing to do with it.

The checks came from Jackson-Moore, doing business as The Jackson-Moore Group. 

“I would call and text and email and no call back and no text back and no email back,” Tate-Walker said Friday. “Yesterday, all of a sudden she called and said ‘I’m going to send you some money.’”

In her email, Jackson-Moore pointed out that Tate-Walker had been fully paid for her work through January.

Why make the offer?

While such interventions rarely become public, it’s not uncommon for political rivals to seek ways to neutralize competition by setting them up with a better opportunity.

The Sun-Sentinel reported this week on financial incentives offered to a Delray Beach City Commission candidate, Anneze Barthelemy, to drop out of the race.

Jackson-Moore and Asnani had a connection. They both worked in 2022 on the unsuccessful County Commission campaign of Michelle McGovern.

Jackson-Moore earned $26,000 for her work, county election records show. Asnani’s Cornerstone Solutions was paid $360,000 for media buys and other campaign expenses, the records show.

Tate-Walker did not appear to be a threat to Ward. She lost to Sylvia Moffett and then Kelly Shoaf in District 1 in 2016, 2018 and 2020 before losing to Ward in 2022.

In the 2022 race, Tate-Walker won 28% of the vote. She did best in District 1, her home district, with about 36% of the vote and worst in the city’s western District 4, with 20 percent.

“Martina was selected, like others, because she is involved in the community and her faith-based values are in line (with) our goals,” Jackson-Moore said in her email.

However, Tate-Walker is popular in the Black community and her campaign may have increased turnout in the upcoming March election in which the city is pushing two changes to its charter, said campaign consultant Jody Young, who worked for restaurateur Rodney Mayo’s aborted campaign for West Palm mayor last year. Asnani represented Mayor Keith James in that race.

“I grew up working on fishing boats in New Jersey and I know what fish smells like and this smells a lot like that,” Young said.

Jackson-Moore’s group, Guardians of the Glades, is part of the non-profit Lake Okeechobee Regional Economic Alliance of Palm Beach County.

She has defended the burning of sugar cane fields and lobbied to save cane-worker jobs by limiting the amount of farmland lost to a massive Everglades reservoir. The Legislature approved the reservoir on a much smaller footprint than initially proposed. 
Jackson-Moore also is a board member of the Palm Beach County Health Care District and the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties.

This story was originally published by  Stet Palm Beach, a WLRN News partner. 

More On This Topic