$16 billion tax hike effort that now faces lawsuit relied on free legal advice

“I’m a lawyer,” All For Transportation (AFT) volunteer Brian Willis told FloridaPolitics.Com today. “We’ve had attorneys at Holland & Knight vet this. Constitutional law professors. Nobody had any issues with it.”

Willis was referencing the tax hike for transit which Hillsborough county voters passed last month after AFT spent $4 million getting it on the ballot and  promoting it.  The lawfulness of that measure is now being challenged in court by Hillsborough County commissioner Stacy White.

Brian Willis

Although AFT claims to have had the law firm Holland & Knight “vet this,” AFT’s own campaign finance reports show no payments made to Holland & Knight. The only expenses identified by AFT as “legal services” are three payments totaling $1,639 to the firm of Meyer, Brooks, Demma & Blohm in Tallahassee. That law firm does not list “municipal law” as one of its practice areas on its website.

The inescapable conclusion is therefore that AFT relied on free advice from Holland & Knight. As most people know: advice is generally worth less than you pay for it.

FloridaPolitics.Com calls Willis an AFT “volunteer,” whereas the Tampa Bay Times calls him a “leader with AFT” and 10News calls him  the AFT “spokesperson.” Willis is clearly the de facto spokesperson for AFT at this time after normally talkative AFT chairman Tyler Hudson has fallen silent in the face of  White’s lawsuit.

This isn’t the first time Willis is involved with a group accused of not following the law. Willis was  the president of Connect Tampa Bay (CTB) for three out four years when federal tax returns were due for the group.. CTB never filed any federal tax returns, despite telling us in writing they had.  CTB dissolved itself shortly after the Guardian inquired about its tax returns in 2016.

Did AFT make a mistake by relying on free advice? Did AFT even obtain any legal advice on the lawfulness of their petition? As always….the Guardian reports and our readers decide. Like our Facebook page to find out when we publish articles.

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