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City Staff Once Again Recommends Against Appointed Ethics Officer

Posted on March 9, 2014

City Staff Once Again Recommends Against Appointed Ethics Officer

On March 12, 2014, the City Commission will address the Ethics Advisory Panel recommendations that were not adopted at the Target Issue Workshop held on November 20, 2013.

The City Commission appointed a citizen Ethics Advisory Panel (EAP) that first convened on November 8, 2012.  The EAP was charged with examining the various City policies, procedures and practices relating to ethics, financial disclosures, and transparency of the government.  The City Commission accepted the final EAP report on July 10, 2013.

On November 20th, 2013, the City Commission adopted a number of the EAP recommendations. However, consensus could not be reached on a number of issues and Staff was directed to gather more information.

A review of the documents prepared for the upcoming meeting by Tallahassee Reports finds two important changes brought forward from the last meeting.

First, grandfathering of certain items related to elected officials was discussed in the prior workshop.  However the staff recommendation states that “based on consensus of the Commission from that workshop, none of the items addressed includes a grandfathering clause.” This means that once adopted, current elected officials will be required to follow the new rules.

The second change addresses the most controversial recommendation from the Ethics Advisory Panel and that is the creation of an Ethics Officer as an Appointed Official.

The Chairperson of the EAP, Martha Barnett, has stated previously that the appointed Ethics Officer was a crucial part of the recommendation. After much debate, the EAP voted 5-2 for an appointed Ethics Officer.

Back in November, 2013, during the first workshop, the City Staff recommended against the EAP recommendation of an Appointed Ethics Officer and instead offered that the Ethics Officer report to the City Auditor or another existing appointed official.

Since that time, the EAP recommendation has remained the same, however, the City Staff’s recommendation has changed.

Staff now recommends that City Commission “Authorize the City Attorney and City Auditor to jointly hire a full time Ethics Officer for the City of Tallahassee.”

Ms. Barnett has previously stated that she was not in favor of combining ethics responsibilities with the City Attorney’s office and recommended creating an appointed Ethics Officer and advisory board with responsibilities detailed in the city’s Charter.

Sources tell Tallahassee Reports that City Staff has been working with individual City Commissioners trying to come up with a proposal that will be accepted by the Commissioners that oppose the appointed Ethics Officer recommended by the EAP.

During the first workshop, only City Commissioner Gil Ziffer offered support for an appointed Ethics Officer. City Commissioner Gillum voiced support for an Ethics Officer under the authority of the City Auditor and City Commissioner Scott Maddox voiced support for an Ethics Officer under the authority of the City Attorney.

It appears the Staff recommendation is a combination of the two proposals supported by Commissioners Gillum and Maddox.

5 Responses to City Staff Once Again Recommends Against Appointed Ethics Officer

  1. Ben Poitevent Reply

    March 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    First, the staff does not make recommendations that have not already been approved by a majority of the commissioners. The staff works for the commissioners and does not function independent of their input in the planning stage of any issue, especially ethics.
    The plan of the commissioners is to establish a city ethics officer so they can claim they did so, but at the same time keep him or her under their control, directly or indirectly. They do not intend to create a truly independent ethics officer, just as they do not have a truly independent City Manager or staff.
    What I believe they will do is create an ethics officer who is subject to their control. Independence and real authority to initiate inquiries be damned.
    If they do so, the citizens of Tallahassee will be denied a wonderful opportunity to gain additional insight into its city government.
    Watch for all sorts of proposals or amendments as all but the lame duck mayor try to posture themselves as supporters, but will “kill it with kindness.” Most will profess support but will be amending it to death.
    Let’s wait and see.

  2. jack Quiiman Reply

    March 10, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Workshop on this issue–This wednesday-12th at three o-clock, just before Commission meeting. THERE IS NO LOGICAL REASON AN HONEST COMMMISSIONER -WOULD NOT WANT AN INDEPENDENT ETHICS OFFICER. Can’t wait to hear the double talk.
    Be there.

  3. Hope Reply

    March 14, 2014 at 7:29 am

    If they had an ethic’s officer how could they get away with giving a million dollar business deal to a commissioner’s campaign manager for a brew pub at Cascades Park (Gillum), AT&T (Marks), and TAPP commercials (Yordon & Paige Carter Smith) who have business/campaign relationships with commissioners Scott Maddox and Nancy Miller?

    How could they get away with being caught in a compromising position with their aide, then firing minority employees for observing the adultery and her supervisor for failing to cover it up for the Lothario commissioner? Yes, it’s true and even when they threaten to have security escort out a public speaker at a commission meeting for exposing it and cut of the speaker’s mic, it does not change the fact that it’s TRUE!

    How could they get away with lobbying and business conflicts of interest (Maddox & Yordon).

    How could they get away with walking out on voting for what would be a conflict of interest (Maddox)?

    If there were an ethic’s officer how could a commissioner’s (Maddox) business partner (Yordon) get away with not registering as a lobbyist and then fraudulently registering under a defunct entity?

    How could they get away with a commissioner not being eligible for their seat due to the residency law (Scott Maddox)?

    An ethic’s officer would not be in their best interest because their conflicts, illegal deals, and adultery would be exposed and they would be held accountable.

    Certainly no surprise here that they failed to do the ethical and responsible thing. May the misdeeds, illegal deals, and sleaze carry on.

  4. Jon Reply

    March 17, 2014 at 7:31 am

    A simple fix for this is to stop electing unethical people.

  5. Michael Paris Reply

    March 27, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    The city, in all aspects of it’s governance has arrogantly and blatantly abused their power regularly. They in no way want an ethics officer/commission looking over their shoulder now. Marks, Favors, Miller, Gillum and Lindley have exercised “situational ethics” only when it is politically expedient or they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. The state ethics commission is a toothless entity now and they are no viable recourse in addressing corruption.

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