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.