The agenda for the next city commission meeting on December 6th contains Item 11.01 which is titled “City Manager Administrative Leave.” The agenda item states:
On November 8, the City Commission voted to approve paid administrative leave for the City Manager until such time as the Florida Commission on Ethics resolves the matter of a complaint against the City Manager. When the November 8 motion was made, Commissioner Ziffer noted that bringing the item back on December 6 would allow for consideration of any subsequent action by the Commission on Ethics. At this time, no such action has been taken.
The item refers to the $20,000 per month paid administrative leave approved on November 8th by the city commission for City Manager Rick Fernandez in light of ethical issues. Based on reports, the decision has not been well received by the public.
Fernandez is being investigated by the Florida Commission on Ethics for taking football tickets, valued at approximately $2,000, from city lobbyist Adam Corey.
Originally, Fernandez told the public he did not take any tickets. However, a text message was discovered that indicated he actually solicited the tickets.
The complaint, filed by Dr. Erwin Jackson, also addresses a $5,000 catering discount from the Edison Restaurant, a city vendor, that Fernandez received for his daughter’s wedding reception.
The City Independent Ethics Board recently notified Fernandez and the city commission that the catering discount “has presented an appearance of impropriety to the Board members, and, more importantly to the community…We believe this behavior was inappropriate and should not be modeled by others working for, or representing, the City.”
So, how will the City Commission address the issue?
Commissioner Scott Maddox has publicly stated that Fernandez should be reinstated until he is proven guilty.
Commissioner Gill Ziffer has stated that “the status quo is not acceptable” and Commissioner Nancy Miller believes that “It’s time to settle this one way or the other.”
Commissioner Curtis Richardson has stated that “I want him to get the due process that he’s entitled to. And so that’s why I’m looking forward to the information that we get from our attorney. And then as a commission, we will have to make a decision as to where we go from there.”
Mayor Gillum has not made in any public comments on the issue.