During its ninth meeting, the City’s Ethics Panel heard testimony from Sandy D’Alemberte and Former City Commissioner Debbie Lightsey. The City’s Ethics Advisory Panel was created to review ethical standards at city hall. If the testimony of D’Alemberte and Lightsey carry any weight with the panel, current and future city commissioners should be prepared to provide more financial disclosure.
Mr. D’Alemberte, a lawyer, former politician, former president of FSU, and writer of the ballot initiative that created the Florida Ethics Commission, shared his thoughts on ethics in government. He stated he wasn’t sure if the creation of the Florida Commission on Ethics “was worth the effort.” He agreed it was a toothless tiger used by some to pursue political objectives.
D’Alemberte cautioned the city about creating a local ethics commission, but recommended increased financial disclosure. He said he believes in “wide disclosure” and commented that not much is required by the state of Florida.
He also recommended that an independent person should have a “comprehensive sit down” with elected officials about business relationships and what is expected.
Debbie Lightsey, who served as a city commissioner for 21 years, followed D’Alemberte and talked about how she had tried to increase disclosure requirements in 1998 because the state form “was a sham.” She was then, and is now, concerned about elected officials cashing in on land deals and undisclosed partnerships. She recommended disclosure forms that listed sources of incomes and were updated during the year to reflect new ownership interests.
Alluding to the Mayor Marks ethics issues, Lightsey stated that those with complicated financial relationships, such as lobbyists and lawyers, should be expected to disclose those relationships, despite client confidentiality.
The meeting concluded with a discussion about what financial forms are currently required, the impact of increasing disclosure requirements, and how the public can get access to financial disclosure forms.
The next meeting of the Ethics Advisory Panel is March 14th, 2013.