On Thursday, the Citizens Ethics Panel will meet at City Hall to continue to formulate their recommendation on a new ethics policy for the City. The issues scheduled to be discussed are voting conflicts and campaign finance.
Voting conflicts are one of the main reasons that the Panel was created by the City Commission. The issue revolves around elected officials voting on contracts that benefit business partners or themselves. One of the challenges is identifying the conflicts before votes are taken.
The Panel’s discussion thus far, has indicated a consensus around requiring a more detailed financial disclosure form than is currently in place. Also, Panel members have noted that current forms are not on the City website and have indicated a desire to see this changed.
Some members have voiced concern that burdensome disclosure requirements could result in qualified people choosing not to run for office. Panel member Jay Landers will be providing information and his views on how to address voting conflicts on Thursday.
The current Form 1, filed by City Commissioners, requires that Commissioners provide clients or customers of certain kind of businesses they own and that meet specific threshold criteria. The type of business included in the disclosure is detailed in the Form 1 instructions:
The types of businesses covered in this disclosure include: state and federally chartered banks; state and federal savings and loan associations; cemetery companies; insurance companies; mortgage companies; credit unions; small loan companies; alcoholic beverage licensees; pari-mutuel wagering companies, utility companies, entities controlled by the Public Service Commission; and entities granted a franchise to operate by either a city or a county government.
Among the type of businesses that are exempt from Form 1 disclosure are law firms and consultants.
Tallahassee Reports reviewed the Form 1’s filed by current City Commissioners and found, based on the above exemptions, that no Commissioner is required to disclose any clients or customers.
However, Commissioner Gill Ziffer, who owns a marketing and consulting firm, went beyond Form 1 requirements and listed all of his clients. Also, Ziffer disclosed the names of individuals who are providing income via his rental properties. By providing this information, Commissioner Gil Ziffer is making it difficult for potential voting conflicts to occur.
Tallahassee Reports will keep you informed about the deliberations of the City’s Ethics Advisory Panel.
How ludicrous! We’re exempting the people who most need to be watched!
The exclusion of law firms and consultants from Form 1 reporting requirements should be justified in detail for public review. These are the very types of businesses that have the greatest potential for conflict because of their involvement with government agencies.
Also conspicuous by its absence is the gambling industry other than pari-mutuel interests.
It is not correct that strict disclosure reporting requirements discourage or dissuade otherwise qualified citizens from running for public office. If fact, it implies the current commissioners are, somehow, less qualified because they were able to run. Nothing could be further from the truth. The danger, of course, is that highly successful lawyers and consultants WILL run so long as they can rely on the Form 1 reporting exemption.
Kudo’s to Commissioner Gill Ziffer !