By: NEBA, Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates
A group of outstanding citizens appointed to the ethics Advisory Panel met 18 times to formulate a plan to ensure that the city has ethics oversight. They presented a very comprehensive ethics plan to the City Commissioners, four of whom rejected most of it, suggesting instead that the duties of an ethics officer should be added to the job description of a current appointed official rather than create a new position. This essentially guts the proposal made by the advisory panel as an in house ethics official could not be as objective (or independent) as an appointed officer.
As Panel Chair Martha Barnett has stated, these recommendations were not about any one commissioner. Adding an appointed ethics officer should give city officials, whether elected or not, peace of mind that ethical decisions and behaviors will continue to be adhered to.
Some commissioners expressed concern about the cost of an appointed official, but noted that there would be additional legal expenses even with an in-house officer. They estimated an appointed ethics officer could cost as much as $300,000. In contrast, Jacksonville, a city much larger than Tallahassee, has an appointed ethics officer with a budget of only 150K.
There were some very smart, highly respected people on that advisory panel who volunteered their time to help ensure Tallahassee’s elected and appointed officials maintain honest and ethical stewardship of citizens’ tax dollars. We fail to see how anyone could object to that goal and NEBA (Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates) strongly urges the commissioners to follow the recommendations of the commission appointed, Ethics Advisory Panel.