The City Commission vote against the Ethics Advisory Panel (EAP) recommendation for an appointed Ethics Officer was bad enough. But to think the probable future Mayor of the City of Tallahassee could not see the wisdom put forth by the EAP is even more troubling.
When the Tallahassee Democrat, Martha Barnett, the former President of the American Bar Association, Harry Anstead, the former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice, and former Mayor Penny Herman say it is time for an appointed Ethics Officer, you would think it would be a slam dunk. But it was not!
The troubling part of this is that Commissioner and Mayoral candidate Andrew Gillum was able to say no to an appointed Ethics Officer in the face of such support.
The irony is that Commissioner Gillum is the one that got the ball rolling with the EAP, but he could not support their most important recommendation.
And now the question is why?
Gillum, who was elected to the Commission at a young age, has never been one to rock the boat. He went along with the Mayor and then Commissioner Mark Mustian, to support the contract with Honeywell for the smart meter program that has been a huge disappointment.
Gillum voted for the controversial deferred compensation program for elected officials that was ultimately killed after citizens displayed outrage.
Gillum voted for a tax subsidized restaurant in Cascades Park, despite evidence that indicated the project does not make business sense.
So for those who were looking for a leader in the next Mayor, the vote for an appointed Ethics Officer was an opportunity for Gillum to break from the past, sever ties with the old way of doing business.
But it was not to be!
Gillum’s supporters will say that the City Commission adopted a lot of policies recommended by the EAP that will make a huge difference in the future. And that will be Gillum’s political cover. But do not believe it for a minute.
For the last 10-15 years the City Manager and the City Attorney have been providing cover for the questionable deeds of certain members on the City Commission.
Remember deferred compensation – how did that get on the agenda?
Remember when City Attorney Jim English sat in silence when Mayor Marks misled the public about his communication with his law office over the Honeywell vote?
Remember when the City Attorney approved the hiring of a private investigator to follow a City Hall critic?
And now the current City Attorney, Lew Shelley, is in charge of implementing these new ethics rules.
The is the same City Attorney that will not enforce the lobbyists registration ordinance. The same City Attorney that just this year let a City Commissioner repeatedly walk out of meetings instead of asking him to follow the law and declare a conflict. The same City Attorney that sat by and watched a citizen get shut down while trying to talk about a City lawsuit settlement.
Commissioner Andrew Gillum made his choice – along with Mayor John Marks and Commissioner Nancy Miller- and decided to side with the City Manager and the City Attorney and reject what was good for the citizens of Tallahassee.
This vote was a defeat for transparency, but sadly, it was a vote that Andrew Gillum will be shackled with as the next Mayor of Tallahassee and that is unfortunate, because it was his own doing!