The City of Tallahassee Ethics Board met on Thursday, March 12 and added two new members. Based on the new referendum, the four current members, appointed by various members of the community earlier this year, were required to select two additional members.
The board accepted applications through March 6 and during the latest meeting reviewed the applications and current members made recommendations.
Lila Jaber recommended Renee McNeil, Robin Robinson and Amanda Clements.
Richard Herring recommended Chance Brown, Bruce Grant, Renee McNeil and Amanda Clements.
Cecil Davis recommended Thomas Friedman, Bruce Grant, Renee McNeil and Robin Robinson.
Funmi Ojetayo recommended Renee McNeil, Robin Robinson, and Chance Brown.
A motion and second was made to approve Renee McNeil since all four current members felt she was the top contender. Motion passed with all four approving.
Discussion for the final position included applicants, Bruce Grant, Chance Brown and Thomas Friedman. After discussion the board voted to extend the last position to Thomas Friedman with a unanimous vote.
Renee McNeil is a vice president and commercial lender with Farmers and Merchant Bank. Thomas Friedman is a former visiting professor and a former FBI special agent.
At the March 23rd meeting at City Hall, the discussion began for the position of chair and vice-chair with Cecil Davis making a motion for chair to by Lila Jaber followed by a friendly amendment from Funmi Ojetayo nominating Richard Herring to be Vice-chair. The vote was unanimous. The “gavel” was passed and Ms. Jaber took control of the meeting.
City Ethics Officer, Julie Keefe offered an update as to what she has been doing since hired by the city. She explained her position as an ombudsman. She told the Board that many of her first months were spend working the media angle, community meetings and learning the division of labor. She also manned the ethics hotline and provided the city commission with the 4 hours of ethics training as required by Florida statute.
It appeared that the ethics board would like the city staff to continue to offer support to the board and to be a liaison. They would also like for Ms. Keefe to work with them and provide information. The City attorney, Lew Shelley, reiterated that the board is going to have to hire an independent ethics officer.
Chair Jaber offered a time of public comment.
Marilyn Wills spoke on the possibility of the ethics board reaching out to Carla Miller, the ethics officier in Jacksonville, for guidance on what they did and asked about what the timeline for hiring of an independent ethics officer.
Chair Jaber instructed Ms Wills that the floor wasn’t open for debate and asked for her to be seated.
Jim Cooke and Lew Shelley responded to Ms. Wills that there was no time limit in the ballot initiative for the hiring of the independent ethics officer.
Chair Jaber stated that she doesn’t want the committee to lose sight of what the voters want which is an independent ethics board with an ethics officer.
The next meeting will be April 6, 2015.