Tallahassee Reports spoke with the City’s appointed Ethics Officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, about the hiring of a law firm to serve as counsel to the Ethics Board that also does significant business with the City of Tallahassee.
Tallahassee Reports wrote about the relationship here.
Ms. Meadows-Keefe told Tallahassee Reports that she was aware of the relationship between the Ausley law firm and the City of Tallahassee when Mr. Curington of the Ausley firm was recommended to the Ethics Board.
However, Ms. Meadows-Keefe said she emailed Mr. Curington’s resume to Board members, but did not provide any information to Board members about the Ausley law firm business relationship with the City of Tallahassee.
At the July 13th Ethics Board meeting, the Board approved the hire by consensus. No formal vote was taken.
On July 14, 2015, the Chair of the Ethics Board, Lila Jaber, signed a contract with Jerry Curington of the Ausley McMullen law firm to be the General Counsel for the City’s Ethics Board.
Peter Butzin, chair of Common Cause Florida and a member of Citizens for Ethics Reform told the Tallahassee Democrat that “it was all done behind closed doors. We don’t even know who made the decision.”
Ms. Meadows-Keefe said that there are Florida Bar rules that indicate the situation is “entirely acceptable.” Meadows-Keefe added, “for the day to day work of the Board there is no conflict.”
However, Ms. Meadows-Keefe did indicate there could be a situation when a conflict might arise.
When asked what would happen if a complaint was filed against a City Commissioner and the hired Counsel was asked to give a legal opinion?
Ms. Meadows-Keefe said, “the Board would have to address the issue.”