The Chair of the City of Tallahassee Ethics Board, Lila Jaber, asked the recently hired counsel to the Board, Mr. Gerald Currington, “whether the Ethics Board has the discretion to hire an Ethics Officer without advertising.”
Noting that the current Ethics Officer was hired under City policies, Mr. Currington wrote “it is my opinion that the independent Ethics Board may and should adopt its own bylaws or procedures for the administration of matters under the Ethics Board’s exclusive jurisdiction, including the employment of staff, if it is to be truly independent.”
He added, “it seems self-evident that the Ethics Board cannot truly discharge its duties and responsibilities independently if it is bound by the City’s hiring policies and procedures.”
At the next Ethics Board meeting, on August 20th, members are scheduled to discuss the hiring of an Ethics Officer.
Chair Jaber has previously indicated that she wanted to retain the current Ethics Officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, who was hired by the City Commission before the establishment of the City’s Ethics Board.
Mr. Currington’s opinion, included in a four page memo sent to Ms. Jaber on July 30, 2015, was based on the Charter Amendment provisions passed by the citizens of Tallahassee.
Mr. Currington wrote, “it is unambiguous from these Charter Amendment provisions that the citizens of Tallahassee voted for an independent Ethics Board and directed that the Ethics Board would adopt bylaws and procedures for its administration, including the employment of staff; which bylaws and procedures would ensure its independence and impartiality;…”
He added, “if there were any ambiguity in the Charter Amendment on this question, which there is not, the Charter Amendment must be liberally construed to effectuate its clear purpose of establishing an independent Ethics Board.”
The full memo can found here.
Get the lawyers out of it and hire someone who is in deed an ethical person whose operates in an independent position. Do the people of Tallahasee really think a lawyer hired by a lawyer who all are appointed by the City Commissioners is actually going to tell their employers they are acting “in an unethical
Manner” and discipline and censure them.
The question presented to Mr. Currington was apparently limited to the sole question of whether or not the ethics board has the authority to hire an ethics officer without advertising the position.
Mr. Currington responded that they can if they establish procedures for doing so. He opined that as an independent board they are not bound by city rules and procedures and, therefore, have authority to draft their own personnel rules and procedures.
I agree with Mr. Currington, for whom I have great respect, for his clarity on the independent status of the board, and for his guidance to the board to draft its own procedures.
Ms. Jabar, or other board members, should ask for more guidance from Mr. Currington. For instance, does the Chair have authority to bind the board to contractual obligations without a public vote. Are rules and procedures in place giving her such authority. In the absence of such authority are existing contracts null and void?
Can ANY action of the board not taken in a public meeting be valid?
What, if any, actions of the board are not subject to the “sunshine law?”
The board is in need of further legal guidance from Mr. Currington, they just have to ask.
Why would anyone on that board even think of operating like the city?? Truly the policies and those who put them in place are the problem and I hope that they separate in full from any and all resemblances of operating like the city. Finally, the best candidate for this office is one that has never been a lawyer or has ever worked for the government but has integrity, dedication, trustworthiness, love of the community and a good understanding of right and wrong.