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Ethics Board Chairman Failed to Disclose Her Law Firm’s Contract with City

Posted on September 8, 2015

Ethics Board Chairman Failed to Disclose Her Law Firm’s Contract with City

Current Chairman of the City’s newly formed independent Ethics Board, Lila Jaber, failed to disclose a business relationship between her law firm, Gunster, and the City of Tallahassee when she applied to be the City’s appointment to the Board.

Sean Pittman, Founder and President of Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce

Sean Pittman, Founder and President of Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce

Also, Ms. Jaber is listed as the the vice-chair of the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce whose founder and president is Sean Pittman, the City of Tallahassee’s state government lobbyist.

According to public records, Jaber provided an application to the City of Tallahassee on December 29th, 2014 and was recommended to the full Commission by Mayor Andrew Gillum on January 14, 2015.

The City’s vendor records show that a representative for Jaber’s law firm signed a contract approximately six months before her appointment, on June 13, 2014, to provide legal services to the City’s electric utility for a term of two years.

The contract can be viewed here.

City records show that Gunster was paid $9,745 by the City of Tallahassee from August 2014 through January, 2015.

The contract appears to still be in effect.

A review of the minutes of the City Commission meeting which addressed Jaber’s appointment to the Ethics Board, reveal that there was no discussion among the City Commissioners about the business relationship with Gunster. The City Commission eventually approved Jaber’s appointment in a 5-0 vote.

Discussions with sources in a position to know, said that Commissioners were unaware of the business relationship.

The Mayor’s office has not returned our phone calls.

Ironically, the new ethics code requires elected officials to disclose business relationships with city vendors and also provides disclosure before any votes where an elected official has had a business relationship within the last 12 months.

However, there appears to be no such requirement for Ethics Board members.

The fact that the Gunster contract was with the City’s electric utility raises further questions.

Ms. Jaber was appointed to the City’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee for Utilities by City Manager Anita Favors-Thompson a period of time before Gunster was awarded the contract.

TR will continue to investigate.

21 Responses to Ethics Board Chairman Failed to Disclose Her Law Firm’s Contract with City

  1. Michael Railey Reply

    September 8, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Wow!!! You have got to be kidding me. What audacity. Let’s vote the all out and get an entirely new slate of commissioners.

  2. bob fulford Reply

    September 8, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    I think a good plan would be for all of us that are worried about this, including TR, to back off and leave them to their own devices.

    Eventually one or more of the principals will go beyond unethical behavior to criminal excess and the courts and the legal system will sort it out.

  3. Jimmy Reply

    September 9, 2015 at 4:00 am

    Couldn’t a citizen file a complaint with Ms. O’Keefe, since she apparently can’t identify the obvious conflict on her own? Way to go, Steve. Keep flushing the rats out!

  4. Preston Scott

    Preston Scott Reply

    September 9, 2015 at 5:19 am

    Next Wednesday, September 16, noon in the City Commission Chambers. It is time to demand a reboot of this entire process. The resignation of Ms. Jaber, the resignation of the alleged independent ethics officer (a City employee recently hired by the people she is to investigate…independent?). The City Commissioners, due to staff (Anita Favors-Thompson) and Mayor Andrew Gillum, did not perform any background checks before this appointment. None of this is in keeping with the referendum. We need all, all readers, to make the time for this meeting and to speak at the beginning. This is key to the rest of the issues.

  5. Darren Reply

    September 9, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Lila Jaber is a good and honest person, this an oversight of some sort, not collusion. The council was well aware of her background and who she works for. I think this is being blown out of proportion.

    • daisyduck Reply

      September 9, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      Agreed. Requesting one public document and interpreting it wrong isn’t journalism.

      • Jim Reply

        September 9, 2015 at 12:49 pm

        How should it be interpreted?

        • daisyduck Reply

          September 9, 2015 at 8:00 pm

          People shouldn’t jump to conclusions over one document. Steve doesn’t have ethics if he gets one document and makes an entire story over it and sheeple agree like bobbleheads. Whole reason voters got snookered with the Charter Amendment in first place. Black hole and expensive too. Taxpayers will end up paying for current commissioners to get reelected with the refund plan. Watch. Then people angry with commission will squeal like stuck pigs when they have to pay for there campaigns.

          • BEC

            September 9, 2015 at 8:24 pm

            I just threw up in my mouth!

          • daisyduck

            September 9, 2015 at 8:34 pm

            BEC throwing up because you’ll be paying for Mayor’s reelection campaign??

          • alex

            September 9, 2015 at 8:43 pm

            You don’t know Tallahassee Reports very well. You must be new. There is never just one document when they cover a story.

            The mayor doesn’t respond, because there is no defense in this unethical behavior.

    • Jim Reply

      September 9, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      Then she should have no problem resigning for an obvious conflict of interest.

    • Jim Reply

      September 9, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      Then she should have no problem with resigning, because it is an obvious conflict t of interest.

    • DavidB Reply

      September 9, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      This is Tallahassee, home of cronyism, nepotism, and collusion.

      If it waddles and quacks…

    • Dr. Erwin Jackson Reply

      September 9, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Her actions speak for themselves. She is dishonest, self-serving and is playing the tax payers as fools. She and Sean Pitman are scamming the public for all they can get. I thought John Marks was a crook, these two are real experts. WE MUST DEMAND HER IMMEDIATE RESIGNATION. HER EMPLOYER SHOULD REQUIRE THAT SHE RESIGN IF THEY HAVE ANY HONESTY OR CREDIBILITY.

    • BEC Reply

      September 9, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      If the council knew about this, they should all recuse themselves.

    • Preston Scott

      Preston Scott Reply

      September 9, 2015 at 5:36 pm

      Look at the chain of events Darren. First, her law firm has a contract to do business with the City of Tallahassee which is voted on by the VERY people she is charged with investigating which is an obvious conflict of interest; second, she vehemently opposed an independent ethics officer – why in God’s name should she be allowed to serve when she opposes the crucial centerpiece of the referendum; third, she bypassed any discussion and hired counsel for the Ethics Board (who himself admitted to the inevitability of conflicts in his own role); fourth, she forced a vote to hire a City employee (who was seated next to her) as the “independent ethics officer” – yes, forced – forgoing any applications, any interviews…heck, she did not even allow the Ethics Board to set hiring procedures and guidelines before ramming it through; fifth, she is close, personal friends with City Managers Anita Favors Thompson – as Ethics Chair how can she be expected to act on behalf of the citizens when scrutinizing the conduct of her friend – another violation of the implied nature of “independence” contained within the referendum. Would you like me to go on? There is no oversight whatsoever. This is EXACTLY why voters demanded independent ethical oversight. Insiders – and Ms. Jaber is certainly that – have been acting brazenly for years with no reason to act differently. Ms. Jaber needs to step-down and Ms. Meadows-Keefe needs to do the same. Sadly, she should not be allowed to apply for the job as the independent ethics officer because she chose to accept the City job knowing, repeat knowing, there was a pending vote. She became a City employee and, as such, disqualified herself for consideration.

  6. BEC Reply

    September 9, 2015 at 11:57 am

    “The Mayor’s office has not returned our calls”.

    Business as usual for Andy!

  7. HOPE & CHANGE Reply

    September 9, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    The Mayor’s office did not return your PHONE calls! I am TOTALLY SHOCKED.
    By the way, they will also lie that they ever received the message that you called and asked to return the call.
    This is the culture left over from our former Mayor.
    As for Ms. Jaber, she should resign.

    Bob Fulford, the State Attorney Office will not prosecute white collar crime in this county because, and I quote the office, ” it is too hard”.

  8. Hope Reply

    September 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I have to agree that ESPECIALLY in this position the disclosure should have been made.

  9. Steve Reply

    September 9, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    An oversight by Ms. Jabber? I doubt it! Just another example of dishonesty at the City level.

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