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Posted on September 8, 2015
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.
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.