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More Conflicts With City’s Ethics Board Chairman, Gunster Law Firm and City of Tallahassee

Posted on September 9, 2015

More Conflicts With City’s Ethics Board Chairman, Gunster Law Firm and City of Tallahassee

Roughly two weeks before Mayor Andrew Gillum recommended Lila Jaber as the City Commission’s appointment to the newly formed independent ethics board, Ms. Jaber submitted an application for consideration. The application is required for most citizens interested in serving on one of the many citizen boards.

On all applications, including Jaber’s, which can be viewed here, is a box with the following request: “Identify any potential conflicts of interest that might occur were you to be appointed:”

Ms. Jaber provided no information in response to the request.

In addition to our previous report, which documented a contractual relationship between Jaber’s law firm and the City of Tallahassee, TR has learned of more conflicts with the City of Tallahassee and the Gunster law firm.

First, a review of the current members of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Utilities finds that a Gunster lawyer from the Tallahassee office, Beth Keating, is a current member. Members can be viewed here.

beth_keating

Beth Keating, member of Citizens Advisory Committee for Utilities

Members of this committee are appointed by the City Manager, Anita Favors-Thompson, the highest ranking non-elected official in city government.

In this situation, potential conflicts with Ms. Jaber and her Ethics Board responsibilities could arise in a number of situations.

Second, Adam Corey, an employee of the Gunster law firm, is a member of two City boards, the Tallahassee Housing Authority and the Downtown Improvement Authority. Membership rosters can be viewed here.

Both appointments require approval of the full City Commission. Again, potential conflicts with Ms. Jaber could arise in a number of situations, including any complaint filed against an elected official.

adam_corey

Adam Corey, member of the Tallahassee Housing Authority, Downtown Improvement Authority, and City Vendor

In addition, Mr. Corey has a contractual relationship with the City of Tallahassee as the developer of the Edison restaurant.

The Edison restaurant is a public-private partnership which has required City Commission approval on a number of occasions.

TR tried to contact the corporate offices of the Gunster law firm without success.

A number of questions remain.

First, given these relationships and the potential for conflicts, why did Ms. Jaber not include any of this information on her application?

And second, given the facts as they are now, can Ms. Jaber continue as a member of the independent Ethics Board?

TR will continue to investigate.

10 Responses to More Conflicts With City’s Ethics Board Chairman, Gunster Law Firm and City of Tallahassee

  1. Don Wilson Reply

    September 9, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    You guys are like a September breath of frest air! It is great to have a real news organization here in Tallahassee.

  2. Michael Railey Reply

    September 9, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Steve, please keep the heat on.

  3. Jimmy Reply

    September 10, 2015 at 5:53 am

    What will it take for ANYONE other than the readers of TR to take notice of this? Maybe someone should file a complaint with the “independent” ethics officer and see how that goes…

  4. Dennis Barton Reply

    September 10, 2015 at 7:48 am

    It appears TR has just done what Ms. Jaber failed to do, which was to identify areas of portential conflict of interest if she were to serve on the Ethics Board. So she is clearly guilty of sloppy paper work but until she participates in ethical matters that involve boards on which her Gunster law partners serve there does not appear to be an ethical violation on her part.

    • Jimmy Reply

      September 10, 2015 at 10:47 am

      She was applying for the “Ethics Board”. Conflicts of interest(or lack thereof) are key components of suitability to serve on that board. It’s similar to someone not disclosing a felony on an employment application and hoping it will not be discovered. The conflict question is key to suitability. I can’t believe she “missed” the question.

  5. bob fulford Reply

    September 10, 2015 at 8:56 am

    to dennis barton: what you refer to as'”sloppy paper work” in my circles is mostly known as “withholding requested information”.and seen as “unethical”.

  6. brad Reply

    September 10, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Good work Steve as usual.

  7. Dr. Erwin Jackson Reply

    September 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    JABER MUST BE REMOVED NOW. END OF STORY. Replace her with someone who has criminal investigative experience. Ethics Board actions have been a joke.

  8. Robert Daniels Reply

    September 11, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    It appears that she is unable to recognize an ethical violation. Shouldn’t that be a requirement for the position?

  9. jack Reply

    September 12, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Ethics complaint was submitted August 28th, to the State Commission on Ethics. Complaint was against
    Ethics Board and City Commission. Rejected on September 1st, on the grounds, that the State Commission on Ethics can only accept complaints against “individual” public officers or employees.

    If I submit another complaint — who would be most responsible for obfuscating the implementation of an independent Ethics Officer ? Ms.Jaber, each City Commissioner by name or our City attorny?

    Can’t do all of above in one complaint.

    Not a lawyer. Jack

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