Decision by City Ethics Officer Raises Questions

Decision by City Ethics Officer Raises Questions

The City’s independent ethics board is experiencing growing pains.

The recent announcement of Chair Lila Jaber’s  resignation after revelations of possible conflicts of interest with her law firm and the board’s controversial hiring of Julie Meadows-Keefe as the Board’s Ethic’s officer, has raised the level of scrutiny of the Board.

And now, as ethics complaints are filed, the Board’s actions and the actions of Meadows-Keefe, are being questioned.

For example, last week the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Meadows-Keefe referred an ethics complaint to the City’s auditor for investigation, rather than begin an investigation herself.

The complaint, filed by the executive director of the Big Bends Air Conditioning Contractors Association, Luther Council, “questioned whether energy auditors were doing contract work in city clothes and, in addition, kicking work to friends after telling city customers their air conditioning units needed replacing.”

There were immediate questions about why Ms. Meadows-Keefe would refer the work of an independent board to the government entity which is the target of the complaint.

Mr. Council theorized the move was to “quiet the whole thing up” since the City’s Auditor can withhold information from the public while the audit is in process.

Also the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, said she was puzzled about why the complaint became the subject of an audit. She called the city’s decision a “perversion of the process.”

However, Tallahassee Reports contacted Cara Miller, the veteran Ethics Officer for the City of Jacksonville and she provided a rationale for the decision made by Meadows-Keefe.

When told about the specifics of the complaint filed, Miller responded:

“I do that sometimes, too. Some situations need an audit; attorneys are not qualified to do them. If you had a huge ethics/IG staff it could be done in an independent fashion.”

Supporters of the Ethics Board told TR this situation is one of the reasons they opposed the hiring of Meadows-Keefe as the Ethics Officer.

The supporters said that given her previous relationship with the City Commission, City Attorney, and the City Auditor, any decision to involve the City with an “independent investigation” would be met with suspicion, even if there is a rationale for such a decision.

TR will continue to follow the audit process and seek whatever information is available about the ethics complaint.

15 Responses to "Decision by City Ethics Officer Raises Questions"

  1. Why not contact Keefe herself? Is it because you’ve beaten on her to the point she won’t talk to you or are you just scared? She talks with TD. Same thing with Preston. Why not have her on your show? Probably smarter than you both put together.

  2. You all should be questioning more significant issues COUNTY WIDE. Ignoring more significant issues, skimming over them, doing nothing, then beating down insignificant ones is getting old. You ALL need to get your priorities in check:

    Crime Rate
    Three elected officials circumventing residency law

  3. I believe picking on this person is undermining your credibility. This is so not an issue to insignificant compared to Mary Ann Lindley and Kristen Dozier ignoring and even misleading to promoting the CDA when in fact it was/is practically non-functional and resulted in citizens fatalities. Constant beat downs of the city while ignoring significant deficiencies in the county are glaringly obvious. Please report a more balanced assessment of the realities. Also, you seem to be promoting Scott Maddox and forgetting his residency issue where the crime rate is out of control in the area where he gives his “bogus” residence address to circumvent the law.

    1. Hope, this was a follow-up report to a story published by the Tallahassee Democrat which questioned Keefe’s decision. I contacted the ethics officer in Jacksonville and provided info that actually defends Keefe’s decision.

  4. “Show some diversity”, spoken like a true liberal. Next, I suppose you will demand for us to fight “social injustice”.

    1. TR please continue reporting on the issues that are a concern to all the “orities” from majorities to minorities we are all affected by the actions of these people and so called leaders that have corrupted our govt. for personal or political gain. If Mr. Sims thinks for a minute this issue does not affect his group he is sadly mistaken. I am sure that TR would report on any diverse news that affects the citizens of Tallahassee if informed and worthy of reporting in their excellent news coverage of our local govt…

    2. Stanley,

      Thanks for reading TR. I have been working on a report for awhile that should be completed in the next 10 days. You will be very interested in the findings.


    3. As someone who is a minority, I believe the issues this website brings up does impact us. We pay taxes, and it is our tax money wasted. Not to mention they are ignoring our votes. They use us to get them elected then do whatever they want and forget about us until election time. Look at who Marks and Guillam help out. It isn’t those of us who work hard and try to do things the right way. I work extremely hard just to make ends, and then they want to raise my taxes? They raised the gas tax a couple of years ago, and property taxes this year. Wait until gas prices go back up and our utility bills start climbing. This is why I started checking out this website.

      I am curious to know which of the issues about the City don’t apply to minorities. The Killearn Country Club is the only one I can initially think of that doesn’t “apply to minorities”, but I have couple of friends who are minorities and live in Killearn, so while I’m not interested in that issue, it does impact my friends.

  5. I’m glad she let the City Auditor handle this, I trust him more than I do her. Let’s be fair here, the fact it is confidential while the auditor does his investigation means nothing because if the ethics office looked into this, it would still be confidential until the review was complete. Remember the police chief a few weeks ago? The board held a meeting outside of the sunshine, so this is the same way, there is just more to look into here. The big question is if she is going to just pass stuff off to other areas, why do we need her? How much money are we now spending for her to hand stuff off to other people?

  6. I understand why people would be frustrated with the performance of the ethics board so far. It sounds like none of them are doing what voters had expected them to do. Someone filed an ethics complaint and the person the ethics board hired to investigate ethics complaints refers the complaint to the auditor for an audit? Maybe its because I am not an attorney, but I thought an ethics investigation and audit are two different things. I would be surprised if the auditor answers an ethics question, not because auditors aren’t ethical but because their audit processes are not really designed or intended to answer ethics questions. That’s why I thought voters wanted to hire an independent ethics board and officer.

    1. Curtis, you bring up a good point about the ethics investigation and an audit being very different. I never thought of that, but the Tallahassee Democrap did quote Ms. Keafe saying she will read the audit report and then make a determination as to whether there are any ethical issues that need to be addressed. I guess maybe that’s why the auditor is looking into this.

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