Records obtained by Tallahassee Reports indicate the family of Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez received a $4,761.39 “owner discount” on a $14,964 catering bill from The Edison restaurant.
The event was the wedding of Mr. Fernandez’s daughter held on March 5, 2016. The invoice can be viewed here.
The top of page 2 of the invoice has a line that shows the “Owner Discount” valued at $4,761.39. The total cost of the discounted services was $14,964.
The middle of page 2 of the invoice shows that the total paid was $14,284.17. This includes the discounted amount, service charges and sales tax.
Repeated attempts to reach Edison co-owner Ryan Grindler were unsuccessful.
TR requested a comment from City Manager Rick Fernandez through the city’s Communications Department, however no comment was provided.
The City of Tallahassee signed a 13-page lease with Cascades Holding LLC on August 26th, 2014 that allows Cascades to operate the Edison restaurant. The lease was signed by the Tallahassee City Manager at the time, Anita Favors Thompson. Mr. Fernandez was appointed city manager on November 21, 2015.
The lease provides a number of provisions that must be regulated by the City of Tallahassee. The lease can be viewed here.
In February 2016, the city commission took up the issue of operating hours and voted 3-2 to allow the restaurant to stay open until 4 am. See our report here.
Chapter 112 of the Florida Statutes regulates gifts from vendors to individuals that work in government. Florida Statutes 112.3148 states:
A reporting individual or procurement employee or any other person on his or her behalf is prohibited from knowingly accepting, directly or indirectly, a gift from a vendor doing business with the reporting individual’s or procurement employee’s agency..if he or she knows or reasonably believes that the gift has a value in excess of $100;
Tallahassee Reports will continue to seek comments from city commissioners and other officials.
Check back for updates.
Would it be ethical for Mr. Fernandez to hire the city contracted mowing service to cut his yard? The answer is, yes, if the mowing service did not give him a special, reduced rate, or if he gets no special benefit that all customers don’t get. His position at city hall controls who gets the city mowing contract, so he must take great care to avoid the receipt of any benefit that is given to him BECAUSE of his position. The same logic applies to the benefit he received from the Edison.
Elected or appointed officials have a duty to not accept any financial benefit given to them because of their position whether it’s a free or reduced price for lawn care, wedding receptions or football tickets. Where are the ethics folks we created?
And to avoid the appearance of a conflict, you get your yard mowed by anyone other than a city contractor!
If I understand it correctly, of the 7 Ethics board members, at least one is appointed by the City Commission and two of the board members are appointed by the board. The rest are hired and the officer is also appointed by the board…basically, the city commissioners and city administration (by way of hiring) decide who gets to monitor the ethical behavior of the city commission and the city administration. Sounds like there is zero room for error and everything will be done ethically.
If you really want to track him you should examine his scat to see what he’s been feeding on. I suspect he may be using coupons to get discounts from restaurants all over town.
But he only regulates ONE!
There are many other venues the city manager could have selected and avoided the conflict of interest or the appearance of it. It is basic ethics that government officials avoid doing personal business with businesses they regulate. Why doesn’t the city manager know that, or did he?
Wow, Fernandez’s wedding planner got a discount on the wedding catering from a city owned restaurant that nobody eats at.
It’s likely he was trying to support the failing restaurant.
Maybe this should be rolled into the audit Maddox requested.
MT, good idea, but is anybody asking who will conduct the audit? Are bids being solicited from accounting firms? Is an accounting firm that is loyal to the city being considered? Is an accounting firm that is a friend of commissioner Maddox being considered? Or, the worst possible scenario, is an accountant, or accountants employed by the city going to do it? What steps are being taken to monitor the city’s selection of an accounting provider? How can the public be assured that any audit of the Edison is based on financial issues, not politics? The answer may lie in a transparent, open bid solicitation process rather than one that is decided behind closed doors.
Why didn’t Jeff Burlew catch this?
Why isn’t Democrat following up on this story?Is it looking the other way because the city is a large customer of theirs?
No, they are always embarrassed when TR scoops them so they act like it’s not real news. Remember The Diesel Spill That Wasn’t? They tried to discredit the TR story, but only verified most of it.
Coming this Sunday in the local newsletter:
“The Wedding Party Bill that Wasn’t”
I am sure they will try to blame it on their employees for this discount given to a government official. I mean the owners have no connections with any government officials– right??So who will they blame and fire over yet one more of the fiascos they created?
Great! Another questionable arrangement the city ethics board can ignore.
Looks perfectly common to me. We have been catering in Tallahassee for 33 years. You have retail prices for line items, then negotiate a discount depending on the size of the party, the date and times. For this big a party with an added open bar, any caterer in this town would take this deal every day. The manager might have had only one software label option to describe the discount, it might just have easily been labeled “negotiated discount by the Finnerty’s” in order to get the job.
We did the entertainment for part of this. We meet with the Finnerty’s many times, and never once did we “negotiate” with Mr. Fernandez.
Steve does a great service for Tallahassee with his paper and stories. However, this is one he can move along as a non issue.
Steve, I know nothing about the restaurant business. The fact is that Rick should not be doing business with a city contractor!!!! I don’t care who he hires for the party but it cannot be a city contractor, period!This action is unethical and possibly illegal. Rick, resign today and do not embarrass yourself, your family or our community anymore!
Now we know why the city commission restricted the ethics commission from looking at these issues and omitted serious penalties for violators!
A city a small as TLH, you run out of options pretty quick. Scott’s explanation seems plausible, but I would compare Rick’s deal to others of similar amounts that have been given by the Edison. List price is not what’s often paid for services.
You just gonna talk or are you gonna run?
Mr. Carswell, your comment may be true, but, with respect, may I ask if you have contracted with the city staff or any of its commissioners, in the past, are currently under contract, or have applied to be the contractor for any services for any official city function?
I only ask because your explanation of the reduction to Mr. Fernandez’s bill by the Edison may very well be true, that the reduction is common practice. My question is intended to show your motive for your comment is an honorable one.
In case Scott does not answer, Scott books the acts for Cascades Park. Draw your own conclusions.
Mr Old Cop.. Interesting discovery questions… answer is easy.. “have you contracted with the city staff or any of its commissioners… NO, in the past…NO, are currently under contract. NO, or have applied to be the contractor for any services for any official city function NO? In other words I don’t work for the City. My comments years ago were that a major restaurant was not a good fit for that space, but its an operating business now and I personally hope it can be successful. My standard argument is simple.. if you use an SRX restaurant license you should not be able to operate as a bar license 4COP, The Edison has attempted that, and certainly the 101 and many many more did and currently do exactly that… but that simple argument has been a zero sum with ABT and COT for 33 years.. I have moved on and at this point, I give up… I operate a small private business (33 years) and we support over 30 charity nights a year.. for which my wife and I are very proud. I was born in Tallahassee 66 years ago… I wish comments like all these would leave out the family part.. His daughter I’m sure choose that beautiful venue as the one she wanted for her celebration, she and her future husband negotiated a deal for a large party, both sides were happy.. We should all be happy for them. Please tell me what more is there to this ridiculous story? I could only wish the rest of this group could be happy..
To Mr. Jacksons point.. I don’t think a lessee is a contractor, further, where could the man eat if not on property that pays city taxes.
As I said, I am a fan of Steve and his TR.. this is not one that we all need to get wound up and out of breath over.
I know a lot about paying property taxes! We all pay taxes and I don’t know of any kickback given to city senior staff. Don’t make excuses for Rick! Senior staff and commissioners should not use city contractors for their personal events! There are plenty of options available for a party!! City should stay out of private sector businesses!
Tallahassee is turning into your typical Democrat run cesspool.
As someone else reiterated above in the comments…happens all the time. My opinion nothing will become of this so no need to worry.
Rick Fernandez needs to resign if this is true. You have done great work in tracking this down Steve. However, I have an odd theory to propose.
What if the “owner discount” is actually Rick Fernandez? What if Rick Fernandez is an owner of the Edison? It seems like an amateur move that they would ring up this whole invoice and then add in a government free (bribe). The smarter thing to do would be to ring up each item individually at a lower cost to reflect this discount. This invoice is a smoking gun, and if true, Rick Fernandez is done.
C’mon, it’s Florida. This is what happens in Florida. There’s nothing to see here folks. Move along. It’s a discount, not a bribe or gift. Don’t worry your little heads about it. That’s not the stink of something illegal, just the odor of money and the cost of doing business. Pay no attention to what’s going on behind the curtain. Enjoy your day in Florida.
Besides…doesn’t everyone do it?
Don ond would hope you have proof this is the way it works in Florida rather than your comment being just your opinion. It should be a gift and he have to count it as income on tax return. It would be best not to allow such discounts . If they happen the employee should have to pay back & be discliplened up to termination!! Banks & corporations dont allow so why is it govt is always behind the times?
This does not pass the smell test.
That’s an understatement, Peggy.
To the best of my recollection, Grindler & Corey have been listed in TR as owners of the Edison, with Sean Pittman listed as “an investor.” But what about other investors? That list has never been published, as far as I know.
Could Tricky Rickey be one of those secret (owner) investors?
The deaf, dumb, and blind will see no issue with illegal.