Tallahassee Reports has obtained a copy of a legal journal article recently written by Julie Meadows-Keefe, the City of Tallahassee Ethics Officer, which reveals that she believed the ethics climate in Tallahassee before the creation of the independent ethics board was “benign.”
The article entitled, “From Rumblings to Reality: One City’s Story of Ethics Reform“, was published this year in the Stetson Law Review.
The article portrayed Tallahassee void of ethical challenges from 2002 through 2012. Ms. Meadows-Keefe wrote:
“From 2002–2012, eleven complaints against City officials had been filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics. In no case was it found that a violation was committed by an elected official. Additionally, no elected official in Tallahassee has ever been arrested for a criminal act.”
And then Ms. Meadow-Keefe asks, “Against this rather benign history, what tipped the balance?”
However, Ms. Meadows-Keefe failed to mention significant events that outraged a citizenry before 2012 and helped drive the support for an ethics board.
For example, Ms. Meadows-Keefe failed to mention the City Commission’s initial support of the FSU bio mass plant that was reversed when it was revealed the wife of FSU President, TK Wetherell, was a financial partner of the company selected to build the plant.
Ms. Meadows-Keefe failed to mention the finding by the the Florida Commission on Ethics that City Commissioner Allan Katz had a conflict on the biomass project. Not long after the finding, Katz resigned.
Ms. Meadows-Keefe failed to mention the deferred compensation scheme that resulted in $20,000 raises for city commissioners in 2007 and was never reported in the local media.
The City Commission voted to kill the benefit in 2010 after Dr. Erwin Jackson provided information that was published by Tallahassee Reports and citizens became aware of the arrangement.
Ms. Meadows-Keefe failed to mention the fact Mayor John Marks did not live within the city limits when he was elected Mayor in 2002. Instead, Marks listed his home address as a condo he owned in town. Days after his election, the City Commission voted to annex just his Bobbin Brook home – not the entire neighborhood – into the city limits.
Ms. Meadows-Keefe’s failure to recognize the role these events played in the creation of an environment conducive to a citizen led referendum in support of an independent ethics board, raise several questions.
Was Ms. Meadows-Keefe unaware of these events?
Was Ms. Meadows aware of the events and she simply chose to omit them from the historical context associated with the ethics board?
What does the answer to either of the above questions say about Ms. Meadows-Keefe ability to serve as an effective Ethics Officer?