City Manager Fernandez Threatens Ethics Board Members with Legal Action

City Manager Fernandez Threatens Ethics Board Members with Legal Action

City Manager Rick Fernandez, in a letter through his attorney, threatened individual members of the City’s Independent Ethics Board with possible legal action weeks after the Board voted to send a complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The letter was first reported on by the Tallahassee Democrat.

The complaint addressed a transaction between a vendor of the City of Tallahassee, the Edison restaurant, and members of Mr. Fernandez’s family.

The letter, drafted by attorney Steve Andrews, stated that “I do not believe that the Ethics Board or its members enjoy the defense of qualified immunity as it relates to Brian and Delia Finnerty and they acted in an ultra vires manner and had no jurisdiction as it relates to the Finnertys.”

The letter then went on to accuse the Ethics Board of defaming the Fernandez family. Andrews wrote, “the allegations impliedly made against Brian and Delia Finnerty were false and defamatory per se, and which I believe constitute a per se invasion of their privacy.”

Mr. Andrews also warned the Ethics Board members about cooperating with the Florida Commission on Ethics. Andrews stated any communication with Florida Commission on Ethics “would act to republish the defamation and again act in a manner which would constitute an invasion of Mr. and Mrs. Finnerty’s privacy.”

Andrews closed the letter by writing, “At this point, I believe it would be prudent that each and every member of the Ethics Board provide the Finnertys with a public apology, and that such apology be submitted to each and every member of the City Commission and be made a permanent record of the City Commission.”

Ben Wilcox, Research Director of Integrity Florida told TR that “the Ethics Board clearly has the legal authority under the 2014 charter amendment to ‘refer ethics and corruption matters to appropriate enforcement agencies.’ The citizens of Tallahassee voted overwhelmingly to create the independent Ethics Board to act as an ethics watchdog in our community and the idea that the Board should apologize for doing its job is absurd.ā€

The complaint lodged with the Ethics Board over the transaction with the Edison resulted in Dr. Erwin Jackson, a local businessman, filing a separate complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Dr. Jackson’s complaint addressed the Edison restaurant transaction and also included an allegation about Mr. Fernandez receiving FSU football tickets during the 2016 season from Adam Corey, a city lobbyist and owner of the Edison.

TR reported that Mr. Fernandez accepted several football tickets in Adam Corey’s “Old School Box” at Doak Campbell stadium – valued at $350-$400 – and gave them to family members and City of Tallahassee employees.

16 Responses to "City Manager Fernandez Threatens Ethics Board Members with Legal Action"

  1. Wow! It is scary how powerful people don’t want to give up their power. Hopefully the FBI investigation will take care of this guy.

  2. Mr. Andrews isn’t doing his client any favors, he’s making him look more guilty.
    If the city ethics board apologizes, they should resign.

  3. I would have thought Mr. Fernandez would have submitted a check for $4,761.39 for the account/billing “mistake” and apologized to the citizens, co-workers, ethics board, etc. The Andrews law firm seems to be making themselves look foolish and unprofessional. Perhaps a complaint to the Florida Bar should follow.

  4. To call it what it is, Mr. Fernandez’ letter is an unveiled threat: “You better shut up and shut this Ethics complaint down quick and apologize, or I’ll make you sorry!” As the old saying goes, you know you’re over the target when you’re taking flak. Mr. Fernandez seems to consider himself above any sort of complaint or investigation of his activities, but hopefully he will soon find out that is not the case. Perhaps the FBI also might have some look-see into Mr. Fernandez’ activities. Will he threaten them too? I’d like to see him or his attorney try that.

  5. The attorney Andrews wording in the letter is odd in that any idiot can imeditally recgonize it to be a load of crap.
    Honestly Steve the Elder is too smart and Steve the Younger would have been taught too well by Dad to disgrace the family by writing up such a lame letter.

    We must consider that Fernandez the Idiot Bully wrote up that childish letter and demanded attorney Andrews submit it on his behalf.

  6. Looks to me that city govt officials have been bucking and braying ever since talk an ethics board first began. They do not like the added attention.

  7. I didn’t understand much of what Mr. Andrews wrote, but it sounded to me as if it was intended to intimidate the board members. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. In the mean time, there is a bigger question for me. How is it that the ethics advisory board is not comfortable dealing with an ethics question presented to it? It was my understanding that the board would be created to enhance the state’s ineffective ethical standards. The board was not intended to screen complaints for the state ethics commission. Is it a problem with the implementing legislation? Is it ineffective staffing? At this point, I’m nit sure what we need to do to move forward.

    1. The ethics ordinance was written by City Attorney Shelley to protect commissioners. He exempted them from the ordinance and remove penalties for all! Plus staff person is over paid, lacks experience and is incompetent !

    1. BEC, rest assured I don’t take direction from anyone including Mayor Andy, the city commissioners, Tricky Ricky Fernandez or their legal representatives. I hope that is clear enough!

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