Instead of waiting around for indictments, it is time for local leaders and interested parties to begin to form an outline of what changes are needed to address the ethical challenges that face local government.
Without rehashing the ethical lapses over the last several years, the are number of simple changes that would address current conflicts of interest.
Here are two.
First, no Leon County or City of Tallahassee elected official or employee (that must file financial disclosure form with the Florida Commission on Ethics) shall do business, directly or indirectly, with a local government vendor when the transaction exceeds $2,500 over a 12-month period.
In addition, any transaction by a governmental official below the $2,500 threshold must be publicly acknowledged and approved by the elected officials.
The current state law allows officials to argue fair market value and competitive pricing. These arguments allow officials to cloud the issue and argue reasonable doubt while still engaging in a business transaction that can provide the perception of a conflict.
The straight forward language proposed here will end these ambiguous arguments and place the desired approach of “avoiding any perception of a conflict” above the private interest of local officials.
Second, any business or individual that receives more than a $2,500 in payments for consulting or campaign management services, directly or indirectly, from a local government candidate during an election cycle shall be prohibited from proving services for any local government entity for four years after the payment from the candidate.
The number of transactions between campaign consultants and local governments is staggering. In addition, the current situation puts public employees in a no-win situation when dealing with a bidding process that involves vendors that are favored by elected officials.
Why is it that campaign consultants like Vancore Jones, Sean Pittman, and Gary Yordon have all received lucrative no bid contracts with local government?
This needs to end. You are either a campaign consultant or you are a city vendor – you can’t be both.
These two changes would go a long way in placing public service above private interests.
Over the next four weeks Tallahassee Reports will ask each locally elected official their position on these two polices.