Imagine you are an employee in a large organization and you have a workplace complaint against the CEO. You follow procedures and take your complaint to the head of Human Resources.
Your concerns are ignored.
Later you find out that the CEO has arranged for the head of Human Resources to receive expensive gifts – $500 football tickets – on multiple occasions.
This is what former city employees are saying happened at the City of Tallahassee. The former employees say that the Director of Human Resources, Ellen Blair, knew about employee complaints against City Manager Rick Fernandez but did nothing.
Given the recent revelations about football tickets, the former employees believe Blair did nothing because of her relationship with Fernandez.
In August 2017, TR was the first to report about Fernandez getting football tickets from city lobbyist Adam Corey. The report has since been substantiated.
In the same report, TR reported that Ellen Blair was also the recipient of a number of expensive football tickets from City Manager Rick Fernandez.
Since then, no one with the Ethics Office or the City of Tallahassee has publicly reported asking Ms. Blair about the tickets.
However, now an ethics complaint has been recorded with the City’s Independent Ethics Board.
The complaint was logged in on November 21, 2017 and stated, “Citizen alleges three city staff accepted gifts exceeding $100.00. 2 of 3 were reporting individuals and did not report the gift.”
Public comments indicate that Ellen Blair is one of the three individuals.
The action taken by the Ethics Office is listed as, “As per Board Bylaws, reported to Acting City Manager for determination of action to be taken, if any.”
The problem is that the Acting City Manager, Reese Goad, has been under the direction of suspended City Manager Fernandez for a number of years. In addition, sources tell TR that Goad may not be in the best position to investigate the claims given the relationship between Goad, Fernandez, and Blair.
On December 19th TR asked the Ethics Officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, if there was any information to report on the complaint that was filed on November 21st, 2017.
Ms. O’Keefe responded by saying that she had checked with Mr. Goad last week and he had nothing to report.
The bottom line is that almost four months after the first reports surfaced about Ellen Blair taking gifts from her supervisor, it appears no one with the authority to compel an answer has ventured to simply ask Ms. Blair if she received football tickets from Mr. Fernandez.