The Florida Commission on Ethics voted 8-0 today to accept staff’s probable cause recommendations related to a complaint filed against former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez.
A finding of probable cause is not a determination that a violation has occurred. Such a determination is made only after a full evidentiary hearing on the allegations.
Dr. Erwin Jackson, a local business owner and watchdog of local government, filed the complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics addressing three separate issues involving Mr. Fernandez.
Jackson, who was allowed in the closed-door hearing, told TR the staff recommendation determined that the Edison catering discount was a gift valued at over $6,000 and that Fernandez received 16 football tickets valued at $128 each.
If a settlement is not reached between Fernandez and the Commission on Ethics, a full hearing will take place in the coming months.
Jackson told TR that the “Florida Ethics Commission has confirmed today, what I have been saying for several years, that Rick Fernandez used his position as city manager for his personal financial gain. He is finally being held accountable for his unethical actions. I am certain several other city officials will be held accountable soon. I am disappointed that our city commissioners gave Fernandez a $100,000 bonus to get him to resign. Shameful.”
The complaint and the statement of facts addressed a discount that the daughter of Rick Fernandez received from the Edison restaurant for a catering event, the hiring of the salesperson for the catering event, Eddie Kring, without publicly advertising the job, and accepting football tickets from the owner of the Edison restaurant and city lobbyist Adam Corey in 2016.
After TR’s reporting, the Tallahassee Democrat recovered a copy of a text message showing Fernandez soliciting football tickets from a city lobbyist.
Also, the Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew reported earlier this week that the Florida Commission on Ethics would recommend “that former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez be charged with violating state ethics laws, according to sources close to the matter.”