OPINION: The Time is Now for Tougher Ethics Laws

OPINION: The Time is Now for Tougher Ethics Laws

Despite many in Tallahassee believing our city would never face issues of corruption or scandal, this week saw former City Commissioner Scott Maddox and former City staffer Paige Carter-Smith plead guilty to 3 of 48 counts of federal indictments.

These revelations leave the citizens of our city wondering what’s next. The pair will face fines and potential jail time. The continuing investigation may ensnare fellow accomplices who have not yet been identified. But, the most important steps will be those that the City takes to ensure this type of scandal never rocks Tallahassee again.

The Citizens for Ethics Reform, made up of concerned citizens and activists, put ethics and campaign finance reform on the ballot in 2014. An overwhelming 67% of Tallahassee voters approved the charter amendment, which created Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board.  Our organization has attended all Ethics Board’s meetings, attempting to ensure that its composition, rules and proposed ordinances, match the voters demand to end Tallahassee’s culture of corruption. 

Last year, during campaign season, all candidates for Tallahassee Mayor and City Commission pledged support for a more effective and enforceable ethics ordinance. Out of five seats, four are now filled with first-term commissioners who bring new perspective and potential for change to our city.

In April, after nearly a year of careful deliberation, the Ethics Board delivered recommendations for a sweeping re-write of Tallahassee’s notoriously weak ethics laws to the City Commission. If enacted, Tallahassee will finally have an ethics ordinance with teeth. So far, commissioners have not considered the recommendations.

Tallahassee faces many challenges, but few have garnered the attention or support as much as the issue of ethics reform. We believe that this is a defining issue for our city and suggest our mayor and commissioners, both new and seasoned, make good on their commitment to reform our ethics code.

To protect our local government and avoid future issues of impropriety,  we urge the City Commission to approve all the recommendations submitted by the Ethics Board no later than the end of this year. We believe these measures will provide much-needed oversight which will restore the citizens’ trust in our city’s governance.

Submitted by Citizens for Ethics Reform: Catherine Baer, The Tea Party Network, Peter Butzin, Common Cause, Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida, Marilyn Wills, Tallahassee League of Women Voters

15 Responses to "OPINION: The Time is Now for Tougher Ethics Laws"

  1. Why doesn’t anyone mention the MAN who was involved with her? He retired early with full pension funded by taxpayers, works somewhere else funded by taxpayers, and physically assaulted her and some other guy too. He went after her. She’s named and shamed. Why not him? Because he’s a man? A “good man?” Ya’ll working with incomplete facts. Expected by this rag read by Trumpers I guess. Always the woman shamed. SAD. If the genders were reversed, there wouldn’t be a word said. He’s not a good man.

  2. The trouble is that they don’t have an ethical foundation. It’s an airy faerie notion, infinitely flexible to them.

    Sure the state constitution SAYS that every human has the right to be let alone & free from government intrusion, OT1H, and OTOH “public records” and meetings should be public, but in the legislators’ minds, in the commissioners’ & councilors’, school admins’, college/univ executives’ & admins’ minds it is no big deal to switch the two, or otherwise re-define them out of existence.

    Why are personal, private data like home address, birth date… casually broadcast around by county elections supervisors, then aggregated & re-sold, aggregated & re-sold again & again? (Ditto immoral Alphabet/Google/YouTube/Gmail, FB, Twit, MSFT, LinkedIn…) Because they have no respect for the privacy of little people.

    Ditto with visa/immigration laws. Why are Leon (& Jefferson, Baker, Bay, Liberty…) & Tallahassee not on this list?


    To paraphrase a certain 5-year-old of memory: They don’t want to, and they ain’t a goin’ to, regardless of the constitutions & laws.

  3. Encouraging non partisan post. I think we are making progress and the new, stronger ordinance would certainly help. People are frustrated by the slow pace….but it’s not just government. White collar crime is under investigated in the private sector too…and when it is, the legal processes can take a decade…. that’s why corrupt corporates and politicians live in mansions and drug dealer live with their mother

  4. Those dumbbells on the ethics board spent the last two years finding legal reasons why they can’t do anything, rather than finding legal authority to do something meaningful. Their worthless ethics officer just creates situations to further embarrass the board, but they don’t have the courage to fire her.
    FOR CHRISTSAKE, DO SOMETHING, EVEN IF ITS WRONG. At least we’ll know you’re trying to do what we created you to do.

  5. Our OPINIONS here have a tsunami impactt to Tallahassee’s Tammany Hall veterans, newbies and future wannabees w political aspirations! Those temporary elected seat holders are only as valuable as their next heroic act – FIX this already! If not expect MORE rapid brazen face acts of pay-to- play thefts, shysterness and of course more indictments!

  6. The REAL beginning of the sludgefest within Sh, er, City Hall was with the arrival of Scotty Maddox. First order of business for Scotty was to fire the very able, competent and honorable City Manager Dan Kleman and install his pal “I Need a Favor”. With that, the two of them began the money laundering basement.

    Back then, the city wanted to expand city hall because of bloated staff, and so sought to purchase nearby property. Two sites were suggested, what was then referred to as the “Round Holiday Inn” and a concrete block building very close to City Hall that FDLE owned. Structural engineers and architects were sent to both buildings to review size, structural integrity, building systems status, parking, etc.

    The old FDLE building was a massive code violation. Large vertical mechanical chases with no fire dampers, no alarm systems, leaky roof, stairs built out of code, exit doors swinging the wrong way, it was a long list. Incredibly, the FDLE building was purchased but come to find out, Scotty’s father was at the time, head of FDLE. HEY, no conflict of interest there, right?

    Of course, it was a money pit and too small so even more funds were spent to construct City Hall II in Frenchtown.

    And then there was Scotty wanting a private restroom with shower, in his office on the fourth floor which would have cost a fortune. A cleaning woman “Dot” doing her usual rounds after hours caught him and an assistant en flagrante delicto on his office couch, and “Dot” was fired but not before the real reason she was let go came out. Drawings were started for the restroom/shower, but later dropped.

    And then there was the introduction of “pay to play” where would-be vendors and contractors deposited large sums into private bank accounts to obtain lucrative city contracts where often little or no work was done. Honey-well was one of many. And on and on.

    The list of insider deals and dreck such as this continued and expanded under the Bill and Hillary Jr. Scotty/Anita duo. Whomever would undertake to get to the bottom of this sewer would need lots of time and ability reconstruct all of the shredded paper over the past 25 years.

    1. All Mr. Entropy said was common knowledge, true and smugly laughed at on the third and fourth floors of City Hall by a lot of people; employees who were powerless to do anything about it. As the extortion, bribery, malfeasance hit an all time high, the FBI subpoenas roled In. Then these dirt bags, with Fernandez, KEEFE, Blair, Faris, Barber, DeLeo, Gillum, Daniels in the pilot seat and ~40 other launched the firing of 50 employees – with no budget based reason. They did this to shut all of the other employees up, right Rick, Julie, Scotty? Get these fired employees to tell their stories – specifically including going to the Ethics Officer to report illegal, unethical and immoral status quo activities. FBI – plenty more to clean out of City Hall. Plenty of emails and documentation; and people ready to testify.

  7. To the Citizens for Ethics Reform: will you start the ethics reform with the current ethics officer? She has become another lard brick we are wasting taxpayer money on. Several folks I know who work at City Hall tell me she is NEVER in the office and when she is there does not do anything for the few hours she even shows up for work. As the ethics officer she should be held to the highest standard and action should have been taken regarding her extramarital affair with a City official.

    Board member Gwen Graham did not have the guts to follow through when she had a chance to take action, and to think I wanted her as our governer. I wont make that mistake again. Instead the board is letting the ethics officer dictate the terms of her surrender by giving SIX MONTHS notice? Why? She should have been given two weeks notice and shown the door. When she is gone will anyone at City Hall even notice?

    I though the ethics office would help but instead it is just another office for a do-nothing fat cat stealing our hard earned money. No wonder she did not stand up to Fernandez when he accepted illegal gifts in the form of football tickets. Yes she says she does not have jurisdiction but she also did not speak up when she saw the outcome of the faux investigation by Fernandez subordinate. Speaking of jurisdiction her board chair even had the gall to say in one meeting earlier this year the board did not have jurisdiction over the ethics officer. Seems to me they do not want to do anything other than rub elbows with the elites like Maddux and his girlfriend and their cronys.

    How is what we voted for any different than what the City was already doing? What benefit has come from this whole ethics office? They did not take any action on the accusations made by residents against Maddux. Actually everthing they ever looked into she said was fine as wine with nothing to see here like Maddux, Fernandez, police chief and others I cant remember. Like we have a new city comission we need all new ethics board members who have the courage to do what they should do instead of chickening out when there are tough decisions to be made.

    Unless something drastically changes we should vote to abolish this office and use the taxpayers money for something else like recreation for kids or more pickleball courts. Before we only had to worry about mayor Marks and after this office was created we had to worry about several comissioners the city manager lobyist friends of the last mayor and the ethics officer.

    1. ABSOLUTELY- Samuel! Also, Include review and re-instating all former City employees FIRED under this ILLEGAL and UNETHICAL reign of Corrupt Terror. These City employees were fired ~1 month after the 1st FBI Subpoenas came in.

  8. Very much agree with the opinion stated here.

    The yearly junket by the Chamber of Commerce to Amelia Island and Sandestin needs to be disbanded as it is a facilitator for corruption and needs to be shut down once and for all.

    I hope the mayor’s entanglement with doing TV ads for private car dealerships while using his position as mayor needs to be addressed through the ethics board.

    There needs to be an investigation of the recent school board Fiasco to determine what is mismanagement and if there is any corruption involved.

    Just having Gillum out of the picture is one giant step forward for Tallahassee, but there is a lot of ground to makeup for for his Reign of Terror.

    We can be thankful that his political career is pretty much over and we’ll never have to see the likes of him again. I would like to see him being held accountable for his mis steps.

    It is troubling to see our two major health facilitators in Tallahassee being involved with facilitating the Chamber of Commerce junket that does so much harm to Tallahassee. It is a contradiction of irony that the health facilitators are facilitating harm to Tallahassee by supporting the ridiculous junket that is nothing more then a PR event for political candidates and favored PR reps. How this has managed to go on for so long escapes me.

    Again, agree that tougher ethics laws would go a long way.

  9. OPINION: The Time for Ethics Laws is WAY Past Due.
    You can trace EVERYTHING honest citizens hate about The City of Tallahassee’s governmental inbred corruption way back to ex-Mayor John Marks shaking usual suspect Harold Knowles hand on that corrupt kick back laden deal on the installation of miles and miles of expensive fencing around the Tallahassee Airport land.
    Yep things have sure gone down the toilet since that historical handshake!!!

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