Ethics Officer Becomes Focus of Ethics Debate

Ethics Officer Becomes Focus of Ethics Debate

On Tuesday October 15th, the Independent Ethics Board will hold their monthly meeting, but it appears the main topic of conversation surrounding the meeting is not on the meeting agenda: the fate of the Ethics Officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe.

However, TR has been told that a number of speakers will attend the meeting and make the case that Meadows-Keefe must be immediately removed during the public comment section of the agenda.

Since last week when the Citizens for Responsible Spending (CRS) held a press conference offering support for ethics reform and demanding the Ethics Officer be removed, the behind the scenes calls for her removal have increased.

In a press release, CRS stated we “believe that the City Ethics Officer, who has admitted unsavory behavior not worthy of the high bar expected of a City Ethics Officer, needs to leave immediately, not in February 2020. The fact that no action has been taken since her actions have become publicly known is utterly unacceptable.”

The Citizens for Ethics Reform, the group that helped create the Ethics Board and monitors the Board’s meetings, is also expected to call for her removal at the meeting.

In addition, certain city officials have indicated, off the record, that her continued presence as the Ethics Officer – despite her plan to resign early next year – is counterproductive at a time when the focus needs to be on crafting an new ethics ordinance.

The call for her removal is based a number of issues.

First, it has been reported that Meadows-Keefe has had a personal relationship with a high ranking city official over a year ago. An official that she had jurisdiction over as the Ethics Officer.

Some officials in City Hall are frustrated that Board has allowed her to remain given the relationship. TR has been told that the existence of the relationship is common knowledge among city employees and reflects poorly on the operation of the Board.

More frustrating for the Citizens for Ethics Reform is that it appears that no one on the Ethics Board has asked Meadows-Keefe about the relationship.

Second, Ms. Meadows-Keefe was recently involved with the job search for a new General Counsel for the Board and failed to disclose a recent financial relationship with one of the candidates. That candidate went on to be hired.

Third, TR reported last week that the Ethics Office spent over $1,200 on yearly memberships to the Capital Tiger Bay – a political group – for Meadows-Keefe. Richard Herring, the Chairman of the Ethics Board, told TR the issue would be addressed at Tuesday’s meeting.

Despite these issues, there has been no public talk by the Ethics Board members about her removal. And this, says Dr. Erwin Jackson, is a major problem.

“The City Commission is being asked to give increased power to a Board that can levy thousands of dollars in fines and hold binding votes on ethics charges, yet they have not demonstrated the most basic management of their own affairs. I do not blame city officials for their concerns, hell, I’m concerned,” said Dr. Jackson.

Jackson plans on asking for a public vote on Tuesday by Board members to remove Meadows-Keefe. “It’s time to get everyone on the record with regards to this Ethics Officer,” said Jackson.

11 Responses to "Ethics Officer Becomes Focus of Ethics Debate"

  1. Mike, thank you for your insightful post. I moved here from Miami in 2002 and I cannot explain how your every word echos my feelings of the town I chose to buy a home and progress my career in. As an HR Professional, I sadly have been witness to the same Tallahassee greed and corruption that exists within our city, county, and State Government in the private sector as well. To me it boils down to….

    “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”
    ~ Lord Acton

  2. This Ethics Board was doomed from the start. I applaud some members for trying to tighten things. But, the voters will was for an “independent” ethics officer. The current occupant was hired just ahead of the vote when polling showed the likely passage of the referendum. It passed by a huge margin.

    Commissioners at the time then pushed for the hiring of “their” ethics officer. This assured them of favorable consideration since the gave the ethics officer a job over more qualified candidates. The Commission rolled the dice by appointing someone as a board member that they felt would bully her way into the chair of the board and control the agenda. Mission accomplished and the subsequent months/years have proven the effectiveness of the strategy.

    Tallahassee Lassie’s overall point is the bottom line. We elect who we are and voters must take responsibility for all local offices – county, city, school board. Things are better, but there must be an end to lobbyists running campaigns – either one or the other and there needs to be a house cleaning of many senior appointed officials.

    I believe more indictments are coming and they may open the door to go back in time which will open the door to look into the “work” of John Marks and Anita Favors-Thompson.

  3. I stand with Dr. Erwin Jackson on this, we need a VERY STRONG Ethics Board for the City and the County but, what is really sad is that, we have to have an Ethics Board.

  4. American politics from DC to the local level is in sad sad shape. But we have seen the enemy and the enemy is us.
    Trying to control people’s behavior through an ethics board is like herding cats. The voters need to hold city officials accountable for
    letting this ethics charade go on for so long. Make this an election issue. Hold them accountable for not terminating this person immediately. Your tax money is paying her salary and will pay for her pension. This person probably has the “goods” on elected officials and they are afraid to fire her because of what she knows.
    Like I said, we have seen the enemy and the enemy is us.

  5. Tuesday Oct. 15th:
    (in that reverb boxing announcer voice)

  6. As a 12-year resident of Tallahassee, I sincerely wish I could be optimistic and hopeful that someday the city would emerge from the entrenched corruption that permeated the Marks-Gillum-Maddox years. I’d hoped that with a new mayor and city commission members, things would begin to turn around and Tallahassee could begin moving forward to being a great city with a national reputation as a great place to live and do business. I’d hoped that with the FBI in town and taking action, things would change – if not out of personal ethics, then sheer fear of being indicted would stop the corruption. I’d hoped, and still do.

    But . . . every day it seems the same old COT-and-crony secretive tactics, shell games, insider maneuvering, and mutual-CYA garbage is still continuing and simply being conducted with some “new” players. Not only COT, but it also appears (from countless postings I read here) the Leon County School Board has it’s own dark little corruptions going on, and that’s been happening for years. Maybe “every town is like this” but that isn’t something to be cheerful about.

    So, I still hope for Tallahassee. But much of the optimism I once had is being driven out of me. Seems Tallahassee will always be a dark little den of corruption, much as Washington DC is a big den of corruption. Tally’s people are generally great and the city is in many places a beautiful place to live – but I hope the local governments and boards can clean up, one way or another.

  7. Is the mayor’s TV commercials on the agenda? The mayor received free airtime that could lead into the tens of thousands of dollars .misusing his position as mayor. There is no doubt that he did it now what are they going to do about it?

    How about Curtis’s text messages?

    1. Steve is now in good with the Mayor’s office and TR haven’t been authorized to write that story! Plus it has nothing to do with Sean Pittman, Gilliam, or Marks. TR is slow on white peoples corruption

  8. Come on man, we live in town where we elected a Superintendent who dated the teachers he evaluated, bullyed her into a transfer with a financial settlement, he had to be sued to pay child support after hiding from his responsibility for 10 years, he enacted a “hit list” non renewing employees for a political vendetta, recently promoted his childhood buddy who during the campaign used voter intimidation tactics, hired non interviewed Assistant Superintendents for over $100,000 each and now we are worried about ethics in Tallahassee? Rocky Hanna has admitted unsavory behavior not worthy of the high bar expected of a Superintendent, but nobody seems to care, especially the school board!

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