The City of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, has been embroiled in controversy since taking the position years ago. More recently, calls for her to be replaced and a lawsuit filed by Meadows-Keefe against the City of Tallahassee, has raised the profile of the controversy.
At a recent Board meeting, Tallahassee businessman Barney Bishop spoke about the need for a new ethics officer and sharply criticized Meadows-Keefe for ethical lapses and conflicts of interest.
Listed below are excerpts from her response to Bishop’s comments.
I appreciate a chance to respond to Mr. Bishop’s very well thought out comments.
It has been very challenging for practically the entire time I’ve had this job to endure repeated public attacks. Before there were any allegations such as those mentioned by Mr. Bishop, from the day I entered City Hall I was subjected and had to endure attacks from individuals here in this room and elsewhere.
I was hopeful that through my service here on this board, which has been reflected in excellent performance evaluations during my entire tenure, that this would perhaps serve to quell these persistent voices.
So like so many that I’ve heard talk, their personal opinions shift their ethics in how they address a woman- an individual – a professional with a professional reputation. To have that sullied repeatedly and to have to sit silently for years and have other people write my narrative for me.
When Mr. Bishop and a Lt. Governor of this state, Dr. Jackson and others formed a coalition- all white males- to call for my termination I decided I was no longer going to let those individuals…and let the record reflect Mr. Bishop is laughing. You sir are a reprehensible human being.
In summation I decided that I was no longer going to allow other people to define my narrative. Through counsel, I determined that it was appropriate to resign in February, which I did. I was hopeful that I’d continue to do my job until then. Unfortunately for some, that was not good enough and they wanted to go to war over 2 months – 2 months – so I decided I wanted to rewrite my narrative. I was no longer going to allow individuals such as Mr. Bishop and Dr. Jackson to define my narrative and that I was going to use a voice and speak out.
I dealt with a traumatic experience. It’s no one’s business. I’ve communicated as appropriate with my bosses around this table. And to the extent they wanted – had very uncomfortable conversations with some of you.
And as to Mr. Reid, I did disclose to the chair my previous professional engagements with him (Mr. Reid). I feel sometimes the fact that I’ve spoken with him (Mr. Herring) I’ve used as a substitute perhaps for informing the whole board. But at no time have I ever hidden anything from this board chair. I speak to him several times a week.
So in conclusion, I am letting everyone know I’ve been here every day. I continue to proceed to do this job every day. I’m proud of this job. I’m also proud of what’s getting ready to happen Wednesday and the fact that I’ve worked so hard in this job in light of all of these people consistently criticizing me. Yet we’re achieving this result.
What makes me sad is how much further we could have gone if I could have gotten support from the community, but it was more important to some members of the community to continue to attack me. So, I will no longer continue to be attacked. I’ve found a voice, yet I will be professional.
I think you can ask anyone around here that I’m doing my job professionally and all the applicants for my job have been impressed with the conversations I’ve had. I have nothing but positive things to say about this role, the need for it, and my desire for the work to continue.. as it has even better – with an enhanced ethics code and Mr. Chair I yield back and I appreciate the chance to respond to these comments.