At its January 21 meeting, the Independent Ethics Board discussed the impact of public appearances by City officials. The discussion considered the premise that the City should clarify its policies on City officials’ participation in privately-sponsored events.
The Ethics Board staff drafted a statement that noted, “Sometimes promoting or recognizing a local activity, event, or facility can leave the appearance that a public official, in his or her official capacity, is endorsing a particular individual or organization. We believe this can lead to public concerns about ethical behavior.”
Last year, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey raised questions when he appeared in a commercial for a local car dealership, Kraft Infiniti. According to WFSU, Dailey said he had not given Kraft Infiniti permission to include him in the commercial, which was later removed from the air.
The staff reported that the Ethics Board has received multiple cases of City officials participating in privately-sponsored events, and that the policy recommendations are not a direct response to a certain case. Rather, they are intended to establish a “best practice” to promote ethical behavior.
According to the meeting agenda, City policies should guide City officials in recognizing which events they should limit participation in to avoid misuse of public position.
Staff also recommended that policies “include brief statements or materials that can be provided to organizers of private events and activities concerning the role of City officials and how City officials’ participation may be portrayed.”
Finally, staff recommended creating specific standards for City officials to consider when accepting or declining invitations to privately-sponsored events.