On December 14th, the Tallahassee Independent Ethics Office released a legal memorandum related to the placement of campaign signs. The memorandum was written by the Board Counsel, John Reid.
It is common for city commission candidates to display campaign signs on private properties owned by lobbyists or city vendors in highly-traveled and visible locations. Though property owners typically grant commissioners access to do so, they do not generally provide access for multiple candidates in a single race.
During a city commission meeting in November, the question was raised, does a city commissioner running for reelection violate the Tallahassee Ethics Code when they display their campaign sign on property owned by a lobbyist or city vendor?
The commissioners requested additional research and legal opinion. In response to this issue, the City of Tallahassee Independent Ethics Office released a legal memorandum in December 2021.
As a city commissioner is considered a “public official,” they must adhere to specific rules implemented by state and local governments for their campaigns. In this case, the question is asking if candidates are accepting a “gift” by posting a campaign sign on the private property of a lobbyist or city vendor.
The Tallahassee Ethics Code refers to the state ethics code to define the term “gift” and what constitutes a gift. In this instance, the regulation states a “campaign-related personal service provided without compensation by individuals…or any other contribution or expenditure by a political party or affiliated party committee” is not considered a gift.
Therefore, the City of Tallahassee Independent Ethics Office concluded that a city commissioner running for reelection does not violate any ethics code by posting their campaign signs as mentioned above.
Moreover, the property owner has a First Amendment right to express their preference in an election. Therefore, any attempt by a government actor to mandate equal time, such as open access to all candidates’ campaign signs, would be unconstitutional, as it would require a private property owner to express support for candidates they do not.
A campaign sign won’t convince me to vote for anyone. What it DOES do is put their name out there so that someone like me can Google them and decide whether the right candidate to vote for or not. As they say, “mileage may vary.” It’s more about name recognition than anything else.
Are there any among us who believe that campaign signs along the roads have any significant influence on who people vote for? I sincerely doubt anyone would say, “I passed a lot of signs for candidate X so I’m going to vote for them.”
Perhaps candidates place them all over to remind people they are running for office. Plus, it makes them feel good to see their names all over town.
This issue is a complete waste of time for all involved; basically a “nothing burger” in today’s vernacular.
The Ethics Office might better spend its time investigating the corruption that still remains in the Tallahassee City Government. The FBI didn’t do a complete cleaning.
The Mayor and Commissioners might better spend their time addressing the crime and shootings that are exploding in our once fine city. .
Does not he City Commission have anything better to do… like maybe address the cost of debt service on the bonds issued for financing all of these BS projects the past several years?
This seems to have been a softball diversion attempt tasked to the Ethics Office to feign the Mayor and Commission’s commitment to ethics. Political Campaign sign placement rules/laws have been on the books around here (and everywhere else for that matter) for decades, with a rare updating at best.
That the Mayor and Commission – several who have been campaigning and in public office for years and years and years – needed to ask for some ethical guidance regarding the placement of campaign signs gives me great concern about their level of intellect.
That the Independent Ethics Office even took up this ruse gives me great concern about the level of integrity within the Ethics Office itself. BTW… the “LEGAL MEMORANDUM” has no actual legal power or value whatsoever… just a fancy title for a worthless document designed to feign legitimacy.
That is the very definition of a gift! Re-check that ethics rule! Giving something if value for no compensation is a gift!
Boy, they are really tackling the big issues here in T-town. What a farce…
Oh wow the placement of campaign signs. Or as I like to call it: the low hanging fruit for a do little ethics board attempting to appear relevant.
I imagine the Board counsel and the City Commission got the “citizen” to raise the campaign sign issue back in November to provide this dog and pony show in order to make the Independent Ethics Office appear relevant.
Quite likely we will see more easy to resolve but also irrelevant fake issues being decided by the Independent Ethics Board for as long as the board remains in existence.
If anyone thinks this is a real issue I feel sorry for your low functioning mental capabilities.
Due to this coverage at least every time we see a “Re-Elect Mayor Dailey” sign we will think about how much of our money is going to the owner of this property in lieu of a kickback via a city contract.
Perhaps, Tallahassee Reports will report on campaign sign locations and the amount the owner of that location gets from a city contract.
Thank you Ethics Office for putting this on the radar.
Considering that EVERY Parcel of Land in Leon County is owned by Someone or the Government, then, according to you. it is safe to say that candidates are accepting a “gift” by posting a campaign sign on any property no mater WHO owns it. I could have told you that you were wasting your Time with this one. It is the Campaign Contributions you should be looking into and discussing.