The Citizens for Ethics Reform (CER) issued a press release on February 14, two days ahead of the City of Tallahassee workshop on ethics. The release called on Tallahassee City Commissioners to support new lobbing reforms and stronger protections for whistleblowers.
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board has sent proposals to the city for consideration. Some of them include strengthening registration requirements for lobbyists and granting protections to city employees who report violations.
According to CER, the proposals by the Ethics Board aim to address reports of “secretive lobbyists in Tallahassee who refuse to register with the city and disclose their clients.”
Additionally, CER supports the recommendation by the Ethics Board to give the committee the ability to grant whistleblower protections to city employees who report possible violations of the city’s ethics code.
As it stands now, only the City’s Inspector General is permitted to grant those protections. However, CER highlighted the fact that the Inspector General answers to the mayor and commissioners, “therefore, he is not truly independent.”
“Only the Ethics Board is truly independent, and therefore it’s appropriate that it should be able to grant whistleblower protections,” said Marilynn Wills with the Tallahassee League of Women Voters of Florida. “Without such protection, city employees will be reluctant to call out ethics violations for fear of termination, demotion or retribution.”
For the Ethics Board to have the authority to grant whistleblower protections, the city commission must amend the city charter.
Also, CER seeks to have the city commissioners reverse their recent decision that does not recognize the Ethics Board’s jurisdiction over ethics complaints involving city officials and staff serving on city advisory boards. CER believes that since the commissioners and staff serve on the advisory committees as part of their responsibilities to the city, they should be under the jurisdiction of the Independent Ethics Board.