This Wednesday, February 16, 2022, in City Commission Chamber at 10.00 a.m., the City of Tallahassee will convene an Ethics Workshop. The workshop will take citizen input then city commissioners discuss matters related to ethics, including the recommendations by the Independent Ethics Board.
During a city meeting in October 2021, the commissioners requested an ethics workshop. Later that same month, at another city meeting, Independent Ethics Board Attorney John Reid presented a summary of an ethics reform proposal, which will be discussed at the workshop on February 16.
The Ethics Board recommendations are as follows:
Draft Ordinance No. 02-ORD-01: refining “lobbying” to eliminate ambiguity as in the current definition to better protect individuals and entities engaging with city government. In addition, the ordinance will codify information required in the current registration form and direct individuals to ensure lobbyists are registered. Also, it is suggested that lobbyists submit logs documenting contact with officials and banning contingency fees for lobbyists appearing before the city.
Draft Ordinance No, 20-ORD-02: proposes adding “lobbyists appearing before the city” to the “persons subject to the ethics committee jurisdiction.” Meaning the charter amendment will expand the jurisdiction to include lobbyists, allowing the committee to better enforce lobbyist ordinances.
Draft Ordinance No. 21-ORD-01: proposes redefining “misuse of position” to limit violations to those acts not consistent with the proper performance of a public official. The ordinance also wishes to allow the Board to dismiss complaints at any time during the administration process and enact resolutions less than an investigation or hearing.
The Ethics Board also seeks to be authorized to receive and process whistleblower complaints under state law. For this to occur, the city must amend the Code of General Ordinances, granting authority for the Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board to operate in conjunction with the Office of the Inspector General as an appropriate local official or separately in a limited capacity.
Lastly, the Ethics Board requests clarification of the city’s intent as to over whom the committee has jurisdiction, such as public officials and employees on city advisory boards, for instance, the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency.
During a previous meeting in November 2021, Reid provided a legal opinion on the Ethics Board’s jurisdiction that differed from City Attorney Cassandra Jackson’s opinion. The commissioners moved forward with the latter.
The Ethics Board aims to make minor changes to the ethics ordinances to allow more transparency and “objectivity, fairness, and impartiality in the complaint process. The recommendations submitted for the city commission’s consideration are limited to the (Ethics) Board’s authorization section in the city charter and those ordinances regulating lobbyists and lobbying.”