Keeping Them Honest: Ethics In Tallahassee Government

By: Gina Pitisci; James Buechele Email
By: Gina Pitisci; James Buechele Email
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By: Gina Pitisci
May 29, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A public hearing took place at city hall tonight to try and answer the question of how the City of Tallahassee can be more ethical.

Resident, Harry Lee Anstead says "Honesty, ethics, that's always going to be the core thing that is going to shine through when people are called upon to take on these great responsibilities."

Over the past 6 months the Tallahassee Ethics Advisory Panel has been meeting to discuss the city's policy and procedures to determine if now is the time for change.

Martha Barnett, the Chair of the Ethics Advisory Panel says it's important "To review them to look at them and make sure they meet the needs to the city today and particularly as we move forward into the next decade that we have the best practices here."

Members of the community were given a summary of suggestions that the panel plans to recommend to the City Commission, but before formal action is taken, the panel feels it's important to hear reaction from the citizens.

Erwin Jackson is a Tallahassee resident that attended the public hearing and feels "What we need is for a group of individual citizens, separate from the city commission to appoint, to have the authority to hire an independent ethics officer who will report to an ethics panel and not to the city commission."

Some of the goals in forming an ethics panel are formalizing ethics rules, creating an ethics officer and disclosing financial relationships and conflicts of interest to increase transparency.

Barnett says "We are the Capital city of the state of Florida and I think not only the citizens here but people around the state look to us to be leaders."

The panel is scheduled to meet again tomorrow and will present their suggestions to the city commission at the end of June.

By: James Buechele
May 29, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - How can the City of Tallahassee be more ethical?

That's the question a panel is hoping to answer with some feedback from residents. There's a town hall meeting tonight.

In less than a month a panel of nine will recommend changes to make the City of Tallahassee more transparent and ethical at the same time.

Ethics... A moral philosophy....

Something the City of Tallahassee wants to make sure it does right.

That's why the ethics advisory panel has been meeting since November to discuss better ways to put that philosophy down on paper.

Martha Barnett: "To determine whether any of the city policies need to be changed, enhanced, updated to recognize transparency."

Martha Barnett is the chair of the ethics advisory panel. Some of the temporary recommendations include:

-Promoting an ethics fraud hotline for residents to call
-Having elected officials disclose additional information beyond state mandates ... Like land ownership, business relationships.
-Strengthening the city's lobbyist registration ordinance to include fines for those that don't comply.

Barnett: "Tonight at the end of our meeting hopefully we will have heard comments on all of our potential proposals."

The panel will meet again tomorrow before heading to the city commission sometime in June. And although city commissioners aren't involved in the process, many are looking forward to the final report:

Gil Ziffer: "I think we do a good job now and if we can do better let's do better and that's what this commission is hopefully going to come back with."

Commissioner Ziffer said anytime officials get feed back from the public it's a better process.

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