Ethics Commission: Fernandez misused his position

By  | 

By: Alicia Turner | WCTV Eyewitness News
June 13, 2018

Rick Fernandez

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Dozens of documents were released Wednesday, including pictures and videos, detailing accusations against former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez of accepting gifts and discounts.

Most people say trust is the main thing destroyed when things like this happen at the local level, and the consequences can be widespread.

"He got caught with his hands in the cookie jar,” said Gordon Redman.

Fernandez eventually resigned from his position, but some residents say the damage is already done.

"Our fundamental system of government and the way we act as a society is based on the constituents giving power to people that we select, assuming they will work in our best interest," Steve Downey explained.

Ethics analyst Ben Wilcox with Integrity Florida told Eyewitness News that issues like this one can have an impact far beyond city hall.

“It's bad for economic development, and if we want to bring new businesses and create new jobs people will look at this and say, 'I don’t want to come to a community where its pay to play allegations,'" Wilcox said.

Steve Downey believes the rules are in place for a reason.

"I think the rules for public officials accepting gifts need to be very very stringent. It's not just a matter of impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety goes a long way to destroying public trust in the institution of government."

“I just think it's a tragedy for the City of Tallahassee that we've come under this kind of scrutiny,” said Wilcox. He went on to say that scrutiny of this kind is unnecessary and avoidable.

Several other city officials were said to have also received sky box tickets, however, complaints have not be filed against any of them; which means there are no violations.


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
June 13, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The Florida Commission on Ethics announced Wednesday that it has found probable cause that former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez misused his position.

The original complaint was filed in August of 2017 by local businessman Erwin Jackson. It accused Fernandez of accepting football tickets from a city lobbyist and receiving a $5,000 catering discount from the city backed Edison Restaurant.

According to the commission, the investigation found evidence that Fernandez did both.

The discount was given for Fernandez’s daughter’s wedding, which he paid for. The report tallied the discount at $6,864.19. That’s a roughly 36 percent discount for his bill.

The football tickets and skybox access were for four FSU football games from city lobbyist Adam Corey. Corey is also part owner of the Edison.

The Commission also found probable cause that Fernandez solicited the discounts and free tickets "with the understanding his official action would be influenced or that he knew or should have known the gifts were given to influence his actions as city manager," according to its report.

Fernandez is cited as saying he didn't consider Corey a lobbyist because he didn't specifically lobby him. He also said he attended the games for his job and saw himself as an "ambassador" for the city.

Fernandez was cleared on additional accusations.

The commission did not find probable cause on three allegations concerning employment of an individual with the city who previously worked for The Edison.

WCTV has reached out to his attorney, Bucky Mitchell, for comment. We have not yet heard back. He’ll have the opportunity to challenge the findings, or settle with the commission.

Fernandez was put on paid administrative leave last October. He ultimately resigned from the position in January.

City Commissioner Gil Ziffer said the report is the beginning of the end.

"The findings suggest to us clearly that his departure from the city was the right thing to do. And so this is the beginning of the end for that. I wish him the best of luck and it's time for us to move on,” said Ziffer.

Aside from the claims against Fernandez, the report also alleges that other city employees, including elected officials, spent time in Corey’s skybox. Those include City Commissioner Scott Maddox, as well as Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Gillum's Chief of Staff Jamie Van Pelt told Eyewitness News, "During the 2016 football season, Mayor Gillum attended multiple games as a guest of Florida State University and would watch the games from the President’s Box. Throughout the course of the game, the Mayor would briefly visit multiple other boxes, including Mr. Corey's."

Allie Fleming, Maddox’s aide, noted the commissioner has and pays for his own skybox.

"The Maddox’s are proud FSU alumni and parents of two FSU students. While people visit during half time and pre-and post game- going into each other's skyboxes, the Maddox’s have had their own skybox where they have watch the games for over 20 years. People often stop by their box without invitation as Mr. Corey and his associates did,” she said.


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
June 13, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The State of Florida Commission on Ethics announced Wednesday that it has found probable cause that former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez misused his position to get a catering discount and obtain football tickets.

The catering discount came from for his daughter's wedding reception at the Edison restaurant. The complaint alleged Fernandez accepted a nearly $5,000 discount from the city-backed Edison.

Fernandez got the football tickets and skybox access for four FSU football games from city lobbyist Adam Corey.

The Commission also found probable cause that Fernandez solicited the discounts and free tickets "with the understanding his official action would be influenced or that he knew or should have known the gifts were given to influence his actions as city manager," according to its report.

But Fernandez was cleared on another ethics complaint.

The commission did not find probable cause on three allegations concerning employment of an individual with the city who previously worked for The Edison.

Fernandez took administrative leave at the end of October a few months after the allegations surfaced. He resigned as city manager January. WCTV has reached out to his attorney, Bucky Mitchell, for comment. We have not yet heard back.

We are also awaiting a statement from Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.



 
Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus