City Staff Recommend Controversial Changes To Ethics Proposal

By: Andy Alcock
By: Andy Alcock

Some significant changes have been recommended for the city of Tallahassee's ethics proposal.

A citizens panel, including a former supreme court chief justice, spent a year and 17 meetings crafting a proposal.

"They've clearly gutted the entire ethics policy," said long time ethics reform advocate Erwin Jackson.

The citizens panel proposes a system to fine commissioners and lobbyists who violate the law.

However, city staff recommends ditching the fines.

Reporter: "Shouldn't there be a fine system in place for somebody like that?
"Well I don't know," said Tallahassee City Commissioner Nancy Miller.

Reporter: "So you don't see a benefit to the fines? "I'm going to let the commissioners make that decision," said Tallahassee Treasurer-Clerk Jim Cook.

Cook coordinated the staff review of the ethics proposal.

City Manager Anita Favors, City Attorney Lew Shelley and Auditor Bert Fletcher also worked on that review.

Another proposed change would exempt or grandfather all current commissioners from the law until they run for office again.

"If we're going to do it, just do it," said Miller. "We don't need to grandfather ourselves for a year," she said.

Additionally, staff proposes someone already in government like the city auditor take on the added role of city ethics officer.

The citizens panel proposes creating a new position.

"The moment they're hired, they're inside the government," said Cook. "So our thought was, we have people inside city government," he said.

"That would be a huge mistake because in the past, we've tried that approach with our past city attorney," said Jackson.

Commissioners will discuss the proposed changes Wednesday afternoon.

Former American Bar Assocation President Martha Barnett who chairs the citizens panel says it's very important to create a new position of ethics officer.

However, Commissioner Miller says a new ethics officer and staff would cost a minimum of 2 to $300,000 a year.

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