Commission votes to approve paid leave for City Manager

By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 8, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV)—The Tallahassee City Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve a temporary paid leave for City Manager Rick Fernandez.

The approval comes a week after Fernandez made the announcement, with the decision a result of an ongoing ethics investigation by the state and pressure from his colleagues. Deputy City Manager Reese Goad was named as interim city manager for the time being. Fernandez, who was appointed in 2015, had a starting salary of $228,000.

Fernandez sent the following email to the commission last Monday:

Dear Mayor and Commissioners,

I have reviewed Commissioner Ziffer's email sent to me Saturday, October 28, 2017. To avoid this matter becoming a distraction for our City employees and the entire organization, I have decided to voluntarily accept commissioner Ziffer's request (See Attached) and take administrative leave effective immediately until the matter before the Ethics Commission is resolved. This action is subject to your approval at the next commission meeting. I fully trust the process underway by the Ethics Commission and remain thankful for the opportunity to serve our community. I will again reiterate to you that any action by me as City Manager has and always will be to provide the highest level of service to our community.

Thank you for your leadership.

That letter came hours after news of Commissioner Gil Ziffer's request that the City Manager be put on temporary suspension.

An anonymous complaint was first filed with Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board back in August, accusing Fernandez of receiving a $5,000 discount from the city backed restaurant, The Edison.

A second complaint was filed about a week later with the Florida Commission on Ethics making the same accusation, as well as accusing Fernandez of accepting free football tickets from a city lobbyist and helping the Edison employee who gave him the discount get a job with the city.

Fernandez was eventually reprimanded by the Independent Ethics Commission, related to the complaint. The investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics is still ongoing.

A story was later published by the Tallahassee Democrat which released text messages where Fernandez allegedly asked the lobbyist for $2,000 worth of Florida State football tickets.

The city commission will revisit its decision at its next meeting, which is set for the first week of December.

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