Commissioner calls for City Manager's suspension amid ethics complaint

Gill Ziffer and Rick Fernandez

By: Mariel Carbone
October 30, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV)—Following a string of accusations of “unethical and illegal” actions, City Commissioner Gil Ziffer has called for the suspension of City Manager Rick Fernandez.

In an email sent to Fernandez on Saturday, Ziffer requested that he step down until the Florida Commission on Ethics has wrapped up its investigation.

The email reads as follows:


This email is a follow-up to the conversation we had this afternoon. As I said on the phone, there’s no easy way to ask what follows but I must.

Please add to the November 8, 2017, City Commission agenda an item to discuss your suspension as City Manager until the Florida Commission on Ethics presents their ruling on your case. Much the same as the procedures we follow when a law enforcement officer has been involved in a situation that has questions to be resolved, this suspension will provide time for the same to occur.

In eight years this is clearly one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made as a Commissioner. Your time in our government and as City Manager has been filled with significant accomplishments. And while none of us are mistake-free, the cumulative effect of the questions that have been asked have caused me enough concern to ask for this Commission review.

I will be sharing this letter with the City Commission and the other appointed officials Monday morning so they are prepared for the discussion on 11/8.

Gil Ziffer

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.

Then, last week, a story by the Tallahassee Democrat released text messages where Fernandez allegedly asked the lobbyist for $2,000 worth of Florida State football tickets.

Ziffer’s request comes less than a week after the city commission held a workshop on ethics, in which is worked to strengthen the city’s ethics ordinance. The issue will be discussed at next Wednesday's meeting.

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