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Tallahassee residents offer feedback on new proposal by ethics board

Comes on the heels of several ethical scandals in the past few years
Posted at 6:27 PM, Apr 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-02 18:27:32-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There's a push to give an independent ethics board more power to handle cases in the City of Tallahassee.

This comes on the heels of several ethical scandals in the past few years.

Before this ordinance goes to the city commission, the community had a chance to chime in at a special board meeting Tuesday.

A group called the Tallahassee Coalition for Ethics Reform went over the draft in detail.

The proposal would expand the board's jurisdiction to include any city employees who work in procurement or who have to file financial disclosures.

The ordinance would also give the board power to subpoena and hear sworn testimony.

A big change would be a ban on any gift, no matter what the value is.

In 2016, former city manager Ric Fernandez received football tickets from a lobbyist. The city determined the tickets didn't reach the value required to report them as gifts.

Members of the coalition said they're in favor of a lot of what's in the draft. They say it's a step in the right direction.

"The bar is that if we have a tough, enforceable ethics ordinance, then it's going to encourage the highest ethical behavior, not only from city commissioners and officials, but also all city employees, to ensure to the citizens of Tallahassee that they're working in their interests and not lining their own pockets," said Peter Butzin, with the Tallahassee Coalition for Ethics Reform.

The coalition recommended that testimony be anonymous, especially when employees report about colleagues, and there's a push to change how to prove someone is guilty of corruption.

The ethics board will take the feedback and work on some amendments to the draft.

The group will meet in two weeks to decide on a final draft to send to the city commission.