New push for ethics reform in Tallahassee

City of Tallahassee
Posted at 6:27 PM, Nov 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-20 14:16:21-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL)--A new push for comprehensive ethics reform is happening in the capital city.

Right now Tallahassee leaders are discussing changes to the city's ethics policies, to increase transparency and accountability.

An ethics advisory panel has put together a proposal that includes the creation of an ethics and fraud hotline and an ethics handbook.

It also includes fines for violators of the ethics policies and also creates an ethics officer position.

Martha Barnett chaired the ethics advisory panel. She's one of nine people appointed to the panel, to study the City of Tallahassee's ethics policies and practices. Among the many recommendations, panelists are suggesting the city commission appoint an ethics officer.

"There's a whole level of activities that this person could do that would provide transparency and information to the citizens to let them know their public office isn't being used for personal gain, but that they're using that public office to the best of their ability to further the interest of the citizens," said Barnett.

City staff is concerned about the costs.

"There's no specific cost at this time," said City of Tallahassee Treasurer and Clerk James Cooke. "Some of that would depend on commission direction but obviously if you added a fifth appointed official and that's part of what staff provided in the information for the agenda item, is that adding an additional appointed official with required staffing for that person whether investigators or administrative assistants that sort of thing, whether it be office support, it could be $200,000 to $300,000."

The city staff says the move would change the city charter so a referendum would also be placed on the ballot. Residents would then approve the measure.

Right now city commissioners are looking at the panel's recommendations. We will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest information as it becomes available.