November 16e, John Reid, the legal adviser to the Independent Ethics Council of the City of Tallahassee (Council), issued a memo in response to a request related to the Council’s jurisdiction.
At the council meeting in September, Ernie Paine, a council member, asked for an opinion on whether certain councils operating for the benefit of the citizens of Tallahassee fall under the purview of the independent ethics committee of the city of Tallahassee. .
In November 2014, voters in the city of Tallahassee voted to amend the municipal charter, creating the Tallahassee independent ethics committee and demanding a municipal code of ethics.
The amendment to the charter established the independent ethics committee of the city of Tallahassee, ordered the city commission to adopt a code of ethics, and conferred jurisdiction on the ethics committee over civil servants and officials. city employees as well as city boards, commissions and committees.
In December 2019, the Tallahassee City Commission adopted significant changes to the municipal code of ethics, which included definitions of terms. The term “public official” was created to designate the members of the municipal commission and the assistants appointed by the commission, the mayor and his deputies and assistants appointed by the mayor, the municipal director, the municipal prosecutor, the municipal auditor, the municipal treasurercity clerk, members appointed by the city commission to sit on any council, commission or advisory, quasi-judicial committee or any other council, commission or committee of the city.
The city of Tallahassee has numerous advisory councils, partners with Leon County in the operations of the intergovernmental agency Blueprint, and manages the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). These advisory groups are treated differently under the Tallahassee Code of Ethics.
Reid’s analysis indicates that members of Tallahassee’s advisory councils, commissions and citizens’ committees meet the definition of “public officials”. Therefore, these persons fall under the purview of the Independent Ethics Board of Tallahassee.
Reid says Tallahassee city commissioners on the board of the intergovernmental agency Blueprint also fall under the purview of Tallahassee’s independent ethics committee. However, the issue of jurisdiction over Blueprint personnel is less clear.
Reid notes that a recommended solution to Blueprint’s personnel ambiguity would be to simply inquire with the Tallahassee City Commission of his intention. If the Municipal Commission intends that Blueprint personnel paid by the City of Tallahassee be subject to the jurisdiction of the Tallahassee Ethics Council on boards, commissions or committees, the applicable ordinances could be amended to better clarify this matter. . Likewise, if the Tallahassee City Commission wishes Blueprint staff not to fall under the purview of this council, this could also be further clarified.
Reid’s analysis indicates that if a complaint is made against a Blueprint staff member alleging a violation of the Tallahassee Code of Ethics, that board will ultimately make its own conclusions as to jurisdiction, which may be subject to review. a legal challenge initiated by the respondent.
Reid concludes that the members of the ARC are public officials under the purview of the Tallahassee Independent Ethics Committee. ARC staff are supposed to be separate from the city of Tallahassee, including the exercise of powers delegated to them by the city commission. These individuals, however, are listed by the City of Tallahassee as city employees, which would allow them to fall under the purview of the Tallahassee Independent Ethics Committee.