We're making sure everyone plays by the rules.
Florida residents deserve a government that operates fairly and transparently. We’re advocating for reforms that hold elected officials accountable for their actions and help voters stay informed about the workings of their government.
In 2014 with our support in a coalition of good-government groups, the voters of the City of Tallahassee passed an ethics amendment with 67 percent in support of new ethics and campaign finance measures.
Within six months of passage of the charter amendment, the City Commission enacted an ethics code with jurisdiction over all officers and employees, including elected and appointed officials.
The charter amendment calls for an ethics officer reporting to the new seven-member ethics board with the power to investigate ethics complaints and levy civil penalties.
The campaign finance program lowered the maximum contribution that can be given to candidates from $1,000 to $250 and created for the first time in Tallahassee limited public financing of political campaigns allowing donors to receive rebates from the city of up to $25 if they give that much or more to candidates.
As of January 2018, a majority of Commissioners have resisted two fundamental reforms.
First, citizens, city employees and contractors should be able to submit complaints anonymously. Can we expect those who may be subject to retribution for blowing the whistle to step forward if their identity is known to those with power over them?
Second, the standard for enforcing ethics violations should be that an elected or appointed official “knowingly and intentionally”, rather than “corruptly”, violated the ethics code. Proving “corrupt intent” is almost impossible, essentially requiring quid pro quo proof that an official action was exchanged for a bribe. If commissioners continue to insist on this burden of proof, they effectively will emasculate the rest of the code, because it won’t be enforceable.
The resounding vote when first past, should have prompted the Commission to pass a stronger and more enforceable ethics code. Sadly, for the most part, the Commission has only thrown barriers against our efforts, despite a voter mandate for much stronger ethics laws than Florida’s.
At a time when ethics is front and center of concern to our citizens, we implore you to tell the Commission to give the Independent Ethics Commission the powers to investigate anonymous complaints and an enforcement standard of intentionally and knowingly, rather than corruptly misusing public office for private gain.