Grand Jury News Politics

Tallahassee hires city ethics officer

October 2, 2014

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Julie Meadows-Keefe has been hired as the ethics officer for the city of Tallahassee. Her job is to enforce stronger ethical standards for employees and elected officials.

The Tallahassee City Commission in March approved the position that was recommended by a citizen’s Ethics Advisory Panel.

The advisory also recommended a loyalty oath for all public employees:

Loyalty Oath

I further solemnly swear or affirm that I have a commitment to the public trust, the highest standards of professionalism and ethics including a commitment to the constant appearance of propriety, always putting public trust first and never allowing personal benefit to affect my decisions and service as a public servant.

The City of Tallahassee has also a City Auditor as its watchdog over finances. The advisory group recommended a Ethics & Fraud Hotline be created under the control of the auditor as a method for City employees, contractors, citizens, and other interested parties to confidentially present a suspected incident of fraud, waste, or abuse involving City money, property, or other resources.

And the advisory group also recommended more financial disclosures from elected officials:

Business relationships with City vendors.
Business relationships with City employees.
Membership on corporate boards.
Membership on not-for-profit boards.
Land Ownership (in any form, whether located in Florida or another jurisdiction).

More than 150 applications were submitted for the Tallahassee ethics officer job. Meadows-Keefe was among the top 25 applicants in mid-September who were deemed best suited based on qualifications. Her salary is $83,000.

The Pensacola City Council should look into how the city of Tallahassee is taking ethics seriously. Considering the various ethical issues that have arisen at city hall, it may be time to appoint an advisory panel to review the city’s ethics code and beef up its enforcement. Also the council may want to amend the city charter to create a city auditor position.

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