Ethics amendment makes it way on to Tallahassee ballot

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Citizens in the Capital City bypassed the city commission and placed an initiative on the November ballot to include an ethics amendment in the city charter. Citizens for Ethics Reform announced Tuesday it had collected more than twice the legally required number of signatures and submitted them to the Leon County Supervisor of Elections.

The City of Tallahassee has been notified that 20,657 signatures have been certified and now state law requires the city commission to place the proposal on the general election ballot.

“We look forward to the commission fulfilling its legal obligation to place the initiative on the November ballot,” said Marilynn Wills, a co-chair of Citizens for Ethics Reform.

Last March, commissioners rejected a proposal from a citizens group to create an independent ethics officer. Instead they voted to have an ethics officer report to the city auditor.

Commissioners and a small band of critics have been sparring over a host of issues related to how the city spends money and the supervision of the police department.  The acrimony during commission meetings when citizens can speak grew to a point where the commission installed a “kill” switch on the microphone used by the public. The switch has since been removed.

One issue critics have seized on is a million dollar expenditure to renovate a hundred-year old building in which the campaign manager of Commissioner Andrew Gillum plans to place a brew pub.  Gillum is a mayoral candidate.

In response to other criticisms, newly-hired police Chief Michael DeLeo has shaken up the command staff and supervision of the forensic unit. The department was criticized for its handling of two high profile cases in the past year, one involving Florida State University football player Jameis Winston and the other a 90-pound female DUI suspect.

When commissioners failed to approve creation of an independent ethics officer the League of Women Voters, Common Cause Florida and local tea party groups began a petition process to place the issue before voters.

The proposed amendment would establish a citywide ethics and anti-corruption policy,  create an independent ethics officer and place a $250 limit on campaign contributions.

Four years ago, Leon County voters overwhelmingly approved a $250 contribution limit on candidates running for county offices.