After Ethics Questions Surrounding Football Tickets Tallahassee Officials Promise More Training

Apr 19, 2018

City employees accepted FSU football tickets from their then boss, former city manager Rick Fernandez, without reporting the gift.
Credit Erich Martin

Tallahassee Interim City Manager Reese Goad says he’d like to ensure city employees get more training on when they must decline or report gifts. The move follows an investigation into city employees accepting football tickets.

Last fall, three city employees accepted football tickets from their then boss, Rick Fernandez, who has since stepped down from his position as city manager. Two of the employees are required to report gifts valued at more than $100. Goad says a price sheet from the stadium lists the cost of the tickets at 100 dollars.

Richard Herring is the chair of the city ethics board. He says employees in a certain category must report gifts from anyone who is not immediate family.

“Coworkers, friends, distant relatives, high school buddies, the guys you play baseball with on the weekends—you can take gifts from them, but if they’re over $100 then you have to report it. And gifts are defined very broadly to include travel so if you ride in your buddies vehicle down to South Florida that might be a reportable gift. If you stay in somebody’s condo for the weekend,that might be a reportable gift,” Herring says.

Goad told the Tallahassee Ethics Board, through the investigation it became clear city employees needed greater awareness and better guidance to understand when a gift must be reported. He’s hoping to partner with the International City Managers Association to hold a workshop on the issue.

Meanwhile, the city is getting pushback over Goad’s investigation. Ben Wilcox is research director for Integrity Florida. He finds Goad’s investigation lacking.

“I just am not satisfied with the results of this investigation. It also in the story in the Tallahassee Democrat it says the report dated Thursday doesn’t say where Fernandez got the football tickets or whether they came from Adam Corey’s Unconventional Strategies lobbying firm. That’s not an investigation. We need answers to these questions,” Wilcox says.

Fernandez left his position amid a number of ethics-related complaints.