City Ethics Board Works To Prevent Local Government Corruption

Jun 2, 2016

Citizens for Ethics Reform co-chairs from left to right Anita Davis, Marilynn Wills and Catherine Baer file committee paperwork with the Leon County Supervisor of Elections on June 19, 2014.
Credit Citizens for Ethics Reform Website

 This sounds like the start of a joke, but it's not: a conservative, a progressive and an independent walk into Tallahassee City Hall. They're probably members of the Citizens for Ethics Reform, which helped implement the city ethics board in 2014.

Tea Party Member Catherine Baer is one of the co-chairs of the Citizens for Ethics Reform.

On WFSU's Perspectives, she pushes the importance of the city ethics board, because it allows residents to submit complaints in an easier manner.

"That had to be so frustrating for the citizens to get up there, spend their time and have no recourse whatsoever," Baer says. "But now that there's an ethics board in place, there is recourse for their concerns."

Baer says citizens can file complaints through the ethics hotline or by email, which can be sent anonymously.

The board also pushed a rebate program for the upcoming city commission election. This allows Tallahassee voters to receive a $25 refund if they donate to a commission candidate.

But some city commission members haven't warmed up to the rebate program. During a meeting last April, City Commissioner Gil Ziffer said he has doubts about whether it works.

During Perspectives, Florida Common Cause's Peter Butzin says the program hasn't been in place long enough for people to know about it.

"The elections are just starting to gear up," Butzin says. "We're starting to see yard signs. We're starting to see interest from donors and from citizens, but it's way too early to say that this program isn't working. Ultimately, that's our beef. Give the thing a chance."

Next week, the city commission will begin discussions on potentially altering or eliminating the rebate program.