Political Perspectives: Tallahassee Commission Seat 3 Candidates Talk Improving Trust In City

Jul 17, 2018

[Left to Right] Tallahassee Commission Seat 3 candidates: Richard Garzola, Lisa Brown, Bill Schack, Alexander Jordan and Jeremy Matlow were on Tuesday's Political Perspectives.
Credit Lydell Rawls / WFSU

Candidates for Tallahassee City Commission Seat 3 are weighing in on the FBI’s investigation involving city leaders and laying out how they’d improve trust in city hall, if elected.

Alexander Jordan has 22 years of experience as a public employee, which includes working at the Department of Revenue and the Department of Business and Professional regulations.

As a candidate running for Tallahassee City Commission Seat 3, he says he wants to focus on strengthening the city’s policies and ethics board to hold elected officials accountable.

“It’s a dark cloud over the city,” said Jordan. “But, at the same time, we can move forward, and by having those policies and procedures in place and identifying the loopholes that allowed the city to get into this predicament, then we allow yourself to become a better city. And, remember, this was called the All-American city. It’s not looking like an All-American city. But, at the same time, there have been some great things happening in city hall, and at the same time, there’s been some concerns happening at the city hall.”

“Saying there’s a dark cloud is dismissive over city hall because we have over 200 great employees working in city hall that don’t partake in unethical behavior,” said Richard Garzola, in response.

Garzola is a former Florida State University football player and community activist. He says the FBI ethics probe is only focused on a few individuals.

“So, to get rid of that unethical behavior, we can strengthen the training the training that’s already in place. That’s why we voted for them in 2014,” Garzola added. “So, the way we do that is by equipping and bringing more resources and training the people in charge of that. I also had the idea of an independent investigator to oversee what the ethics board is doing, so they behave ethically as well.”

Fellow contender Bill Schack has been in the restaurant business for 28 years and is the current Food Services Director for the Kearney Center, a local homeless shelter. He says bottomline: the city needs to be a leader in ethics.

“We need to have the strongest ethics ordinance in the state,” said Schack. “That’s a face, and then with that, we need to find out a way…or make a decision…someone needs to lead and say, ‘city vendors and people who do business with the city have no right to run political campaigns or donate to city commissioners. That’s just common sense, and I think bringing common sense to city hall would solve a lot of problems here in city hall.”

Lisa Brown is the President and CEO of Tallahassee-Leon Federal Credit Union and a third generation Tallahasseean.

She says she would like to establish an Inspector General’s office and ensure the independent ethics board’s proposed policies are taken seriously.

“This is an independent board that’s put together by various members of the community, and we need to be respectful of their recommendations without changes,” said Brown.  “It additionally needs to be the same for both employees, management, and city officials. Across the board, we need to all be treated equally. We need to be all playing by the same rules.”

Fellow Tallahassee-born resident and Gaines Street Pies founder Jeremy Matlow called on local officials who are who have run afoul of the rules to step down, so the city can rebuild. He says it’s time for some new blood.

“Largely we’ve had the same group of individuals pushing the same thing,” said Matlow. “We do need to talk about the ethics code. We should go back to ‘knowingly corrupt” in the language, instead of ‘corrupt intent.’ We need to look at the relationship between campaign donors and workers and city vendors and contracts. Also, you know, catching corrupt people is great, but we need to elect people who aren’t corrupt and the way we do that is by having campaigns that reach out to the community and really engage and really being people into the process.”

All five candidates spoke on WFSU’s Public Affairs Show Political Perspectives Tuesday. They’re hoping to replace outgoing commissioner Nancy Miller.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.