Amid Corruption Probes, City Manager Takes Leave, City To Post FBI Records Online
The Tallahassee City Commission voted last night to have the city post online all public records that have been provided to a federal grand jury investigating alleged public corruption. And in a separate case, city manager Rick Fernandez is taking paid temporary leave as an ethics complaint against him moves forward.
Commissioners approved the paid leave for Fernandez as a result of an ongoing ethics investigation. Fernandez is accused of soliciting tickets to a Florida State University football game from a lobbyist, and getting a $5,000 discount from a city-backed restaurant for services. Both could run afoul of the state's gift ban rules. Reese Goad will take over as interim City Manager with Commissioner Nancy Miller emphasizing the appointment is temporary.
"Let's make sure this is clear that we're talking about interim and I'm assuring the public about that because I've heard a lot of discussion about for how long and on and on and this is an interim appointment," she said.
The commission also moved to post all public records that have been provided to the FBI online. The move comes after Mayor Andrew Gillum tweeted out Wednesday morning that the records should be released for free.
“Given the unprecedented nature of this situation, I've requested these records be made widely available at no cost,” he said in a twitter message to reporters.
That only came after the Tallahassee Democrat reported the city wanted $22,000 to process the first 90,000 documents. Under Florida law, state and government agencies are able to charge for public records.
Three subpoenas from the FBI to the city have generated more than 240,000 pages of emails, meeting minutes and other documents.
The records involve Community Redevelopment Agency correspondence with eight local businessmen and women including John Burnette, lobbyist Adam Corey, and Downtown Improvement Authority CEO Paige Carter-Smith who is a friend of City Commissioner Scott Maddox. At issue are various development deals across the city.
The ongoing allegations of corruption and ethical lapses has resulted in city officials being under increased scrutiny. Speaking to City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, local resident Patricia Wilson said she is “embarrassed” by the probes.
“It’s very embarrassing to be here. I’m embarrassed for you, and it makes me very sad. These are federal subpoenas...Federal subpoenas. I couldn’t sleep. I would be sick. I just don’t know how ya’ll do it.”