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Ethics Commission Finds 'Probable Cause' Against Former Tallahassee City Manager Fernandez

Florida’s Ethics Commission says former Tallahassee city manager Rick Fernandez misused his position to get a catering discount from a local restaurant and obtain football tickets from a lobbyist. 

Fernandez resigned as city manager in January and was placed on administrative leave last October. The ethics commission found he violated state rules in accepting a $5,000 discount catering discount for his daughter’s wedding from the Edison.

Fernandez also asked for and received Florida State University skybox football seats from lobbyist Adam Corey, who is also an investor in the Edison restaurant.  The Commission found probable cause that Fernandez received the discount and the tickets and said Fernandez “knew or should have known the gifts were given to influence his actions as city manager.”

During last week's heaering, ethics advocate Elizabeth Miller did not buy Fernandez’s defense that he didn’t realize the discount and the tickets constituted gifts.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a vendor. Now Fernandez, when he’s dealing with Corey, he’s dealing with a lobbyist. And when he’s dealing with the Edison he’s dealing with a vendor.”

State rules bar public officials from accepting gifts valued at more than $100 from vendors and lobbyists. The Ethics commission ruled Fernandez’s wedding discount was valued at more than $6,000 and the 16 skybox football tickets with a face value of $30 each, exceeded the $100 cap. 

The board did clear Fernandez of one complaint which alleged he employed a person at the city who previously worked for the Edison.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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