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Tallahassee Ethics Officer Meadows-Keefe Not Backing Down From Apology, Payout Demand

Tallahassee ethics officer Julie Meadows-Keefe is under increasing pressure to resign. Her attorney is demanding a public apology.

A long-simmering fight between embattled Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe, members of the independent ethics board and city officials bubbled over Wednesday after an attorney for Meadows-Keefe demanded the city apologize for its treatment of her and pay $450,000. Meadows-Keefe has been under heavy criticism almost from the time she was hired.

Meadows-Keefe was already planning to resign from her post in February but her critics want her gone sooner. At the ethics commission’s most recent meeting, board chairman Richard Herring disagreed with the way Meadows-Keefe has investigated and closed cases without board input.

“I don’t know, and I would tell you I would personally object to ever saying an ethics officer can personally close a hotline call—I think that’s the board’s responsibility, he said

During a September city commission meeting Mayor John Dailey blasted the ethics officer over the same issue—this time, related to him. She recently ran afoul of Dailey for the way she handled a complaint against him.

"We agree with Mayor Dailey and the city commission that proper protocol wasn’t followed and that ideally any ethics officer shouldn’t be able to autonomously declare ‘case closed.’ As apparently the ethics officer did in this instance. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the ethics officers conduct has been called into question. She’s been riddled with controversy since she was first hired by the city," said Citizens for Ethics Reform's Catherine Baer. 

In a meeting earlier this year, Meadows-Keefe asked Dailey about his appearance in a car commercial for a local dealer. Dailey said he'd never gave the company permission to use him in an ad. Shortly after, Meadows-Keefe said, 'case closed,' but apparently also asked Dailey to stop criticizing her. 

Meadows-Keefe got the job after voters approved an independent ethics board and was named its head after advocates wanted a national search. She’s also been criticized for not disclosing a personal relationship with a city appointee, and for hiring a lawyer who did personal work for her into the commission's legal post.  

Her attorney is demanding a public apology and $450,000  from the city, something Dailey says is unlikely to happen. Meadows-Keefe was first hired by the city before being appointed to the independent ethics commission despite calls for a national search. 

Follow @HatterLynn

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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