by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
The future of the Ethics Commission will be discussed when some of its members appear before the City’s Charter Revision Commission in September.
The City’s Ethics Commission met Monday at City Hall for its regular monthly meeting and one of its discussions during the meeting centered around the presentation some of its members planned to make before the City Council’s Charter Revision Commission about changes it would like to see in the way it functions.
“It was the consensus of the (Ethics Commission’s) Legislative Subcommittee to recommend that we request the Charter Revision Commission recommend to City Council that the Ethics Code be put back in the City’s Charter,” said Braxton Gillam, chair of the Legislative Subcommittee. “As it was initially drafted to, at the very least, give us authority and jurisdiction over the independent authorities. We’ve been getting some complaints about those entities that we really can’t address at this point.”
The subcommittee also would like the Commission to request a funding source be set aside for the Ethics Commission. Dependent upon the Ethics Code being returned to the City Charter, the budget would allow the Commission to hire staff to help it carry out its duties, Gillam explained.
“This would allow moving the ethics officer position from a position that reports to the mayor and City Council president to an Ethics Commission employee,” said Gillam. “Functioning more in the form of an executive director and also hiring sufficient staff otherwise, so we could man the (ethics) hotline and respond to complaints.”
This information was developed at the subcommittee’s July 23 meeting. The lengthy meeting also included the discussion of requesting subpoena powers so the Commission could require people to appear before them and bring sufficient documentation to respond to complaints received by the Commission. In conjunction with subpoena power, the subcommittee would like the Ethics Commission to request to be able to issue civil fines.
As the Ethics Commission strode toward establishing its identity for the future, one of its members later introduced an idea to identify a member of the community for their efforts to adhere to a high ethical standard.
“I’d like to introduce a motion to establish an annual Ethics Commission award recognizing a member of the community whose works provide an example of superior ethical practices,” said Scott Shine, commission member, “who has labored to advance the culture of ethics within the City of Jacksonville and provide inspiration to the ongoing journey of ethical practices.”
The Commission decided to assign the building of a structure for selecting the award recipient to its Procurement Subcommittee, which Shine joined during the meeting. In other Ethics Commission news:
•The Commission also agreed to write a letter recognizing Lin White for being awarded the 2009 Robert O. Johnson Good Government Award. White is a legislative liaison for the Public Works Department.
• Changes to the minutes of its June 29 meeting had members of the Ethics Commission considering the process for preparing the minutes. The Commission agreed to follow the procedure outlined in “Robert’s Rules of Order” and summarize the dialogue in the meetings. The actual meeting can be reviewed through audio recording.