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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jan. 13, 200912:00 PM EST

Independence is goal of Ethics Commission

by: Joe Wilhelm Jr.

by Joe Wilhelm Jr.

Staff Writer

The start of the new year is normally a time for resolutions, and the City of Jacksonville’s Ethics Commission met Monday to discuss what it wanted to accomplish in 2009.

Before it could start the goal-setting session, the Ethics Commission had to interview and elect a new member to replace Mary Alice Phelan, who was stepping down due to term limits.

The commission consists of appointees selected by the City Council, Mayor, School Board, Civil Service Board, State Attorney, and the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court. The remaining three are appointed by a majority vote of the Commission. Phelan was appointed by the Ethics Commission, so it met with two candidates Monday night and elected Scott Shine, who runs his own business consulting agency. The candidates submitted resumes and were given time Monday to tell the commission why they would make a good commissioner.

“Don’t hire the best person, hire the best person for the job,” said Shine as he stood before the commission. “The question you have to ask yourself is, ‘What do you need?’”

The Commission didn’t have any questions for either candidate and after the ballots were counted, Shine replaced Phelan, who thanked the Commission for the opportunity to serve her community.

“I am honored,” said Shine after the meeting. “There are a lot of lawyers on the Commission right now, and I bring a different skill set. One of the commission’s goals is to communicate and I believe I can contribute to that goal.”

Attorney Leslie Goller of Terrell Hogan was the other candidate for the commission.

With little time for its newest member to settle into his seat, the Ethics Commission set its sights on developing goals for the new year.

“This will be an ongoing process,” said Gene Filbert, new chair of the Commission. “We won’t be finished after we leave tonight. We will always be receptive to any suggestions or thoughts from the public.”

The recent budget session weighed heavy on some of the commissioners and there was a suggestion that the commission take steps toward becoming an independent agency.

“We should work toward independence,” said Pat Sher, commission member. “And functioning as an independent agency.”

Another member of the commission wanted to review the City’s procurement procedures.

“I would like to have a better understanding of the procurement process,” said Mary Swart. “Especially, the sole source bid awards.”

The commission also wanted to revise its codes to get a better explanation of what its authority is and to also pursue subpoena powers.

The commission wasn’t the only entity developing a list of what it wanted to accomplish in the new year. Ethics Officer Carla Miller plans to make her role more clear.

“Right now, I answer to three different groups – the Mayor’s Office, City Council and Ethics Commission,” said Miller. “It can be difficult when each group is looking for a different answer.”

Miller spent some time with members of the City Council recently as Council members John Crescimbeni and Reggie Brown received ethics training.

“The City Council is now 100 percent ethics certified,” said Miller.

The City of Jacksonville enacted an Ethics Codes for the City in 1999. The code collected ethics-related ordinances into one location in the Jacksonville Ordinance Code and established a guide for the conduct of city employees. If anyone believes a City employee has violated this code they can contact the Ethics Hotline at 630-1015.

The next meeting of the Ethics Commission will be held on Feb. 23 at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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