September 20, 2018
Dear Ms. Griffin:
I have received your letter to Chair Norris. I cannot provide it to him at this time, because some of the concerns you express relate to another complaint you have pending with the Commission. The administrative rules governing our agency prohibit ex parte communications with Commission members relative to the merits of a pending case.
I can assure you there was no improper influence regarding Chair Norris, and I think if you understand the process a little better, you will agree. The analysis of legal sufficiency is performed by our staff. In the cases you reference – as in all cases – the attorney’s work is reviewed by our General Counsel and then by me. No Commission member has any part in drafting the analysis, and none of the staff here knows anyone concerned with your complaints, or has any reason to show favoritism.
Chair Norris was not required to abstain from the votes. Acquaintance or even friendship, with a respondent is not grounds for disqualification, nor is attending college with a respondent; although I should note your statement that Chair Norris “graduated from Stetson Law” is incorrect. Chair Norris graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Prior to the Commission’s vote on these cases, Chair Norris stated for the record that he was acquainted with Mr. Bullard. The vote was unanimous, so his abstention would have made no difference.
As to your more substantive concerns, we make every effort to explain in our Orders the rationale for finding a matter insufficient to investigate, so that the individual filing the complaint can have an understanding of why it was not investigated. Complainants are often disappointed if their complaint is not investigated, but the Commission’s jurisdiction is limited by law, and it can only act within the parameters of its jurisdiction. Mismanagement and bad judgments are not matters within the Commission’s purview, and even violations of law or other standards of conduct are not automatically violations of the Code of Ethics.
Finally, with respect to the Jacksonville Ethics Commission, to the extent it has the ability to take action the Florida Commission does not, it is because it receives its jurisdiction from the Jacksonville Charter and/or Code. The state ethics law permits local government to enact ordinances more stringent than the State Code of Ethics.
I hope you will find this information of service.
Florida Commission on Ethics
This is a very excellent interpretation of what the Ethics Commission may or may not do. As I mentioned to others, if nothing may be accomplished by the Ethics Laws, we will hold all complaints until such time as we may either take the Gang of Three and our Town Manager to court of make filings with the State’s Attorney’s office. Too much of OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY money has been spent by the Town for the official’s own benefits. – Karin for the blog