Naples Daily News by Jeff Burlew
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum — who has touted his transparency as the Democratic nominee for Florida governor — could waive confidentiality in a state ethics complaint against him and open all documents and proceedings to public scrutiny.
So far, Gillum has opted not to do so. However, his lawyer, Barry Richard of Tallahassee, said Gillum will waive secrecy eventually, perhaps after commission staff has prepared its report on the investigation.
Last week, Gillum released receipts and other documents from his 2016 trips to Costa Rica and New York City, which are the focus of the ethics complaint filed last year by local businessman and City Hall critic Erwin Jackson. Gillum’s campaign website said he was continuing his “transparency efforts” by releasing the documents, something he’d promised to do during the primary campaign.
State ethics complaints and related documents and proceedings are kept confidential and closed under state statutes until the Florida Commission on Ethics determines whether probable cause exists that a violation occurred. The only reason the public knows about the ethics complaint against Gillum is because Jackson released it publicly, something he’s allowed to do as the complainant.
Gillum could lift that shroud of secrecy with the stroke of a pen. Under Florida law, officials facing ethics complaints must request in writing that the records and proceedings be made public.
Richard said Gillum has released all the documents he’s provided the Ethics Commission, namely the receipts from the two out-of-town trips. He said Gillum won’t waive confidentiality until “there is something that the commission does.”
“The reason for the confidentiality is anybody can file anything with the commission,” Richard said. “And it’s not fair to the person complained against if all that stuff is made public before the commission makes a determination of probable cause. All you would be doing is … allowing candidates, for example, to use it as a weapon against their opponent by having people file stuff.”