Ousted Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez slapped with state ethics violations

Tallahassee Democrat by Jeff Burlew and Jeffrey Schweers

June 8, 2018

As the Tallahassee Democrat reported Wednesday, an assistant attorney general who serves as one of the board’s prosecutors recommended the commission find probable cause on some of the allegations and no probable cause on others. The recommendation came after an investigation by Ethics Commission staff.

Mayor Andrew Gillum, who’s running for governor, responded to the probable cause finding by saying the city “has no tolerance for wrongdoing.”

“I am hopeful for a speedy conclusion to this matter,” he said, “and I look forward to our community moving forward from it.”

Fernandez’s nearly 30-year career at the city began to unravel last fall after the Democrat published a text message exchange between him and a lobbyist with the firm of Adam Corey, a central figure in the FBI’s investigation into public corruption.

In the text exchange, Fernandez asked for tickets to Corey’s skybox for a 2016 home game against the University of North Carolina. The texts indicated the tickets were later dropped off at Fernandez’s office at City Hall.

The complaint also accused Fernandez of taking a $4,761 discount on the $14,964 catering bill for his daughter’s wedding. The complaint alleged the discount was provided to Fernandez because of his position as city manager. It also said Fernandez rewarded an Edison worker involved in the discount with an unadvertised job with the city.

Jackson said the Ethics Commission prosecutor said Fernandez accepted 16 FSU football tickets, which were valued around $126 apiece. He also said the catering discount turned out to be closer to $6,000.

He said the FBI investigation came up more than once during the hearing. Corey, he said, declined to provide information to Ethics Commission staff because of the FBI probe.

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