Tallahassee Democrat Editorial
December 28, 2017
Under normal circumstances, if there wasn’t an ethics cloud hovering over City Hall, replacing retiring City Attorney Lew Shelley wouldn’t be so difficult.
But these are not normal times.
The FBI is investigating city dealings and the Community Redevelopment Agency, the city manager is suspended pending an investigation of his soliciting football tickets from a lobbyist, and local government has damaged its own credibility by trying to evade Florida’s public records law. In addition to filling a key administrative position, city commissioners need to restore public trust.
The city advertised for a new top lawyer for a month, but drew only nine applicants. A citizen advisory board deemed only three to meet minimum qualifications, so the committee forwarded all their names to the commission — along with a recommendation that it give itself more time and seek more applicants.
We agree. The process should be reopened, not only to find more applicants and more thoroughly examine them, but to give the public confidence that another City Hall insider isn’t being tapped to assure business as usual.
Meaning no disrespect for the three top candidates — deputy City Attorney Cassandra Jackson, Jacksonville attorney Steve Durden and John Anastasio of Stuart — the commission’s desire to have a list of finalists by next Wednesday is unrealistic. A routine rubber stamping might have been all right if everything was normal at City Hall, but — even if they wind up promoting Jackson — commissioners need to show voters they seriously considered new thinking in the office.
Tallahassee has more lawyers than Spanish moss, so you’d think a job advertised at $102,440 to $277,992 a year (the deliberately vast salary range) would draw more than nine applicants. But maybe the FBI investigation and various ethics and sunshine law headaches made the job less appealing for experienced local lawyers. [READ MORE]