The Florida Times-Union Editorial
October 18, 2017
Working or volunteering for city government gives you no personal or business advantages. In fact, it can be a disadvantage.
That’s the word from Jacksonville’s ethics expert, Carla Miller. She has spent about 20 years in the ethics field in Jacksonville and has built a state and national reputation.
Now the city is lucky to have her advice on ethics. If city officials are smart, they will consult her and
She’s glad to help.
stay out of trouble.
That is Miller’s job.
ETHICS OF FOUNDERS
Miller referred to the Athenian Oath:
“We will never bring disgrace on this our city by an act of dishonesty or cowardice. We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the city both alone and with many. We will revere and obey the city’s laws, and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught. We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty. Thus, in all these ways, we will transmit this city not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
The Constitution even includes an anti-corruption provision, Article 1, Section 9, the “emoluments clause.” That forbids any person holding any public office from accepting any gift from “any king, prince or foreign state.”
This supposedly was a reaction to Ben Franklin accepting a diamond-encrusted snuff box from the king of France, which caused a public uproar.
TWO MAJOR RULES
The first rule of ethics is transparency.
The second rule is if in doubt, ask.
Miller, a former federal prosecutor, knows where the traps are located. So last week, the Times-Union editorial page watched and listened as Miller conducted an hourlong ethics training session for city workers and board members.
. . .
• Members of public boards and commissions may not talk about business that come before them without scheduling a meeting with proper notice in a place convenient to the public with minutes being taken. People on the same board or commission can talk about any other matter, just not their public business.
Some say this is inefficient and inconvenient, but government in Florida is meant to give the people a chance to be involved. In the long run it’s likely to produce better decisions with more public support.
And the fact is Florida’s public records and open meetings laws include more than 1,100 exemptions. So there are reasonable ways to amend the law for valid reasons.
. . .
The bottom line of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law is that government is conducted for the people and not for public officials.
. . . In short, public officials can never go wrong if they view their positions with grace, the public with respect and their obligation to be transparent with a true sense of responsibility. [READ MORE]