City Officials Warned To Obey New Ethics Law


City commissioners and mayors have been warned.

League of Cities General Counsel Sam Goren says that despite legal questions about a new ethics law, city officials better start getting used to obeying it.

The new law was approved by voters November 2. It won’t take effect for city officials until the county commission passes the actually nuts-and-bolts regulations.  

The big changes:

*City officials and their spouses cannot accept gifts from lobbyists or city vendors of any kind, “regardless of value. No more free lunches, free dinners at conventions, Christmas baskets or box tickets to the Dolphins.  No more Death By Chocolate dinner thrown by Waste Management at the League of Cities, unless they want to pick up their own tab. City officials will just have to get along like the rest of us…on their own dime.

*City official cannot be employed as a lobbyist before any government in Broward County.  No more influence peddling. For instance, in the past a Sunrise elected official lobbied in Tamarac.

*City officials must disclose in writing on a special form any campaign donations they solict for other pols.

Goren’s memo states:

“In an abundance of caution and until the matter is otherwise settled by a Cout of competent jurisdiction, it is the opinion of the General Counsel’s Office that all municipalities in Broward County, regardless of whether they have adopted a separate Code of Ethics for their elected and appointed officials and public employees, will be subject to the Broward County Code of Ethics.. Goren wrote in an eight-page memo.

Watch for this one to end up in court because some officials still question whether the county can impose ethics laws on cities.

12 Responses to “City Officials Warned To Obey New Ethics Law”

  1. Richard J. Kaplan says:

    Though I haven’t read Sam’s memo, he did make a presentation at the Broward League of Cities Board Meeting.

    What is left out here was his opinion that the Charter Amendment requires an Ordinance by the County Commission before it comes into effect. Though passed on Nov. 2, it is widely believed it isn’t in effect yet at thise point.

    Here is what I found on this:

    SUMMARY: Shall Section 11.01 of the Broward County Charter be amended to provide that a County Code of Ethics, when enacted by the County Commission as an ordinance, shall prevail over any conflicting municipal ordinances that regulate the conduct of elected officials, appointed officials, and public employees?

    As you can see it says “. . . when enacted by the County Commission as an ordinance.”

    At this point they haven’t done it, and we haven’t got a clue what they will be passing. Some have said that it may be written so city officials will not be able to lobby county officials as a representative of their city on matters related to their city.

    Because sponsorship is common at government meetings, it may prevent local officials when traveling for their city from eating a meal paid for by the taxpayers if a city vendor helped cover the cost, even without knowledge of the local official.

    When it does pass the county commission, I hope we will be able to ask opinions on a variety of issues to avoid making mistakes. I’ll bet it will be far more reaching than anyone ever anticipated.

    I don’t mind as long as we know the rules up front, and not after the fact.

    FROM BUDDY: The law states that city officials may engage in lobbying for cities “as authoritized by the city commission.”

  2. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    Does Goren address that since Broward County is not a Home Rule Charter County, that the Nov. 2 ballot questions were ILLEGAL? SAM, what is your opinion on this, versus just issuing an alarmist piece?

  3. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    Mayor Kaplan:

    what is your opinion of the illegal ballot questions of Nov. 2, read my comment above.

    Mayor, watch out for your city attorney for He is going to give you opinions based on what his Political “Godmother” Comm. Lieberman tells him to do. He owes it all to her, and she, out of spite, pushed these questions down her own County Attorney’s throat, to hurt you UNJUSTLY AND OTHER CITY ELECTED OFFICIALS!

  4. Kevin says:

    Stone Cold,

    Broward IS a charter county!!!


  5. Richard J. Kaplan says:

    I questioned the ballot question when the county was discussing it. However, I don’t know, and the decision is ‘beyond my pay grade.’

    It would take someone to file an action in court for a judge to rule. Then we will know. It might take the first person who is cited to appeal it to court to find out.

    Attorneys are on both side of the issue. They cite the county’s provisions on environment issues. But those maybe concurrent authority, and ethics may be a home rule issue.

    One point that is consistent is that there is not a consensus of exactly what the law is and how it will be applied. Therefore, how is a law to be enforced when you don’t know what it exactly is or means?

    Personally I support the ethic reforms. It’s a long time coming. My biggest concern is that municipal ethic reforms have be drafted to make sense to municipalities. The county provisions were not intended for cities, but are being applied.

    Also, there is some validity that the law of unintended consequences will apply, i.e., the Sun-Sentinel is a vendor of the city (legal notices), so I may not be able to talk to reporters or editors anymore (though Buddy doesn’t come under that)? I don’t know.

    The purpose of ethic laws are to protect the public. So that is how ethic laws should be written. Not just to be punitive and to prevent government from doing its job as the public demands.

    I hope before the county commission passes an implementing ordinance, they allow a professional group to review and recommend what makes sense and will work.

    In the meantime I have advised many groups (even groups that may not be subject to the new law, including some residents) that I will not meet with them until these issues are resolve. It will make it more difficult for me to do my job, and make me far less accessible than I usually am.

  6. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    to “Kevin”:

    Broward is not a home rule county, like Miami Dade. Whatever the Miami-Dade County Commission passes as far as ethics or gifts or purchasing procurement rules, is automatically adopted by the cities by their own municipal law (and this is somewhere in the state constitution). the broward county commission can not pass an ordinance at its meeting or put a ballot question to all broward voters and impose the result on the city governments of broward, plain and simple illegal.

    i wish goren would clarify that but his whole style is conservative alarmist type warnings and rulings. lauderdale by the sea and davie said no thanks to his firm, they get it.

  7. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    to Mayor Richard Kaplan:

    Mr. Mayor, the new law does not prohibit meeting with residents, vendors, lobbyists….you just need to document it. your city already has a lobbyist registration law, right? if you meet with someone, you just need to document it. clarify that but not meeting with anyone is a wrong and overt over reaction.

    also, watch out for your city attorney. he honors Commissioner Lieberman’s intent more than anyone in this county and she already has probably briefed him on what she “knows” the law to be. you might want to retain some one else to get objective advice on this, not “LIEBERMAN” Advice.

  8. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    Hey Sam Goren:

    Stop freakin’ out city elected officials and scaring them unnecessarily. let them do their jobs. come on, man.

  9. Richard J Kaplan says:

    Dear Stone Cold’s Bottom Line,

    As far as I know, it does not prohibit meeting with people as long as it is disclosed. The problem is that many people do business with the city, so I don’t know who might be a vendor or contractor of the city. It is definately in the hundreds and could run into the thousands.

    Some could be my neighbors or members of associations, and I often could see these people at public events.

    If I meet, even in passing, and talk for a few minutes, I may go afoul of the law without realizing it, depending upon who I talk to.

    The safest thing is to limit certain contact as much as possible. Anyone can file a complaint, and there are plenty of people who would love to do that.

    We do have a lobbyist registration law. It’s the others, vendors and contractors, that I am more concerned about, and the threashold of how and when we disclose.

    If it is limited only to formal meetings at City Facilities/Offices, that would make it much easier. But I don’t know that to be true.

  10. In the know says:

    Stone Cold doesn’t know the differance between a Metropolitan County,(Miami-Dade),where all County ordinances prevail over City ordinances and a Charter County, under Art.VIII, sec 1 of the 1968 Constitution,(Broward)- where the County Charter states which prevails in a City –City or County ordinance.Unfortunately once the County Charter is amended by referendum County ordinance will prevail,as to Ethics. However the County has to actually enact an ordinance that says it applies to Cities.

  11. ontheequator says:

    The winners will be the attorneys for the next two years.

  12. sunriseoversite says:

    The attorneys have been winning they are commissioners,mayors,lobbists. They are dipping in this, dabbling in that and collecting nice big fat paychecks. Oh sorry collecting two paychecks while others collect unemployment. Lawyers suck !