Here's an interesting clip for those cities in Broward County, like Wilton Manors, that approved charter changes earlier this year to change how the countywide Code of Ethics works in their city limits. It calls into question the very validity of these watered-down ethics codes.
John Scott, the inspector general and as such, the person charged with prosecuting violations of the ethics code, says there's only one code, no variations.
Take a listen.
I asked Wilton Manors City Attorney Kerry Ezrol recently for the legal opinion he gave his commissioners explaining their authority to change the ethics code's effects.
Here's what I asked:
I’m curious how you got past this in the charter:
Any County ordinance in conflict with a Municipal ordinance shall not be effective within the Municipality to the extent that a conflict exists regardless of whether such Municipal ordinance was adopted or enacted before or after the County ordinance. A County ordinance shall prevail over Municipal ordinances whenever the County acts with respect to the following:
Sets minimum standards protecting the environment through the prohibition or regulation of air or water pollution, or the destruction of resources in the County belonging to the general public.
Land use planning.
Regulates the conduct of elected officials, appointed officials, and public employees through an enacted Code of Ethics.
In the event a County ordinance and a Municipal ordinance shall cover the same subject matter without conflict, both the Municipal ordinance and the County ordinance shall be effective.
I was given a packet that was also given to the county attorney's office when they asked the same question, I was told.
In one of the emails provided, Ezrol is asked last December: "is it Florida Statute that permits a City Charter to override the County regulation? If so what is the cite? Specifically in connection with the referendums that we are putting on the ballot... what allows us to do this?''
He responded: "Generally, the county charter has a preemption provision. Ethics is not included at this time. The County ethics code and the Referendum provide that it applies to the extent of any conflicting municipal ordinance.''
The person asking, Commissioner Julie Carson, responded, "no hurry more of a curiosity.''
Ezrol wrote the following day: "Good morning. Also please remember that the [Broward County] Ethics Code allows you and other elected officials to rely on the advice of your City Atty. If the [Wilton Manors] referendum passes, our opinion will be based, in part, on the fact that [Wilton Manors] Charter provisions re ethics prevail over the [Broward County] Ethics Code. We have no way of knowing at this time how the OIG will react in this instance.
See the video above.