Greg Stanley , firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-263-4738Published 5:25 p.m. ET Jan. 8, 2017 | Updated 16 hours ago
Collier County commissioners will consider bringing back stricter ethics rules for themselves and county employees.
Commissioner Penny Taylor will ask the rest of the commission Tuesday to go back to essentially a “zero-tolerance” policy on accepting gifts, prohibiting an employee from accepting a gift at work for anything with a value of more than $4. Commissioners and employees are currently allowed to accept gifts of up to $25.
The new rules would prohibit government employees from being giving anything that costs more than a cup of coffee and a donut, Taylor said.
“This is the government, not the private sector,” Taylor said. “This should give the public confidence we are striving to be good stewards and protect tax dollars.”
Collier County's ethics ordinance was written in 1998 in the wake of the Stadium Naples scandal. Three county commissioners and a county manager were arrested for racketeering, accused among other things of accepting gifts that included everything from free rounds of golf to a no-money down stake in a real estate development.
In 2013, commissioners laxed the rules on the 3-2 vote to allow for gifts of up to $25, saying the rule was too restrictive and could lead employees to legal trouble if someone bought them lunch at a business meeting. They based the new threshold on the state’s ethics laws.
The vote will come just as the Naples City Council looks to revise and clarify its ethics rules after learning about a potential conflict of interest involving votes cast by a city councilman. The city of Naples adopted its rules at the same time as the county, also in wake of the Stadium Naples scandal.
“Ethics is on everyone’s mind,” Taylor said.
The three commissioners who voted to relax the county’s rules left their seats in November. With a new board, Taylor said she’d like to see if they will bring back the stricter rules.
“I would have done this two years ago, but I knew I didn’t have the support,” Taylor said. “These rules were first written in a bi-partisan effort to make sure it would deter any kind of gift-giving or having something like Stadium Naples happen again. I saw no reason for them to change it and think we need to go back.”