TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor laid out plans to increase transparency and accountability at City Hall during a press conference on Wednesday.
It comes as Tampa City Council has faced a few controversies in recent weeks. John Dingfelder resigned from City Council amid a lawsuit and an ethics investigation, while Council Member Orlando Gudes currently faces sexual harassment allegations.
“Although Tampa’s Code of Ethics is stronger than the State’s, these recent violations suggest that we can and should do more to improve transparency and accountability at City Hall," said Castor. "We must never stop working to improve the public trust in city government, and the public should never have even a shadow of a doubt that their public officials are working for the public good and not their own personal benefit.”
The city explained the administration is in the process of modernizing its process for handling public records requests with a new portal, it says making public records responses more efficient. The city says it also has purchased software to capture and retain records on employees’ phones more easily.
"Many of our city employees have both a personal cellphone and a city cellphone. What matters is not the device. What matters is the appropriate retention and timely response to public records requests," said Castor. "It has always been incumbent upon every city employee to keep and respond to public records regardless of how they’re generated.”
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Castor shared on Wednesday her administration will require employees to watch or attend a Sunshine Law refresher class, while reminding that all employees are educated on the Sunshine Laws when they're onboarded with the city.
“We’ve asked our city Ethics Commission to review our own ethics standards and requirements for lobbyist disclosures and registrations, review our ethics enforcement processes, and review the conflict of interest disclosure forms required by all elected officials," said Castor.
The Mayor further explained while potential conflicts of interest are inevitable, those conflicts must be clear and transparent.
“I want to stress again that the controversies that have rocked our City Council in recent weeks, although they have consumed a great deal of time and energy and taken resources away from our mission, they are not a reflection of our entire Council," said Castor. "If you speak to the majority of the Council Members, they will all agree that we work in concert, in collaboration to move our city forward.”