Atlantic Beach: No to Ethics Inclusion; City Says It Won't Be a Part of Jacksonville's Panel and Policies

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Byline: DREW DIXON

The Atlantic Beach City Commission on Monday unanimously rejected any inclusion in Jacksonville's Ethics Commission and corresponding policies, and Neptune Beach City Council members also are backing away from the prospect.

Atlantic Beach passed a resolution that states the city "will not be under the control of Jacksonville's ethics code and commission but shall be governed by its own code of ethics policy." The measure came as Jacksonville considers removing the Ethics Commission from under the Jacksonville City Council's authority, making it an autonomous body.

Atlantic Beach City Commissioner John Fletcher, who drafted the resolution, said state law already has provisions for ethics policies and laws and the coastal community needs to maintain its autonomy from Jacksonville.

"I think we need to strengthen home rule," said Fletcher. "We can govern ourself."

The Jacksonville ethics panel and considerations would involve a charter amendment that's hung up on review by the state Legislature. Even if state lawmakers approve the separation of the Ethics Commission from Jacksonville council oversight, the city would still have to approve a charter amendment to finalize such a move.

Atlantic Beach City Attorney Alan Jensen said at this stage, it's not clear how Jacksonville's Ethics Commission could end up looking after the procedural approval needed to remove the panel from City Council authority.

Still, Atlantic Beach Commissioner Carolyn Woods said inclusion in Jacksonville's ethics code would make sense because it essentially serves all of Duval County, which includes Atlantic Beach. …