Next Meeting: Commission on Ethics Monthly Meeting - Thursday, March 9, 2023- 1:30 p.m. - Robert Weisman Governmental Center, 301 N. Olive Ave, West Palm Beach, FL 33401 - 6th floor BCC Chambers
Agenda and Attachments
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C22-005 - (Feb 8, 2023 9:00 a.m.-FINAL HEARING) Kenneth Payne (Respondent)-(Elizabeth R. Clark, Esquire - Hearing Officer) - Robert Weisman Governmental Center, 301 N. Olive Ave, West Palm Beach, FL 33401 - 6th floor BCC Chambers
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The Commission on Ethics (COE) staff drafts legal opinions on issues for consideration by the COE, represents the COE in litigation, responds to inquiries about the ethics laws, and provides administrative support to the COE. Investigative staff investigates complaints of violations of the ethics laws and compiles narrative investigative reports. In addition, staff provides information regarding COE practices and procedures to the press, the public, and responds to inquiries about the COE and the ethics laws.
Gina Levesque, Intake and Compliance Manager; Christie Kelley, Esquire, Executive Director; Rhonda Giger, Esquire, General Counsel, Mark Higgs, Investigator; Abigail Irizarry, Investigator
Christie Kelley was appointed Executive Director for the Commission on Ethics (COE) in January 2022. As Executive Director, Ms. Kelley directs the county-wide responsibilities and activities of the COE. Those responsibilities and activities include the legal and administrative functions of the COE, the application and framework for training public officials and employees on how to ensure their actions comply with the county’s ethics ordinances, investigating alleged violations of the ethics ordinances, and providing legal counsel to the COE and other persons under the COE’s jurisdiction.
Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Ms. Kelley served as the COE’s General Counsel for the past eight years. In that position, she provided strategic guidance and support on a range of legal and ethical issues involved in carrying out the mission of the COE. She also implemented significant changes to strengthen the guiding principles and understanding of the county's ethics ordinances and has advised and trained thousands of county and municipal employees, officials, and others on complying with the letter and spirit of the county’s ethics ordinances.
Prior to joining the COE, Ms. Kelley served as the Assistant Director in the Center for Career Development at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she focused on advising law students interested in government or public interest careers and oversaw the pro bono, public interest, and community service programs. In addition, Ms. Kelley served as an Assistant State Attorney in Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit in Marion County.
Ms. Kelley is a member of the Florida Bar and is an active community volunteer. She earned a B.A. in Business Administration (summa cum laude) from the University of Florida and a Juris Doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law (cum laude).
As the general counsel for the Commission on Ethics (COE), Rhonda Giger provides legal services to the COE and those under the jurisdiction of the COE, regarding issues involving the Code of Ethics, Lobbyist Registration Ordinance, and Post Employment Ordinance. She also presents factual and legal analyses for legal sufficiency determinations of complaints to the Executive Director and probable cause determinations to the COE.
Joining the COE staff in 2022, Ms. Giger is an accomplished trial and appellate attorney with more than 20 years of experience. She has served as an assistant attorney general in the Capital Appellate Unit of the Florida Attorney General’s Office and successfully served as the first in-house prosecutor for the City of Bothell, Washington, where she was the lead prosecutor and police legal advisor for 18 years, specializing in domestic and family violence.
With her strong legal background and expertise, Ms. Giger served as an instructor at the Basic Law Enforcement Academy in Washington, teaching Prosecution of Domestic Violence Cases, Lateral Equivalency Academy, and Effective Courtroom Testimony for law enforcement professionals. She also worked as an instructor for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia, as an instructor for Rural Domestic Violence Training sponsored by the National Sheriff’s Association, and as a subject matter expert for the IRS.
Ms. Giger’s record of accomplishments, experience, integrity, and service, greatly enhances the COE’s ability to teach and collaborate with government and community leaders, organizations, and members.
Ms. Giger earned a B.A. in Law and Justice from Central Washington University and a J.D. from Seattle University School of Law (cum laude).
With over 25 years of exceptional service and experience in the legal and law enforcement field, Ms. Levesque was selected as one of the first employees to help establish the Commission on Ethics (COE) in 2010. As Manager, Ms. Levesque oversees the daily operations of the Intake and Compliance section, provides input and recommendations to the investigators and management team, and contributes content and support for the COE meetings, website, publications, and education programs.
Prior to her employment with the COE, Ms.Levesque was a law enforcement and correctional officer working for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Lauderhill. In addition to her impressive law enforcement experience, Ms. Levesque served as a legal assistant in the homicide division at the Office of the State Attorney, 15th Judicial Circuit.
Ms. Levesque graduated with a B.S. in Education from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville where she attended on a softball scholarship and still holds many school records for her offensive and defensive abilities. Ms. Levesque is also a Certified Fraud Examiner and serves as an active member of the Florida Region 7 All Hazards Incident Management Team.
As a Commission on Ethics (COE) Investigator, Mark Higgs conducts confidential and time-sensitive investigations focused on alleged ethics violations. COE Investigators use various techniques to gather information and then use critical judgment to determine whether a violation occurred so that appropriate action and resolution can be taken. COE Investigators also serve as department liaison with law enforcement agencies and other institutions to foster collaboration in investigations.
Mr. Higgs came to the COE in 2019 with impressive investigation credentials after a distinguished 30-year career with the second-largest municipal police department in the United States, the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Mr. Higgs began his career as a patrol officer but quickly rose in the ranks and became a highly respected leader with strong analytical skills and an extensive background in intelligence writing and analysis, which he learned while serving in the Air Force. Mr. Higgs' CPD supervisory roles and experience include; supervisor of the Counter Terrorism Section; Senior Watch Officer in the Crime Prevention and Information Center; supervisor in the department’s Intelligence Section of the Organized Crime Division; and investigator and case management supervisor in Internal Affairs. In addition to his duties with the CPD, Mr. Higgs served on the high-profile Joint Terrorism Task Force for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As an advocate for law enforcement best practices, Mr. Higgs obtained additional specialized training through the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Higgs is a Certified Fraud Examiner, which denotes proven expertise in fraud detection, deterrence, and prevention.
Mr. Higgs earned a B.S. in Law Enforcement Management and a Master of Science in Public Safety Administration from Calumet College of St. Joseph.
Abigail Irizarry joined the Commission on Ethics (COE) staff in 2016 after serving nine years as a highly-respected and award-wining investigator for the State of Florida. As an investigator for the COE, Ms. Irizarry conducts confidential and time-sensitive investigations focused on alleged ethics violations. COE Investigators use various techniques to gather information and then use critical judgment to determine whether a violation occurred so that appropriate action and resolution can be taken. COE Investigators also serve as department liaison with law enforcement agencies and other institutions to foster collaboration in investigations.
Prior to the COE, Ms. Irizarry started her career working in a variety of investigative capacities, first for the Better Business Bureau and then becoming the lead investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families in Lee County, specializing in human trafficking cases as well as other crimes. Her consistent career commitment to excellence and top-notch investigation work earned her a promotion to Certified Inspector General Investigator and state-wide recognition. In 2015, Ms. Irizarry was named Department of Children and Families Office of Inspector General's Investigative Star of the Year for her achievements and was the first female investigator in the state to receive this prestigious award and honor.
Ms. Irizarry graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in Criminology and is a Certified Inspector General Investigator and Certified Fraud Examiner which denotes proven expertise in fraud prevention, detection, deterrence and investigation.