Palm Beach County Ethics

Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics

Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics

Kristin A. Vara-Garcia - Chair Michael S. Kridel - Vice Chair
Rodney G. Romano Peter L. Cruise Michael H. Kugler

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March 7, 2024 COE Agenda and Attachments

Next Meeting: Commission on Ethics Monthly Meeting - Thursday, July 11, 2024 - 1:30 p.m. - Robert Weisman Governmental Center, 301 N. Olive Ave, West Palm Beach, FL 33401 - 6th floor BCC Chambers

Agenda and Attachments  

Click here to watch the meeting live on Channel 20

Recent Updates:

Pocket Card

Meet the Staff


Back row (L-R) S. Lizabeth Martin, Christie Kelley, Rhonda Giger
Front row (L-R) Gina Levesque, Abigail Irizarry, Mark Higgs

Christie E. Kelley, Executive Director

Christie Kelley was appointed Executive Director for the Commission on Ethics (COE) in 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 eight years. 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 J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law (cum laude).

Rhonda Giger, General Counsel

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).

Gina A. Levesque – Intake and Compliance Manager

Gina Levesque has served the Commission on Ethics (COE) since its inception in 2010. With over 25 years of exceptional service and experience in the legal and law enforcement fields, Ms. Levesque oversees the daily operations of the Intake and Compliance section, which includes duties related to COE governance; communicating the COE's ethical standards, policies, and regulations to employees, government officials, community leaders, and the general public; ensuring the prompt and thorough review of compliance-related matters; and tracking efforts to measure effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of services and participates in COE initiatives and associated activities. 

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 and 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. Ms. Levesque is also a Certified Fraud Examiner and serves as an active member of the Florida Region 7 All Hazards Incident Management Team  

S. Lizabeth Martin – Education and Communications Manager

S. Lizabeth Martin joined the Commission on Ethics (COE) in 2023 as the Communications and Education Manager. With over 20 years of successful and effective communications, marketing, and journalism experience, Ms. Martin manages the day-to-day delivery of education programs, marketing projects, internal and external communications, and represents the COE at community and education activities. Working in line with the COE's Strategic Plan, Ms. Martin oversees the COE’s campaign to increase public visibility and awareness of the COE and its mission.

Before joining the COE, Ms. Martin served as a tenured professor at Palm Beach State College in the Speech Department for 11 years and now serves as an adjunct online professor. Prior to moving to South Florida, Ms. Martin worked at the University of North Florida, Flagler College, Duval County Schools, The Florida Times-Union, and WJCT Public Broadcasting in the Jacksonville, Florida area. In addition, Ms. Martin’s work in college textbook reviews has helped champion inclusion, equity and accessibility.

Ms. Martin earned a B.A. in Communications from Florida State University and a M.A. in Communications from the University of West Florida.

Abigail Irizarry, Investigator

Abigail Irizarry joined the Commission on Ethics (COE) in 2016 after serving nine years as a highly respected and award-winning investigator for the State of Florida. As an investigator for the COE, Ms. Irizarry conducts confidential, and time-sensitive investigations focused on alleged unethical actions or issues. 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 various 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 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 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, Forensic Interviewer, and Fraud Examiner.

Mark A. Higgs – Investigator

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 and Certified Forensic Interviewer.          

Mr. Higgs earned a B.S. in Law Enforcement Management and a M.S. in Public Safety Administration from Calumet College of St. Joseph.

Volunteer Advocates

The Commission on Ethics, in conjunction with the Legal Aid Society, began a pro bono volunteer advocate program in 2011 to prosecute ethics complaints in Palm Beach County.  In 2021, the ordinances were amended and updated to allow for payment of Advocates as well as Hearing officers. Advocates and Hearing Officers have significant courtroom experience in criminal law practice, both as state prosecutors and defense attorneys.