Commission on Ethics says Jarvis was not authorized to file a complaint against himself. Mayor will report possible Sunshine Law violations to the Attorney General.
DESTIN — Destin’s most prominent fishing captain is off the hook with the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Because state ethics laws "do not authorize the filing on an ethics complaint against oneself," Jarvis is not subject to discipline from the Florida agency to which he reported multiple Sunshine Law violations.
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Jarvis had placed himself at the mercy of the Florida Commission on Ethics July 22 when he reported committing two public records law violations.
In a letter sent Wednesday, commission Executive Director Chris Anderson told Jarvis he’d come to the wrong place.
"Your letter cannot result in action by the Commission on Ethics because its subject matter is not within the commission's jurisdiction or because it is not in a proper posture or mechanism for the commission's consideration," the letter said.
Jarvis self-reported two violations of the Sunshine Law.
The first, which had occurred in May of 2019, was not brought forward until the city was sued for it.
In that case Jarvis admittedly failed to turn over to a group called Pointe Mezzanine LLC text messaged discussions between himself and a developer working for the company. The text messages included conversations about a controversial project that was to be brought before the city.
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The second violation was actually committed twice, once in January and again in February of this year when Jarvis sent emails from his city account to a group of development planners.
The emails requested the planners contact him at a personal email address as a way to "keep the emails off the public record."
Jarvis said the conversations he was having were simply strategy sessions as the planners were putting together a proposal for expanding the existing community center before bringing it to the City Council.
"It was just brainstorming," he said.
In his letter to the Ethics Commission Jarvis said he had been informed using his private email to communicate about city business did not exempt the conversations from disclosure as public records. He promised to end the practice.
"I am writing this letter to notify you of my actions that may violate my ethical responsibilities as mayor of the city of Destin, Florida," Jarvis said in his letter to Anderson. "Please review this information and respond as you deem appropriate."
Anderson noted in his return letter that Jarvis’s mea culpa, which came only after council members began asking questions about the cost to the city of the Pointe Mezzanine LLC lawsuit, would be better addressed by state or local criminal prosecutors.
"Much of your letter and its attachments concern the public records law, Chapter 119, Florida Statutes. The Commission does not have jurisdiction under this law," the letter said. "Rather, it is administered through the courts and the Office of the Attorney General."
Jarvis said Friday he has not yet, but likely will, similarly report his missteps to the Attorney General’s Office.
"I imagine I will probably do that. I’m going to take my licks. I sent it to the Ethics Commission and I’m going to file with the Attorney General," he said.
Jarvis said he is comfortable that he has committed no criminal act, but he believes there are members of the Destin City Council who want to see him damaged politically.
"It’s better to pay a $500 fine than to have someone saying ’Ah, we’ve got him,’ " he said.
The Commission on Ethics had previously held — in a matter involving another mayor attempting to file a complaint against himself — that elected officials were not authorized to file an ethics complaint against themselves.
Greg Marcille, the chief deputy of the First Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, said it had received no complaint regarding Sunshine Law violations committed by Jarvis.
Marcille said the State Attorney’s Office had found insufficient evidence to act on a similarly styled complaint recently filed against Destin City Attorney Kyle Bauman.