James and the Ethics Task Force

Prior to being elected Mayor, Keith James served as the District 4 City Commissioner from 2011 – 2019

WPB Watch posted a story on October 18, 2020 titled ” Keith James has Another Committee.” and if you read the story you are aware both committee’s went nowhere. So where did it begin, these committee’s that were finished before they began, and committee members time and effort in their attempt to aid the city, wasted. We must return to 2007 and 2010, where James received his start from former Mayor Frankel.


Keith James’ leadership of former Mayor Lois Frankel’s Ethics Task Force was questioned. There were questions raised about whether he was committed to the implementation of Ethics Reforms. Below are excerpts:

The task force, hand-picked by Frankel, recommended establishing an ethics officer, requiring commissioners to disclose ties involving businesses and requiring ethics training by employees. The city didn’t adopt many other suggestions, including setting up the hot line where ethics violations could be reported. Some city officials say the city never went far enough to rid itself of ethics problems. “The whole thing was kind of colluded,” Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell said. “We backed into an ethics program. It was more of a moment where the city was saying, ‘See, we have an ethics committee,’ and never really took the recommendations of an ethics committee.”

Frankel said a hot line, which would have been under the city’s internal auditor’s office, wasn’t necessary because the state has its own for citizens to lodge complaints. “It keeps us independent,” Frankel said. “People shouldn’t have to call us to complain about us.” Attorney Keith James, who chaired the task force, had a more positive outlook than Badesh of the panel’s achievements. “We made some very specific recommendations, they were very well thought out, and it was very well received by the city,” James said.

You know a city is ethically challenged when the treatment of its ethics task force raises ethical questions.

Welcome to West Palm Beach, which has fed two city commissioners to federal prison in the past year but cannot bring itself to adopt some obvious reforms. How about an ethics hot line? How about registering lobbyists? How about elected officials disclosing their business clients?

(Palm Beach Post, July 5, 2010)

Modest, common-sense changes that would help restore public confidence in a scandal-ridden government, but city leaders are balking. If Moses had brought the commandments to West Palm Beach, we’d have only six of them. Why the stalling? The answer from city hall is that doing too much might interfere with the work of a state grand jury — a second one — that is investigating the corruption in the city.

Mayor Lois Frankel first said the city couldn’t take up any ethics proposals “out of respect for the grand jury,” as if some conflict existed. Now, she says the city must act “methodically” and adopt selective reforms. She has declined to bring forward all the recommendations of the 10-member ethics task force she handpicked a year ago. Two members of that task force — Scott Badesh, CEO of the United Way of Palm Beach County, and David Clark, president of Palm Beach Atlantic University — have called for a meeting, ideally with city commissioners, to discuss their proposals. Dr. Clark wrote to the city that the panel needs “to meet and report or just fade away.” But no meeting. And no action on several key recommendations.

West Palm Beach attorney Keith James, the mayor’s choice to chair the task force, recently has adopted the mayor’s position on muzzling the task force. In one of the most curious bits of commentary to wash ashore in the wake of the city’s scandal, Mr. James asserts that the panel has to remain in hibernation. “I have decided that it would not be wise to meet until after the grand jury issues its report,”

Mr. James wrote to the city. “My primary concern is that our discourse will be chilled or worse, that given our frustration and dissatisfaction with some of its past work, something might be said to trigger further investigation by that body.” The comment is intriguing for several reasons. First, the only measurable “frustration and dissatisfaction” in the city with the first grand jury’s report came from Mayor Frankel and state Rep. Mary Brandenburg.

The mayor objected to the jurors’ characterization of West Palm Beach as a “pay-to-play” city that favored developers’ interests over those of common citizens. The report was not kind to the mayor.

Rep. Brandenburg, who in a strange twist of fate happens to be a member of the ethics task force, was critical of the report for suggesting that she tried to pressure a not-for-profit group to contribute to the mayor’s campaign. Rep. Brandenburg has filed legal motions to keep the grand jurors’ references about her secret.

Perhaps the more titillating part of Mr. James’ comment is that talking about ethical reform might somehow “trigger further investigation” by the current grand jury. Keith James, chairman of the city’s ethics task force, said the grand jury misunderstood the West Palm Beach ethics panel’s job. “We are a temporary task force created to give our recommendations and then be disbanded,” he said. He said the task force may recommend the creation of a permanent ethics board.

(Palm Beach Post, September 2, 2007)
(Palm Beach Post, February 3, 2007)

So what s the outcome when people forget the past?  We elected him a City Commissioner and Mayor of West Palm Beach so he can form new committee’s that go nowhere.