Two of outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller’s aides have been fined by the city’s Board of Ethics — and one of them was fired after admitting to performing unauthorized campaign work at Miller’s City Hall office.
Communications director Michael Quintero Moore and Kacy Nickens — who also happens to be Miller’s niece — were both fined by the board. Nickens was fired, too, after the pair admitted to working on fliers and other campaign material for Verna Tyner’s campaign at Miller’s office.
Miller endorsed Tyner in the May primary, after announcing that she would not seek re-election.
Moore has agreed to pay fines totaling $3,800–$1,800 for violating the city’s ethics code, which prohibits the use of city time and property for campaign work, and $2,000 for trying to obstruct the Board of Ethics’ investigation into the matter. He’s allowed to keep his $60,179 job until the end of the year, but then must seek employment outside City Hall for at least one year.
Nickens agreed to pay fines totaling $300 for doing campaign work in Miller’s office. She lost her job, at a salary of $30,000. The terms of the settlement also bar her from returning to a city job for one year.
Officials with the Board of Ethics announced the settlements early this week, after the board ratified the settlement agreements. Miller was not part of the settlement.
On May 13, just days after Miller announced her retirement, city officials raided her office, seizing stacks of documents and several computers.
According to documents released this week, they found Nickens “seated at Councilwoman Miller’s desk, surrounded by hundreds of copies of 59th Ward fliers promoting Verna Tyner … at the same time, the office photocopier was printing out additional copies of the fliers.”
Moore created the flyer using a computer, email and printer in Miller’s office, and gave more than 1,000 copies to Nickens with orders to fold them. He also admitted to creating other campaign materials for Tyner with office equipment at City Hall. In addition, documents released by the ethics board said Moore received reimbursement for the cost of putting together the fliers and used a City Hall computer to review the checks he received.
After the investigation started, Moore admitted to destroying computer files linked to the investigation and refused to take part in a board interview under oath, leading to the obstruction charge.
The investigation highlighted the barroom brawl atmosphere surrounding the election to replace Miller in the 8th District. Seven candidates ran in the primary. Tyner had Miller’s backing, but Cindy Bass, who ultimately won, had the backing of several Democratic Party bigwigs, which was unusual. Typically, the outgoing candidate anoints his or her replacement with the blessing of the party — or at the very least does not oppose the party favorite publicly.
That was not the case in this instance.
And when a letter on Miller’s official letterhead endorsing Tyner went out, ethics officials zeroed in on her office. At the time, officials from Miller’s office and Tyner’s campaign characterized the letter as “an inadvertent staff mistake.”
Tyner has a long history in City Hall, having served as chief of staff for the late Councilman At-Large David Cohen and Councilman At-Large Bill Greenlee.
Bass, who will take Miller’s seat in January, has a long history with the Democratic Party and deep ties to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.