In a unanimous vote, the City Commission installed a policy Tuesday night that forbids vendors vying for contracts from communicating with elected leaders and city staff from the moment the bid is advertised until it is approved.
The new policy, dubbed the "Cone of Silence," is intended to prevent even the appearance of impropriety in Key West government at a time when the city has almost $100 million in construction projects on tap.
Commissioner Tony Yaniz sponsored the measure, which became law Tuesday night without any discussion, saying it would prevent officials and staff from being burdened with excessive calls from companies during the island's building boom.
Complaints would go to the City Attorney's Office, which would investigate to determine whether a violation had taken place, the law says.
Penalties for city staff breaking the silence law include firing. Companies that racked up two violations would lose the ability to bid on new jobs.
City commissioners have the right to declare a solicitation void if a vendor is found to have breached the policy.
Key West ceremoniously broke ground this month on an $8.5 million transit station for the city's fleet of buses, and took over the deed to the Glynn Archer School in order to renovate it into a grand City Hall.
Recently the city received 13 bids to build the new fire station on Angela Street. A bid is expected to be awarded in October.
'Pill mill' prevention
Commissioners on Tuesday also approved the first reading of a proposed zoning law that would limit where pain management clinics could set up shop in Key West.
The law faces final approval next month.
Key West hasn't a single pain management clinic, a business that dispenses prescription medications such as oxycodone.
But City Planner Don Craig brought up the idea to install some restrictions after taking calls a year ago from such business people thinking about relocating to the island.
"It provides a method for legitimate pain management clinics to be established," Craig told commissioners Tuesday. "What it is intended to do is prevent the establishment of pain management clinics in an unregulated way."
The proposed zoning law would restrict clinics to New Town's commercial district and prohibit a clinic within 500 feet of a school, pharmacy or hospital.
The Planning Board approved the zoning plan in April.
Key West can't put a limit on the number of pain clinics allowed, Craig said, without risking a lawsuit.
Also, the Police Department would be notified of any pain-clinic applications filed with city.
Craig said police asked for notification in order to investigate potential applicants for any "related criminal activity."