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Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis (photo by A.G. Gancarski)

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‘Cease and desist’: Lawyers target Jacksonville City Councilman’s tweets

A Jacksonville City Councilman may face legal action for tweets about the Mayor’s Chief of Staff.

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis received a “cease and desist” letter from attorneys representing mayoral Chief of Staff Brian Hughes last week.

At issue: Dennis’ comments about Hughes on Twitter, which have stepped up in recent weeks as the 2019 campaign season has heated up.

The Law Offices of Friedman and Abrahamsen sent Dennis the letter Feb. 14.

“You are hereby directed to CEASE AND DESIST ALL DEFAMATION OF BRIAN HUGHES’ CHARACTER AND REPUTATION,” attorney Tiffany Cruz wrote.

“Mr. Hughes is an educated, respected professional in the community. He has spent a lot of time serving the community in his profession and building a positive reputation. You have engaged in spreading false, destructive, and defamatory rumors about him. Moreover, your actions are malicious and are not part of your legitimate duties as a public officer,” the letter contends.

“Your defamatory statements involved repeated ‘tweets’ through the Twitter platform. These tweets involved knowingly false allegations by you that Mr. Hughes has engaged in illegal, outside employment and that he continues to work on campaigns while serving in his role as Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Jacksonville,” the letter adds.

The tweets are still live, suggesting that Dennis won’t back down.

Indeed, the attacks aren’t stopping.

“The fact that Brian Hughes, the mayor’s chief of staff, is a notorious bully is not a secret. It is therefore comical to me that a grown man, who spends his time attacking and trolling anyone who disagrees with him or gets in his way, would get upset when it is thrown back at him,” Dennis said Friday.

“The cease and desist has no merit based on the fact that he has publicly stated he works 12 hour days (8 am to 8 pm) and some weekends, and yet has tweeted out campaign attacks during those hours,” Dennis added.

Dennis, a Democrat running for re-election in District 9, has engaged in social media flame wars with Curry and his political allies for over a year now.

As Action News Jax reported, Dennis spent much of last weekend exchanging insults with City Council President Aaron Bowman.

Bowman called Dennis “Mr. Irrelevant,” while Dennis called Bowman a “failed Council President,” amidst a series of more personal insults predicated on a Sunshine Law investigation that saw Dennis pinged for phone calls with Councilwoman Anna Brosche and Brosche’s chief aide.

Brosche, a Republican running for Mayor against Curry in the March election, is close with Dennis.

While some Council members contend that the sheer bulk of calls means that legislation likely was discussed, Dennis and Brosche have dismissed those allegations.

Dennis asserted over a year ago that he felt “bullied” by Curry and his team.

“Let me be honest and clear … standing up is not easy. I’ve been threatened by this administration. I’ve been told that I’m a ‘walking dead man’,” the councilman said.

“It’s unfortunate that I’ve had to go get a concealed weapon permit and carry a gun on me because I’ve been told by this administration that I’m a walking dead man,” Dennis said.

Hughes referred us to his attorney, who has yet to return a call.

This story continues a mini-trend of legal angles in Jacksonville politics.

Curry has gotten television stations to cease and desist playing a “false, malicious, and defamatory” Anna Brosche ad saying 109 people in Jacksonville were killed in 2019. That ad is being remixed to reflect murders over Curry’s entire term.

Curry’s campaign drew a Hatch Act complaint over using uniformed police in an ad. In a twist, the pastor who filed that complaint is hosting a campaign event for Brosche Friday evening.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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