A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski

Ashley Moody adds a political committee to her Attorney General bid arsenal

Former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, who filed in the Republican Primary for Attorney General this month, also launched a political committee this month.

The name: “Friends of Ashley Moody.

Moody has certain tailwinds behind her, including backing by current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who basically endorsed Moody even before she entered the race.

Moody has one opponent on the GOP side thus far: Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant.

Fant has $79,575 in his campaign account; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant, and $3,000 came from his political committee, “Pledge This Day,” which raised $9,000 in May.

Contributions mostly came from Northeast Florida. However, a very important northeast Florida Republican won’t do anything to help him: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

We asked an advisor to Curry if the mayor was going to overlook criticisms Fant made of him at a local Republican Party meeting and help Fant out. The answer was short and brutal.

“Not a chance.”

Without Curry’s blessing, it’s going to be difficult for Fant to compete with the resources that will be at Moody’s disposal.


Failed challenge mounted to Audrey Gibson as Duval Dems’ chair

Audrey Gibson holds two posts — State Senator and Duval Democratic Party Chair. And the man she defeated for Chair, James Deininger, says that violates party bylaws.

“I officially challenged the December results of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee (DCDEC) Chair election to the Florida Democratic Party,” Deininger told FloridaPolitics.com.

Ultimately, that challenge came to nothing. As Duval Dems’ Communications Vice-Chair James Poindexter asserts: “There is now an official ruling from Rhett Bullard, Chair of the FDP Rules Committee: ‘Audrey Gibson is the duly elected Chair of the Duval Democratic Party’.”

Deininger’s beef boiled down to this: “Gibson is ineligible to hold a county party position due to her status as an elected Democratic in Duval according to a FDP bylaw which I was made aware of at the FDP Leadership Blue Gala event in Hollywood Florida this past weekend. In my opinion, the FDP bylaws clearly convey that elected members in a county ‘…shall not serve as officers of the county Democratic Executive Committee’.”

“The only person that garnered votes in the election that was eligible to hold DCDEC office was myself and it seems that the previous DCDEC administration blatantly allowed Sen. Gibson to run as chair even though her ability to serve as Chair is a direct violation of the FDP bylaws,” Deininger wrote to the FDP.

Deininger then went even farther, saying the situation was possibly tantamount to election fraud.

“In my view, at the very worse this is election fraud and at the very least incompetency. This situation must be immediately resolved by the FDP leadership or the FDP Central Committee as it is my belief that I am the duly elected Chair of the DCDEC.”

The man who preceded Gibson as party chair, Neil Henrichsen, sent Deininger a lacerating email in reply.

Shot: “This cannot be for real. Did a Republican operative hack an email account?”

Chaser: “A white guy who complained about alleged racism in the party now wants to over throw an election that took place in accordance with the rules-check with the nominating committee or the chair’s August 2016 precinct committee election- be declared the winner with less than 30 percent of the vote!”

Poindexter had more to say, also.

“Any suggestion that Audrey Gibson is not the duly elected Chair of the Duval County Democratic Executive committee is categorically false. Our organization has many levels of membership, preserving the right to run for leadership positions to duly elected precinct committee persons. Contrary to Mr. Deininger’s spurious accusations, Sen. Gibson properly filed her paperwork, qualified for the ballot, and was duly elected as a precinct committee woman in August 2016. As an elected precinct committee woman, Sen. Gibson has the very same membership privileges Mr. Deininger, including the right to run for and serve as Chair.”

Stricter security at Jax City Hall

Attention working reporters and others with laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices in Jacksonville City Hall: expect stricter security.

We were informed today during our morning City Hall walkthrough that these devices would be checked out going forward during entrance security.

What this means, practically: have your laptops and phones powered up and in standby mode, just as one would at the airport.

This also likely will mean that smart reporters and others concerned about time management will want to arrive earlier for events, especially events that may draw a crowd, such as the Human Rights Ordinance discussion earlier this year.

Matt Carlucci files to run in 2019 for Jacksonville City Council

Months back, we broke the story that Matt Carlucci was “seriously considering” a run for Jacksonville City Council.

On Thursday, the former Jacksonville City Council President and chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics filed to do just that.

He will run to replace termed-out Greg Anderson in At Large Seat 4.

His focuses: public safety and downtown development.

“This campaign is about city first, being family focused, and keeping an eye on the long game,” Carlucci said.

Carlucci also can count on key support from outside Duval County, such as from former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, who vowed to be Carlucci’s “first contributor.”

Carlucci describes himself as partisan on the national level, but less so in the local realm.

Illustrating that independent streak, Carlucci notably supported Democrats Alvin Brown and Ken Jefferson for mayor and sheriff in 2015, bets that didn’t pay off.

That said, Carlucci has very complimentary things to say about the “strong leadership” of Mayor Lenny Curry now, calling the mayor “very bold, very decisive.”

“Lenny’s got the trains running on time,” Carlucci said.

Jake Godbold to Lenny Curry: ‘Take back the Landing’

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made news this week with his call to take back the Jacksonville Landing.

Curry Tweeted Thursday that “The Jacksonville Landing is owned by the taxpayers of Jacksonville. Sleiman Enterprises leases the landing from the city … Taxpayers deserve better for their investment & their asset.”

This comes on the heels of Curry telling the Florida Times-Union editorial board that he’d already made “soft offers” to buy the buildings.

“I’m prepared to take the Landing… I’m prepared for the city to have it and to begin in a very public way determining what its best and highest use is,” Curry told the board. “We’ve got a plan internally to put the screws and keep pushing this.”

Curry has an ally: former Mayor Jake Godbold, who noted Thursday night that “we built the Landing” and he doesn’t “like it to think it was sold to some guy who built strip malls.”

“Take it back,” Godbold said. “Let’s do something about it.”

Some important people still in City Hall are more restrained about an immediate move to “take the Landing … put the screws and keep pushing this.”

Among them: Council President-Designate Anna Brosche, who takes over the top spot on the Council in six days.

“The Landing is a vital part to downtown’s redevelopment. I am interested in learning more about the Mayor’s plan,” Brosche said, “and also learning more from the Sleimans regarding their plans.”

It seems that an immediate call to action may get some resistance from the Legislative Branch, even if former Mayor Godbold believes that there is call to take immediate action to bring the 30 year old riverfront mall to its former glory, in one form or another.

Jay Fant touts endorsements from outside Northeast Florida

Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant scored some important endorsements via State House colleagues from outside his region Thursday.

Seven legislators were named as backing him in a press release from Fant’s campaign for Attorney General: Rep. Mike Miller of Orlando; Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs; Rep. Rene Plasencia of Titusville; Rep. Joe Gruters of Sarasota; Rep. Stan McClain of Belleview; Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland; and Rep. Julio Gonzalez of Venice.

Fant hasn’t seen Jacksonville politicians rush to endorse him as of yet, with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and others in a holding pattern.

“I’m honored to have earned the support of these colleagues in the Florida House,” said Fant. “I’ve worked alongside my fellow House members on legislation important to all Floridians, and I hope to continue working with them from the executive branch.”

“We have a vision for Florida consistent with our values,” Fant added, “that freedom comes first and that we have a duty to protect our citizens from too much government.”

These endorsements put wind behind the sails of the Fant campaign, as it prepares to dock at Jacksonville’s tony Florida Yacht Club for a Jun. 29 fundraiser.

U.S. opposes Corrine Brown acquittal motion

To the surprise of no sentient person, the United States doesn’t want to acquit Corrine Brown of her 18 guilty counts in her federal trial over the fraudulent One Door for Education charity.

“The thrust of the motion is that there was no direct evidence presented at trial of the defendant’s criminal intent. The defendant’s motion overlooks (and outright ignores) the extensive proof that the defendant intentionally participated in a three-year scheme to syphon cash from the coffers of the bogus charity One Door for Education,” the government’s memo, released Thursday, reads.

“The defendant fails to acknowledge that her subordinate and co-conspirator, Ronnie Simmons, testified that she directed him to give her cash that she raised for One Door for Education. The defendant also ignores compelling evidence that she knowingly and intentionally lied on her required financial disclosure forms and Form 1040 tax returns in an effort to conceal her systemic fraud,” the memo continues.

Much of the motion questions Brown’s credibility. For example: “Corrine Brown posits that Ronnie Simmons and Carla Wiley conspired and perpetrated such schemes – but she denies being a knowing participant.This argument ignores the bulk of the evidence presented at trial.”

The feds also maintain that Brown, purely by dint of the flow of monies in her direction, was proven to be “an intentional and culpable participant in the One Door for Education fraudulent scheme based solely on the extent of the benefits that she received. It defies logic to believe that Simmons would perpetrate the One Door for Education conspiracy with Wiley, and then provide the lion’s share of the benefits to his boss.”

Also defying logic: the idea that Brown didn’t know One Door was a hustle: “Donor testimony established that the defendant began fundraising for One Door, touting its charitable and educational focus. Corrine Brown did so in the absence of any information that One Door was issuing scholarships or otherwise doing good for disadvantaged children.”

As well, the memo throws some dirt on the China trip canard: “The defendant’s motion makes much of the fact that One Door funds were used to pay for students’ travel to China …  Prior to working on the China Trip, the defendant pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in One Door cash. By then, the defendant was well aware of her ability to raise large sums of money for One Door, and that she would be able to continue to steal money when donor money poured in to fund the China Trip – which is precisely what happened.”

Brown stole and tried to cover it up, the Feds maintain, including to Congress: “This evidence of streams of cash that went unreported on tax returns also serves to support the jury’s finding of guilt as to Count 19, which concerned Corrine Brown’s scheme to conceal these sources of income from the House of Representatives and the public.”

The memo also takes time to throw a jab at another politician with ethical challenges, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who substantiated fake contributions to his non-profit, via “near annual letters claiming that Brown gave tens of thousands of dollars by cash or check and in-kind contributions (none of which could be substantiated) to the CRC.”

CRC, or Community Rehabilitation Center, is currently being sued by an employee who claims she was fired for insisting upon state-mandated AIDS training when dealing with HIV-positive patients in the field. She never got that training, including after asking Gaffney to intercede.



Jax to Katrina Brown’s family business: Pay up and tack on the interest

The city of Jacksonville has a message for two shell corporations for which Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown is title manager.

Pay us the $210,549.99 you owe us.

And while you’re at it, tack on another $10,585.01 for interest, calculated back to June 2016, when the city of Jacksonville began to move toward litigation.

An amended motion for default was filed by the city with the Duval County Court on Jun. 20, with the city pressing two shell companies — “CoWealth LLC” and “Basic Products LLC” — for the interest on top of the originally-sought $210,549.99.

The disputed sum is a clawback provision in a 2011 economic development deal, as the BBQ sauce plant the Brown family was starting up was supposed to create 56 jobs in the economically-challenged Northwest side of Jacksonville.

However, after five years plus, the plant created exactly zero permanent jobs, 56 jobs short of the 56 job goal.

CoWealth originally borrowed $2.65 million from Biz Capital, in addition to $380,000 from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants, for the sauce plant. The city’s interest is subordinate to that of Biz Capital.

Despite the failure of the BBQ sauce plant, the fortunes of the companies’ title manager have only gotten more favorable.

Brown is a first-term Jacksonville City Councilwoman who will spend her second straight year ensconced on the Finance Committee, in which capacity she evaluates economic development deals that, in all likelihood, will work out better in terms of tangible goals than the BBQ sauce swamp in which millions of dollars of incentive money was sunk this decade.

Brown, who drives a Porsche SUV, had shown up last Monday morning at the Jacksonville City Council for an Ethics Meeting, at which point we attempted to ask her the status of this case.

“I continue to tell you no comment. You can ask me a thousand times and I would still say no comment,” Brown said.

Vague cannabis comments from Adam Putnam highlight news-free Q&A

In a Facebook Q&A Thursday, Adam Putnam came closest to making news in discussing medical marijuana, albeit briefly and with no traceable scent of policy position.

In his last Q&A, Putnam noted, he called for a Special Session on the subject. And it came to pass.

With the Special Session wrapped, Putnam is “glad the elected officials” rather than “unelected bureaucrats” set up rules.

“I want to make sure Florida doesn’t turn into California or Colorado,” Putnam added regarding the future of cannabis, the vague red meat belying any hint that he has spent his entire life in one policy-making position or another.

Putnam didn’t address the controversy about “smokable” marijuana not being included in the new rules, and contentions from such as John Morgan that the pending law flies in the face of Amendment 2.

On or off the subject of cannabis, Putnam truncated any specific policy detail, in favor of the kind of big-picture blandishments road-tested in his campaign appearances elsewhere.

In a political climate that privileges the outsider pitch, Putnam — as has been the case during this campaign — hewed closely to the accomplishments and mindset of the Rick Scott era, and Scott-esque rhetoric suffused by an almost incantatory blandness.

Putnam asserted that Florida should be the most “veteran … military … and senior” friendly state, a position that no one really could disagree with.

Regarding schools, teachers should get the “honor” they deserve and “great principals” to work with.

Putnam also asserted that he’s a “true conservative” on issues such as the 2nd Amendment; limited government, said Putnam, would make Florida the “launchpad for the American dream.”

A surprising amount of questions for a midday Q&A focused on policy minitua about being Commissioner of Agriculture, allowing for such as epic digressions into the role of the Florida Forest Service.

Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley talk Israel, UN reform needs

On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio spoke on Capitol Hill with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, addressing U.S. international engagement and needed reforms at the U.N.

It was more like a puff-piece interview than a probing dialogue, with no daylight between positions and rhetoric of the two.

Rubio referred to one of Haley’s challenges being that Trump’s campaign positions on foreign policy were less than clear; Haley saw that as an opportunity, especially in the wake of the strikes on Syria, which showed that the U.S, is “moving things.”

Much of the conversation came back to Israel.

Rubio was shocked by a permanent agenda item on the Human Rights Council targeting Israel, which both he and Haley found to be appalling.

Rubio described it as a “disproportionate focus on Israel,” with Haley emphatic about how Israel was getting bashed by “every single country.”

“It was abusive. They did it in a way that you could tell was a habit,” Haley said. “I did say that things needed to change.”

“Israel was kind of like the kid in the schoolyard that got picked on,” Haley said, with Rubio asserting that Haley’s “challenge” caused a reappraisal of UN member nations toward Israel.

Later on, Haley added that Israel is “getting ready” for Hezbollah, noting that conflict between Israel and Jordan would present a crisis.

Haley also lauded Jordan’s intake of Syrian refugees, noting that they prevent fraud by using “eyescans” at shop check out counters.

“We should be doing that,” Haley marveled, to prevent fraud.

“It is our job to support those host countries,” Haley said, regarding Jordan and Turkey.


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