Jax Archives - Florida Politics

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.

Jacksonville Bold for 6.23.17 — New blood rising

The two most powerful people in Jacksonville politics starting in July: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Council President Anna Brosche.

The two have similarities: introverted personalities, CPAs, Republicans in their mid-40s.

And they have differences — which will soon need resolution.

There are those who lined up with Brosche in the Council presidency race who allege that one of Curry’s senior staff twisted arms to get people to support John Crescimbeni. There are also those who claim Tommy Hazouria Curry ally like Crescimbeni despite being a senior Democrat, had the head of the fire union making calls for Crescimbeni in a classic hell-freezes-over moment.

Brosche, in short, has no incentive to play ball. Allegedly.

Smart folks in City Hall will watch what happens July 17, when Curry drops his budget, and in August, when a reconfigured Finance Committee makes its tweaks to the document … with Sam Mousa and Mike Weinstein from the Mayor’s Office reminding those on hand how the game was played the first two years.

Will the new blood on Finance care? And will Curry’s allies have enough juice?

Of course, Council can’t sign contracts — that’s the mayor’s role. Whatever tension might exist between Council Leadership, and the Mayor’s Office (and the pressure inside Council itself) will need resolution — otherwise, it will be a quotable, newsworthy third year for Lenny Curry … which would not have been the case had Crescimbeni prevailed.

Lots of City Hall in this edition, but there is other news as well. Including a congressman sticking close to President Trump

John Rutherford doesn’t worry about Trump/Russia connection

On Tuesday in Jacksonville, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford — an ally of Donald Trump — discussed the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the parallel investigations of the Trump Administration.

On issue after issue, no daylight between White House and John Rutherford.

“I want them to look at Russia’s attempt to interject themselves into our election process through cyberactivity and all that,” Rutherford said, “but I don’t see any collusion, I don’t think they’re going to find any collusion. It’s been almost six months now.”

“If they were going to find collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, I think it would have already been uncovered. So I’m not concerned at all about that. And I’m also not concerned about this idea that somehow … whatever the conversation was with [former FBI Director James] Comey, obstruction of justice,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford believes that much of the maelstrom around this story is politically motivated.

“Not the investigation that’s dealing with the cyberattack. Obviously, that occurred; we know it occurred; we know it’s been occurring. In fact,” said Rutherford, “we have to address not only the Russian hacking and others — China, others — who hacked not only our voting system but also our electrical grids and all sorts of attacks we’re experiencing.”

New blood rising

Was the fix in? Some in Jacksonville’s City Hall claim a quid pro quo was in play when President-Designate Brosche announced her new committee assignments.

The big takeaway: four African-American Democrats backing her for the presidency ended up on the Finance Committee.

Anna Brosche will be a change agent in the Council presidency.

The priorities of their historically underserved communities will take a prominent place in the budget process, as the city digests its “budget relief” to come. The four members will be a decisive bloc in the process, signaling a shift from previous years.

There is grumbling, of course, from some in City Hall about these picks: off-record comments about “deals” and the like. Whatever the case, though, it worked out in the short term. Brosche got the presidency, and African-American Democrats will call the shots on Finance.

The big losers: Brosche’s opponent, John Crescimbeni, along with key backers Tommy Hazouri and Bill Gulliford — the latter of which vowed early on that he would not serve on a standing committee under Brosche — and that came to pass.

Gulliford noted that he is “conspicuously absent” from committees.

“I offered my services,” Gulliford said, “but I guess she didn’t need me … time for new blood, I guess.”

Offices are being moved. Seating is being shuffled. And the good ol’ boys are having a bad time so far.

Lenny’s Landing

Curry made it clear to the Florida Times-Union editorial board Wednesday that he wants the Jacksonville Landing back under city control.

The riverfront mall, a novelty in 1987, is an eyesore in 2017.

In 1987, the Landing and Rick Astley were among the novelties.

He said he’s made “soft offers” to buy the buildings, but the owners have “drawn a line in the sand.”

“We’ve got a plan internally to put the screws and keep pushing this,” Curry said during a meeting with the Times-Union editorial board. “The city ought to have that property now and be working a plan to find the best and highest use for it, maybe with a private entity, perhaps not.”

Opioid apocalypse

The opioid overdose epidemic continues unabated in Jacksonville, with more details coming out on the city’s strategy to address it.

911 calls for overdoses: up 3x in two years, with 421 this February. $4M of a $1.1B budget for transport, and more money for Narcan.

The proposed plan: $1.5M for a program called “Project Save Lives.”

Bill Gulliford will move to Montana once he leaves Council in 2019. Some of his colleagues will miss him more than others.

A measure of Gulliford’s declining stroke in Council was to be found during committee discussion of the bill; while it got through the panels. Gulliford was buffeted by criticism that bordered on the personal, especially by Finance Chair-Designate Garrett Dennis and Finance Vice Chair-Designate Danny Becton.

What do they pay you to do?

Community Rehabilitation Center, the non-profit run by Councilman Reggie Gaffney, is being sued by a whistleblower who asserts she had to deal with HIV-positive clients without state-mandated training.

Gaffney ducked responsibility, saying that staff trained people, despite the plaintiff arguing that she went to Gaffney but got no recourse — and ended up fired for her trouble.

Reggie Gaffney works Doyle Carter during a meeting in 2016.

Gaffney’s cover story? He was too busy with City Council to handle CRC business. However, Gaffney managed to make $90,000 a year while on City Council — working 50 hours a week, according to CRC’s 2016 tax return.

When we asked Gaffney about these seeming discrepancies Tuesday afternoon, specifically how it was that he was able to spend his “time being a City Councilman,” while pulling down $90,000 a year for a 50-hour workweek, Gaffney offered a “no comment” before asserting that he works “80 hours a week, seven days a week.”

Responsibility for training, he said, rested with his HR person and his staff.

“I do know this: last 24 years, I probably hired 500 or 600 [staffers], and we’ve trained them all the same,” Gaffney said earlier Tuesday.

JEA to move HQ

WOKV reports that JEA has finally worked out a plan to get out from under the JEA Tower, an older building in need of tens of millions of dollars of repair work.

That plan: a land swap.

A view of the tower’s top from Jacksonville City Hall.

“We commissioned a consultant to look at the study for us and look at some of the options that we have for our Downtown campus, and between their work and ours, we’ve concluded the best path forward is to build a new campus,” said chief financial officer Melissa Dykes Tuesday.

The land is adjacent to the Duval County Courthouse, in an area of downtown characterized by sparse, outmoded development and blight.

JTA on the move

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is making some audacious moves that they hope will offer regional transportation solutions.

Electric buses: part of the conceptual future.

Richard Clark of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority contacted Mayor Curry for support on a federal grant application last week.

“JTA is submitting a Low-No grant application for electric buses that will help serve the Amazon facility on the Northside. This will be the beginning of JTA’s electric vehicle/bus fleet,” Clark wrote in a June 14 email.

The program, asserted Clark, will use JEA’s “Solar Smart” program, which “ensures the powering of the buses will be from their solar system … 100 percent renewable.”

Pols and dignitaries pick up shovels at a long-awaited groundbreaking.

Meanwhile, JTA had a groundbreaking this week on its Regional Transportation Center.

The JTA center, to be constructed in Jacksonville’s historic LaVilla neighborhood, will accommodate Greyhound, Uber, Megabus, the Skyway, First Coast Flyer and other modes of travel, in what is designed to be a regional focus.

Greyhound will go online in January 2018; construction of the whole 50,000 square foot center will be completed by the fall of 2019, a process abetted by JTA having “$33 million in pocket” for the work on the $50M project, one that is expected to turn LaVilla into a “live, work and play” center for this part of town.

Jacksonville mulls raising emergency reserve

Some Jacksonville City Councilors wanted to boost the city’s emergency reserve from 5 percent to 6 percent in January, but were advised to hold off until pension reform was finalized.

With that herculean task complete, the Mayor’s Office is set, via its new budget, to raise that level — though the operating reserve would be cut to 7 percent from 8 percent, meaning reserve levels would be the same.

What’s more thrilling than a discussion of sound accounting practices?

A big story of the budget season has been the Mayor’s Office cautioning various departments that budget relief does not mean a spending spree, with some grousing about Councilors wanting to dip into the general fund for spending outside the budget process.

In that context, the proposed raise of the emergency reserve is significant, in seeing what the priorities of the Curry Administration will be going forward.

Eight ain’t enough

Term limits were imposed by voter plebiscite on the Jacksonville City Council decades back, yet Councilman Matt Schellenberg believes that institutional knowledge outweighs voter predilection.

Don’t throw shade at Matt Schellenberg; his chapeau has that covered.

To that end, he introduced — for the second time in just over a year — legislation to repeal two-term limits.

It would be for councilors, School Board members, and constitutional officers — except for the Mayor.

The legislation cleared committees February but was pulled, as the referendum would have competed with the pension reform referendum on the August ballot, and the Best Bet slots referendum on the November ballot.

With those referendums in the rearview mirror, it’s all-clear to bring back the bill.

The sub proposes three four-year terms, rather than the abolishment of term limits.

“In four years, do we change it to four, maybe,” Council VP John Crescimbeni quipped.

Reform coming for Jax children’s programs

The Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey — two programs that serve “at-hope” Jacksonville children, with the idea of keeping them away from temptations of crime and vice, are under scrutiny, Mayor Curry told us this month.

“We are beyond tweaking when it comes to these programs we deliver to children, and big reforms are coming,” Curry emphasized.

Lenny Curry reads to a child in 2015, during Jax Journey fact-finding tour.

“We’re working through exactly what those reforms are going to look like. I will have reached a decision inside of two weeks.”

“I’m looking at making sure that we have programs that are very clear and meeting the needs of specific ‘at-hope youth’ that are the solution to prevention and intervention,” Curry said, using a phrase he first used two weeks prior when announcing $988,000 of new money available for youth summer camps.

“We’ve got to be very clear about how we deliver those services and make sure we’re getting results, and make sure that the management team is aggressive in terms of pursuing those goals, and that the whole governance structure is aggressive as well, and hold them accountable,” Curry said.

The Curry Administration is not averse to re-orgs: the Neighborhoods Department was reinstated in Curry’s term after being phased out in the previous administration.

Hot hot hot

Folks in the real estate game talk about how hot Jacksonville real estate is — at least in the areas of town where people actually want to live. And external confirmation came this month via MarketWatch, which deemed Jacksonville the seventh hottest real estate market in the country.

The survey “looked at 120 metropolitan areas that had at least 100,000 single-family homes and condos. Those that scored the highest combined affordable homes with access to jobs.”

Jacksonville’s “tale of two cities” narrative has long since become a cliché. But — at least for now — there are “great expectations” for Jacksonville’s real estate market. Location, location, location.

Riverkeeper decries dredge; water is wet

The long-awaited dredging of the St. Johns River to 47 feet near JAXPORT delights most politicians, yet appalls the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

On Thursday, the Riverkeeper decried the “deep dredge runaround” of late from pro-dredging forces in the press.

Riverkeeper wants Jax to hedge on dredge, but momentum is with the dig.

The news release describes dredging advocates as “frustrated by the lack of funding support” for the project backed by port advocates, an interesting tack to take in light of $17.5M in federal money and support for the project from the state as well.

The frustration, the Riverkeeper says, resulted in a scaling down of the project from 13 to 11 miles.

The Riverkeeper also cites evidence of contravened transparency, including a lack of public hearing, a lack of local funding or a cost estimate meeting the Riverkeeper’s muster, no analysis of the new specs from the Army Corps of Engineers, and an ongoing lawsuit from the Riverkeeper.

Meanwhile, projections of jobs and other economic impacts are deemed to be overblown.

Bring a checkbook to the Yacht Club

Save the date!

On June 29, Jacksonville’s Florida Yacht Club will be about more than yachts: the exclusive location will hold a fundraiser for one of Duval’s own sons as he mounts a statewide campaign for Attorney General.

From the FOP to the Florida Yacht Club, Jay Fant hustles for votes and ducats.

State Rep. Jay Fant‘s event, which promises “fellowship” and an opportunity to “hear about the campaign,” runs from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The biggest name on the host committee: former Jacksonville City Council President Greg Anderson, who may be double-booked that evening, as the installation of new officers for the Jacksonville City Council will be held at 6 p.m. June 29 at the Times-Union Center.

Contributions are to be made at attendees’ “discretion.”

In May, Fant showed some fundraising momentum with the Northeast Florida donor class.

Fant emerged with $79,575 of new money; 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.

 

 

Save the date: Clay Yarborough fundraiser

State Rep. Yarborough hosts a high-profile fundraiser for his House District 12 re-election campaign Tuesday, June 27, beginning 5 p.m. at the Jacksonville offices of Foley & Lardner, One Independent Dr., Suite 1300. Guests include State Sens. Aaron BeanRob Bradley, and Travis Hutson; State Reps. Cord Byrd, Paul Renner, Cyndi Stevenson, Travis Cummings and Jason Fischer; Jacksonville City Councilman Gulliford and Marty Fiorentino, among others.

Bean named 2017 Child Advocate of Year

The Fernandina Beach Republican was awarded Northeast Florida Pediatric Society’s (NEFPS) 2017 Child Advocate of the Year. This award recognizes support and commitment to pediatric medicine and the delivery of quality health care to the children of Florida.

Aaron Bean receives Northeast Florida Pediatric Society’s (NEFPS) 2017 Child Advocate of the Year award.

“As a longtime advocate for pediatric health care and a former chairman of the Senate Health Policy Committee, I understand the importance of constantly working to improve the health of our children and making sure all of Florida’s youth have access to exceptional pediatric care,” Bean said in a statement.

Volunteers needed for July 5 Beach Cleanup

Keep Jacksonville Beautiful and the City of Jacksonville join Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol to call for volunteers for its annual July 5 Beaches Cleanup following the Independence Day holiday. From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., volunteers will be given litter collection bags and gloves at Atlantic Boulevard at the ocean, Beach Boulevard at the ocean and 16th Avenue South at the ocean to remove litter and debris along the shoreline, weather permitting. Participants must be at least 18 or accompanied by an adult, should wear sturdy footwear and sun protection, and should bring their own drinking water. For more information, call Keep Jacksonville Beautiful at (904) 255-8276 or the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol at (904) 613-6081.

Downtown Jax rising

More than dozen projects in the works for Downtown Jacksonville. Some are under construction, while others are moving through the approval and planning process.

According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, projects include: The Lofts at LaVilla, a 130-unit apartment project (30 percent pre-leased) near the Prime Osborn Convention Center; Laura Street Trio, planned to have a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, bodega, café, restaurant, rooftop bar and retail space; Barnett Bank building, with nearly $1 million in construction permits are pending for the project that will house about 100 market-rate apartments, a ground-floor bank and retail space.

Other projects are Lofts at Monroe, which begin August in La Villa. Plans call for a five-story, 108-unit affordable housing complex marketed to people making $29,000 a year or less.

Elena Flats is one of more than a dozen revitalization projects in one stage or another in Downtown Jacksonville.

Developer Mike Balanky wants to turn a Downtown Cathedral District block into a mixed-use project, featuring 115 to 120 apartments, and retail space at the former Community Connections, Inc. building. Vista Brooklyn is a rooftop pool and beer garden to include 14,000 square feet of retail space, 308 apartments, and an eight-story parking garage. Doro District will transform a vacant industrial building at Forsyth Street and A. Philip Randolph Boulevard into an entertainment complex. Elena Flats, one of just three remaining Downtown apartment buildings constructed in the 20 years after the Great Fire of 1901, is being restored to its original historic state.

Following loss, Armada goes back to work against Puerto Rico FC for Heritage Night

Following a loss in Miami Saturday that dropped the Armada eight points behind the first-place team from South Florida and into third in the NASL table, Kartik Krishnaiyer reports that Jacksonville gets back to work this Saturday against Puerto Rico. For that game, the club will celebrate Puerto Rico Heritage Night. Kickoff is set 6 p.m. at Hodges Stadium on the UNF Campus.

This will be the third meeting in history between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico, and the first in the 2017 North American Soccer League Spring Season. Puerto Rico FC is in last place in the league and if Jacksonville is going to make a final run at the Spring title with four games left they must win this game.

Music from local Puerto Rican music group, Renacer Borincano, will be filling the stands at Hodges Stadium. Fans are encouraged to bring guiros, campanas, panderos, shekeres, and other Puerto Rican instruments to the match and join in the mix of Bomba and Plena music during halftime.

The concourse concessions will be featuring Boricua and Taino Puerto Rican beer for sale. Concessions will also be cooking empanadillas and alcapurrias for those who want a taste of Puerto Rico on this branded theme night.

Also, several Jacksonville Jaguars rookies will be attending as part of the pre-match coin toss. After warmups, fans will have the special opportunity to meet the rookies and get their autographs along the grandstand fence. This is third successive year the Jaguars and Armada have had coordinated event at a soccer match.

Community First Credit Union will be holding a contest before kickoff to upgrade four lucky fans’ seats to the VIP suite at Hodges Stadium. Fans can enter to win at the Community First Credit Union table on the concourse. The lucky winners will experience the exciting action like never before with all-inclusive food and beverages, gifts, and comfortable accommodations inside the VIP suite.

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.

Money troubles for Corrine Brown legal defense fund

Two weeks ago, Corrine Brown filed motions for a new trial and for acquittal after being found guilty of 18 counts in federal court.

While there has been no ruling on either motion, there is a suggestion that Brown may have a difficult time funding action even if she gets a positive result on her motions.

The Corrine Brown Legal Expense Trust Fund webpage indicates that, despite a willingness to accept donations of up to $5,000, the account is “0 percent funded.”

There is no indication on the webpage of what 100 percent funded would be, but the lack of traction is a strong indication that her supporters in bygone times have gone without saying bye.

For those who want a quid pro quo from Queen Corrine, there is also a merchandise shop with #AcquitCorrine paraphenalia.

Not pictured: home honey dripper kits, or Strawberry Bellini to make Brown’s erstwhil signature libation.

Lenny Curry clarifies – again – Paris Accord position

Weeks after issuing a Tweet that could reasonably be interpreted to support President Donald Trump‘s decision to break the Paris Accord, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry still fields questions on the subject.

Curry responded to a citizen email this week on the matter, elaborating on statements he made in a presser that was — before his Tweet — focused on the more quotidian topic of summer camp funding.

“As mayor,” Curry noted, “I do not take a specific position on the international Paris Climate Accord. President Trump campaigned on protecting American workers and our nation’s economic interests.”

“As mayor,” Curry added, “I support those goals, to create conditions that are conducive to good jobs and economic growth here in Jacksonville. When the president and his administration act in a way that is in the best interest of working Americans, I am supportive of that.”

Curry cited his administration’s stewardship of natural resources as “an important commitment I make to the future success of our city. That is why I have created budgets that will phase out septic tanks that threaten our river, reduce our energy consumption, and preserve green spaces.”

Curry closed with a capital-R Republican conclusion that would be at home in a Cato Institute web post.

“This commitment here in Jacksonville is made, and will continue, without interference from federal authorities and regardless of international agreements that burden U.S. taxpayers while other nations fail to meet the same standards we do here in our nation. Policies that harm the U.S. economy are not good for the environment, taxpayers, or our long-term success,” Curry concluded.

Curry’s emailed response follows up on his presser comments.

Curry, during a press conference Friday morning discussing summer camp funding, explained his Tweet, which he said “spoke for itself.”

“I didn’t take a specific position,” Curry said about the Paris Accord, saying his Tweet was a “general statement of support” for Trump’s actions.

Rather, Curry supports President Trump’s commitment to “American jobs.” But he did outline qualms with the agreement itself, including no obligation imposed on China until 2030, which means “13 years on the backs of American workers.”

And other European countries, Curry said, are seeing their emissions go up, even as American emission levels decrease.

The Paris Accord, Curry added, “has no teeth to it.”

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