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Campaign finance trouble bubbles up for Kim Daniels

Before Rep. Kim Daniels ran for the State House in 2016, she ran for re-election for the Jacksonville City Council.

In that capacity, Daniels had some campaign finance issues, as Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly reported in February 2015.

Daniels used $4,000 of campaign funds to promote her book, The Demon Dictionary, in a religious magazine called Shofar.

Daniels also offered editorials in the magazine, and no disclaimers marking the communiques as campaign communications were on offer.

A local activist/journalist, David Vandygriff of JaxGay.com, filed an FEC complaint, and in March of 2016, staff recommended to the commission that there was probable cause to believe that an election code violation might have occurred.

A year later — Feb. 28, to be exact — it was revealed that the FEC asserts three potential counts of violations of the law.

Count 1 states that on or about March 1, 2014, Daniels used campaign funds to defray normal living expenses.

That violates Statute 106.1405, which asserts that  contributions cannot be used “to defray normal living expenses for the candidate or the candidate’s family, other than expenses actually incurred for transportation, meals, and lodging by the candidate or a family member during travel in the course of the campaign.

Count 2 asserts a prohibited expenditure during the same time frame, violating 106.19(1)(d).

Count 3 asserts a report of false information on or about April 9, 2014, violating 106.19(1)(c) — a date that coincides with when her campaign finance information would have been filed.

Vandygriff notes that the first count was outside the scope of his original complaint.

Daniels’ campaign finance reports were idiosyncratic.

She seeded her re-election campaign with $50,000, then as the campaign progressed, had small dollar donations that were as low as $2.

Her expenditures began in March 2014 with the $4,000 ad in Shofar, continuing on with a lot of less-than-transparent notations for advertisements, payments and refunded payments, and a lot of money spent on canvassers and her campaign manager, Bradford Hall.

Daniels has a number of avenues to resolve this matter, including via consent order, an informal hearing, or a formal hearing.

At press time, it is unknown how she will handle this matter.

Jacksonville City Council ‘community events’ policy up for review

Jacksonville City Councilmen Bill Gulliford and Reggie Brown convened Wednesday to revisit an issue from months back: “community events” in the council districts.

Bill 2016-489 allocated $70,000 to be split up among the 19 council members, for the purposes of staging educational community events in districts.

For Brown, this issue is critical — his constituents often have questions about city services.

Among the legislation’s terms: city dollars would only pay for internal costs, such as city resources relative to police and fire/rescue, bleachers, and so on.

Though legislation got through after an extensive review process, Brown still has an issue, and a desire to assist community organizations that might seek to host events, with “simple things like stages and bleachers.”

The hard costs to the city for a four hour community event: just north of $2,000.

Brown noted that those costs add up quickly in a $70,000 budget split 19 ways.

“The city should be responsible for hosting activities in the park,” Brown said.

Gulliford noted the fluid distinction between what is and what isn’t a community group, especially related to associations without a formal structure.

This got to the heart of Brown’s concerns.

“At any park, 1000 people can show up, and [police and fire and rescue] are not out there. It’s better for folks to be unorganized,” Brown said, given that an organized group establishing the same burden would have mandates to have a certain amount of public safety workers out there.

Likewise, Brown said, the city permits “block parties” — street closures between the hours of 8 am and 11 pm, contingent on signed approval of 60 percent of residents whose ingress and egress would be impacted.

“Right now, it’s cheaper to take it to the streets than to our parks,” Brown said, noting that block parties are harder to manage than park events and contain the same liability concerns for the city.

Jacksonville City Council moves microlending, ex-offender jobs, travel budget bills

On a Tuesday agenda largely bereft of drama, the Jacksonville City Council moved bills related to microlending for small businesses, jobs for ex-offenders, and a boost for the council’s travel budget.

All approvals were unanimous.

____

Microfinance: 2016-486 revives the city’s Access to Capital program for Jacksonville’s Small and Emerging Business program, allowing microfinancing from $5,000 to $100,000 for Jacksonville’s small and emerging businesses.

A sum of $979,380 will be provided for this third-party administered program from the city. Of that money, $150,000 goes to administrative capital, with the balance going toward the JSEB capital pool.

The hope among policy makers: that more loans can be advanced to local small and emerging businesses. The previous pace was 10 a year, and the hope is that more loans — to be granted at an 8.99 percent interest rate for up to five years — can be offered.

____

Ex-offender jobs: A watered-down version of a bill (2017-35) requiring that city contractors hire ex-offenders looks poised to get through the full council.

The substitute version of the bill allows contractors to hire ex-offenders who did not emerge from city-subsidized re-entry programs while requiring “satisfactory evidence” of at least an attempt to hire an ex-offender.

Program providers would be responsible for providing a list of ex-offenders with skill sets, and contact contractors after they win the bid.

The Associated Builders and Contractors balked at the original version of the bill, asserting that it imposed an onerous burden on contractors by requiring them to do the legwork of reaching out to program providers — that argument proved more persuasive to council members as the bill worked through committees, leading to a deferral and the current substitute two weeks prior.

Councilman Al Ferraro noted that, while he is “all in favor of helping offenders,” he’s “not for big government,” which gave him pause on this bill.

Bill sponsor Garrett Dennis explained what had happened during the long and tedious committee process on the legislation at hand, explaining that the bill came down to “consider[ing] hiring an ex-offender.”

That was good enough for Ferraro.

Dennis thanked the council for supporting the measure, saying that it shows “how serious we are about fighting crime.”

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Safe Travels: One unintended consequence of a hard cap of $3,000 on travel budgets for council members has been an impediment to traveling to association events, such as those held by the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties.

The issue has percolated for some time, and 2017-97 resolves that issue, with $15,918 appropriated from the current year’s budget for such travel.

Going forward, $20,000 or 10 percent of association membership fees will be appropriated for delegation travel.

Reggie Gaffney draws second challenger for Jacksonville City Council

Despite the election for Jacksonville City Council seats being two years away, a second candidate has jumped in to oppose incumbent Reggie Gaffney.

Marc McCulloughwho ran in 2011 and 2015, is running again in District 7.

In 2015, McCullough drew 408 votes — good for 3.5 percent — in the first election.

McCullough’s entry follows that of Chaussee Gibson, who filed last week.

McCullough conducted a 2015 candidate interview with the Florida Times-Union, in which he outlined his positions on the issues of the day.

Gaffney has not filed to run for re-election yet; what is clear, however, is that people in the district see him as vulnerable.

Anna Brosche, Aaron Bowman gain support in bids for Jacksonville council leadership

On Tuesday, the race to be the next president of the Jacksonville City Council tightened up, with Anna Brosche getting her fifth commitment.

Meanwhile, Aaron Bowman — the frontrunner in the race for vice-president — expanded his lead over Scott Wilson.

____

On the presidential side, Matt Schellenberg pledged to support his fellow Republican, joining Sam NewbyAl FerraroAaron Bowman and the candidate herself in support of Brosche.

Brosche has five pledges. The current council vice-president, John Crescimbeni, has seven committed supporters (Tommy HazouriBill GullifordGreg AndersonJim LoveScott WilsonJoyce Morgan, and Crescimbeni himself.

It takes ten to win.

Currently uncommitted: Danny Becton, President Lori BoyerReggie GaffneyKatrina BrownGarrett DennisReggie Brown, and Doyle Carter.

Gaffney, Brown, Dennis, and Brown are all Democrats, like Crescimbeni. They held a meeting last week to hear what candidates for the top job had to offer their districts. They have yet to commit to any candidate, and Gaffney was a question mark until the vote itself last year, when he voted for Crescimbeni, swinging the election.

The other three are Republicans.

Meanwhile, the race for veep is also lively.

Aaron Bowman, came out of Tuesday with six commitments, compared to three for Scott Wilson.

Schellenberg backs Bowman, as does Doyle Carter.

Jacksonville City Council contemplates crowded agenda Tuesday

There is never a dull moment at a meeting of the Jacksonville City Council. On Tuesday, councilors mull microfinance, ex-offender jobs, and travel budgets.

____

Microfinance: 2016-486 revives the city’s Access to Capital program for Jacksonville’s Small and Emerging Business program, allowing microfinancing from $5,000 to $100,000 for Jacksonville’s small and emerging businesses.

A sum of $932,032.65 will be provided for this third-party administered program from the city. Of that money, $425,000 goes to administrative capital, with the balance going toward the JSEB capital pool, which will have $829,000 available after this appropriation.

The hope among policy makers: that more loans can be advanced to local small and emerging businesses. The previous pace was 10 a year, and the hope is that more loans — to be granted at an 8.99 percent interest rate for up to five years — can be offered.

____

Ex-offender jobs: A watered-down version of a bill (2017-35) requiring that city contractors hire ex-offenders looks poised to get through the full council.

The substitute version of the bill allows contractors to hire ex-offenders who did not emerge from city-subsidized re-entry programs, while requiring “satisfactory evidence” of at least an attempt to hire an ex-offender.

Program providers would be responsible for providing a list of ex-offenders with skill sets, and contact contractors after they win the bid.

The Associated Builders and Contractors balked at the original version of the bill, asserting that it imposed an onerous burden on contractors by requiring them to do the legwork of reaching out to program providers — that argument proved more persuasive to council members as the bill worked through committees, leading to a deferral and the current substitute two weeks prior.

____

Safe Travels: One unintended consequence of a hard cap of $3,000 on travel budgets for council members has been an impediment to traveling to association events, such as those held by the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties.

The issue has percolated for some time, and 2017-97 resolves that issue, with $16,408 appropriated from the current year’s budget for such travel.

Going forward, $20,000 or 10 percent of association membership fees will be appropriated for delegation travel.

_____

Springfield Overlay: Public hearing continues on a bill (2017-36) that could affect the Springfield Overlay.

This bill amends the zoning code to amend the definition of administrative deviation, ensuring consistency with federal civil rights legislation, offering a process providing disabled people reasonable accommodations from the code.

n 2014, Ability Housing set out to renovate an apartment building in Springfield to create 12 units of housing for the chronically homeless and disabled.

The planning director balked, likening the proposed use to that of an assisted living facility. Soon thereafter, the Department of Justice, Disability Florida, and Ability Housing sued.

The proposed settlement ensures that the city not discriminate via zoning against those with disabilities, including via so-called zoning “overlays” such as Springfield and other neighborhoods have.

To that end, the proposed ordinance would block people from using planned unit developments to “discriminate or violate civil rights,” to quote the bill summary.

As well, the bill would “remove prohibitions on new community residential homes, housing for the elderly, nursing homes, hospice facilities, and group care homes, allow group care homes by exception in the RMD-S District, and to allow residential treatment facilities and emergency shelters by exception in the CCG-S District.”

Springfield residents are less than thrilled with recent developments.

“The board members in attendance voted unanimously to oppose this legislation, on the grounds that the recommended changes to the Springfield Zoning Overlay and Historic District Regulations were drafted without appropriate community input; are unnecessary; are unfairly applied; and are potentially harmful to future development of the historic district.

“Further, the proposed changes do not accomplish the stated goal of the settlement agreement, which is to protect the rights of disabled citizens to live wherever they choose in Jacksonville. Instead, the effect of the agreement is to single out Springfield to be the default and de facto area in Jacksonville for disabled housing,” contends the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council.

The position of neighborhood activists is convincing in a vacuum, but the federal Department of Justice is unconvinced by NIMBY arguments.

 

 

Man pleads guilty in beating death of 2-year-old after ‘accident’ on bed

A Jacksonville toddler died after being struck with a plastic coat hanger until it broke because the 2-year-old girl had an “accident” on the bed of her mother’s boyfriend.

Jamarius Devonti Graham used a belt and hangers in the past to teach the girl potty training — she had already been spanked an estimated 20 times — says a newspaper report.

The Duval County state attorney’s office confirmed a medical examiner’s report, spokesman David Chapman told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday.

On April 21, 2016, Graham was baby-sitting Aaliyah Lewis when the incident occurred. After the mother discovered injuries to her daughter, she and Graham waited 90 minutes before seeking medical attention for Aaliyah, even after her breathing became labored, according to the Florida Times-Union. The newspaper had cited a report by the Department of Children and Services (DCF) about the episode.

Graham, 21, pleaded guilty in a Jacksonville courtroom to aggravated child abuse in connection to Aaliyah’s beating death and faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if found guilty, Chapman said.

“The girl, whose body was tattered with fresh bruises and lacerations, was dead when she arrived at UF Health Jacksonville,” the Times-Union article said. “An autopsy found that she had multiple traumatic injuries to her head, torso and extremities, as well as fluid and swelling in her lungs and brain. But the Medical Examiner’s Office could not determine the cause of death.”

The couple had apparently communicated multiple times by phone throughout the day Aaliyah died, according to the report, the newspaper said. They spoke around midday, too, and Graham told the mother he had disciplined Aaliyah for the accident on the bed, assuring the mother he hadn’t been too harsh on the toddler.

But the mother had noticed during a video phone call that Aaliyah was crying.

When Graham picked her up from work, she noticed marks on the child’s chest, the newspaper said. She scared to seek medical attention for fear of the state taking her daughter away, she apparently told investigators.

No charges have been filed against the child’s mother, the Times-Union reported.

FloridaPolitics.com tried to contact a representative from DCF, but did not immediately receive a response before the publishing of this article.

Jacksonville PFPF expected to vote on pension deal Friday

In February, the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees balked at a Mar. 15 deadline to vote on the city’s latest pension plan.

The board had worried that there would not be enough time to review the data of the new plan, which offers raises and uniformity of benefits for current employees, while providing a new defined contribution plan for future hires — offering a 25 percent city match and assurances that death and disability benefits would substantially be the same as they are for current employees.

Since then, the Fraternal Order of Police and the corrections officers had approved the deal, with the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters voting on it this week.

And now, after a prolonged period of negotiations, which included candid emails between PFPF Trustee Board Chair Richard Tuten and the city’s chief administrative officer, Sam Mousa, the board and the city have struck a compromise.

The board is expected to vote on the deal two days after the city’s unilaterally imposed deadline: Friday, March 17, at its regular 9 a.m. board meeting, according to emails between Mousa and the heads of the police and fire unions.

Facilitating the compromise to extend the deadline two days — cooperation of the members of the board not named Richard Tuten, as Mousa wrote to PFPF Plan Administrator Tim Johnson.

“The Mayor has asked me to ask you to please extend his thanks and gratitude to the four (4) PFPF Board Members (Scheu, Brown, Payne and Patsy) who took time out of their busy schedule to meet individually with me and Mike Weinstein concerning pension reform. Mike and I are furthermore appreciative of those members as we believe the meetings were very productive,” Mousa wrote.

If this vote is successful (and if it actually happens, the pension deal will move on to the Jacksonville City Council, whose own members have serious questions about the actual hard numbers in the deal — numbers that have yet to be produced for public review by the Lenny Curry administration.

Curry contends that the deal will save the city money, saying that the 25 percent city match is far short of what the city pays for pension costs for current employees.

“Right now we’re spending 119 percent of for [pension costs] for every JSO employee and fireman,” Curry said. “If we hired you today, we would take your salary and put 119 percent of that in the pension fund. That’s not sustainable …. 25 percent is a fraction of 119 percent. It works. It will attract and retain people.”

“As to when the numbers will be made available,” Curry said, “City Council will have to vote on this, and all of these numbers will be laid out before them, which is how the budget process works.”

Jacksonville corrections officers overwhelmingly approve pension deal

On Monday, another Jacksonville union — the correctional officers — overwhelmingly approved the pension deal on offer from the city.

Of sergeants/lieutenants/captains, 88.8 percent voted in favor of the deal; the raw tally was 72 to 9.

Of officers, 87.53 percent voted in favor of the deal, with 12.16 percent against; the raw tally was 316 to 44.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue workers vote on this deal this week. Additionally, the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees may vote on the deal Friday.

Correctional officers will get a 3 percent lump sum pay out, followed by a phased-in 20 percent pay raise over three years, and benefits for all current employees returned to pre-2015 levels.

Future hires will get a defined contribution plan with a 25 percent city match.

Defined contribution plans for public safety workers are still a novelty on the municipal level, but what is clear is that these unions thus far have not resisted these changes for new hires.

Jacksonville leaders move on human trafficking, an ‘industry without borders’

As we previewed last week, Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri is looking to implement the next phase of the city’s response to human trafficking.

In 2016, the city began a response, with awareness signs posted in strip clubs and massage parlors. However, Hazouri believes more can be done — and on Monday, the veteran pol met with representatives from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the 4th Circuit State Attorney’s Office to iron out specifics related to coordination of response.

Councilman Hazouri referred to human trafficking as one of the most severe human rights challenges of the century, adding that Florida has the third-most human trafficking in the country, and Jacksonville is number three in the state in incident rates.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson‘s office took an initial focus on the problem when she came into office in January, via hiring a special prosecutor to focus on the issue.

Mac Heavener, Nelson’s assistant state attorney, has worked on the issue on the federal level since 2008 as a U.S. attorney. The SAO’s newly-instituted human rights division hones in on the issue also.

Heavener noted that the SAO works with the sheriff’s office on the local level, and the FBI in cases that transcend local jurisdiction.

Heavener noted that juveniles are “generally trafficked for commercial sex acts,” and there is prima facie proof in those cases.

In terms of adult trafficking, labor trafficking and domestic sex trafficking are among the sectors where the crisis is most acute. Labor trafficking is difficult to track, Heavener said.

Sheriff Mike Williams noted the importance of “awareness” in combating the epidemic.

“Applying what we know to human trafficking … having a dedicated group of investigators … are incredibly important,” Williams said.

“I still don’t believe I can tell you how much human trafficking we have in Jacksonville, but we continue to dig,” said Williams.

One issue victims deal with after emerging from these situations: housing, allowing them shelter while they redevelop a support network.

“Housing is a huge deficit in our community,” said a representative from the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

Council VP John Crescimbeni noted that Jacksonville’s victim services center was lauded for “clicking on all cylinders” years ago, but has been hampered by budget cuts.

Crescimbeni would like to see that center restored to its former glory, as a central clearinghouse allowing for coordination of efforts.

Over the next few months, Crescimbeni hopes that stakeholders will convene to give ideas to council, with the idea that the center become a more “efficient machine” in time for the next city budget to go into effect in October.

Clearly, transitional housing and support will have to be a part of any response beyond the symbolic.

Councilman Aaron Bowman, who once commanded Mayport, noted that the issue was especially prevalent in port towns during his time in the service.

Indeed, traffic is related to travel — and victims can be anywhere.

In 2016, of 44 victims rescued on the city level, 10 were juveniles.

The deep web, said Williams, serves as a clearinghouse for this “industry without borders,” which does not discriminate in terms of race or national origin in terms of its victims.

Sometimes, victims are uncovered during prostitution sweeps — a process made more difficult because they won’t initially identify themselves as victims.

Over time and through investigative diligence, the story comes out, fragment by fragment, with patterns being identified that allow the kingpins to be brought down over time.

The records of victims eventually are expunged via pro bono attorneys, allowing them to reintegrate into normal society.

Regarding labor trafficking, victims tend to be harvested from certain ethnic immigrant groups, often those who learned to distrust authorities in their native countries.

Language barriers are issues, as is the nature of where they work: restaurants, nail salons, and other tight-knit shops that don’t permit undercover infiltration.

“You have a reluctance to even talk to the police,” Heavener said, “especially if you’re here illegally.”

In Jacksonville, landscaping tends to see a lot of Hispanic and Asian people “working in the shadows,” with one federal law enforcement officer on hand noting the difficulty of getting actionable information from these laborers.

Domestic help trafficking, Heavener said, is also an issue, with nannies and the like imported.

In those cases, a concerned citizen may be the only lead for law enforcement.

Kristin Keen of the Rethreaded group, which works with sexual assault survivors, noted that legislation has to address demand.

“People think it’s a woman’s issue,” Keen said, but “what is driving it is profit. You decrease the demand, you decrease supply.”

Keen suggested a legislative remedy, such as in Seattle, which addressed the demand via law enforcement and private sector involvement, catalyzing a “cultural shift.”

Others on hand noted that changes to the culture’s approach to prostitution, asking men to ally against prostitution and to change language related to women and girls, can help to mitigate this problem.

Awareness is key, said Sheriff Williams, whether the trafficking is illegal sex or labor.

“Some people don’t realize what they’re involved in. Others do,” Williams said, “but they don’t know who to talk to.”

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