Jax Archives - Page 5 of 322 - Florida Politics

Ron Salem launches 2019 run for Jacksonville City Council

Local Republican insider Ron Salem is the first of dozens of candidates to file to run for Jacksonville City Council in 2019.

Salem filed to run in At Large Group 2 — a seat held by longtime Councilman John Crescimbeni, who will be termed out the same year.

Salem has a connection to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

He served on Curry’s transition team as Curry prepared to take office, and confirmed in January as a member of the Renew Arlington CRA Advisory Board at the mayor’s request.

Before that, Salem served multiple terms on the city’s Sports and Entertainment Board.

How well regarded was he?

In 2010, Mayor John Peyton — the 2018 chair-elect of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — requested Salem’s appointment for a third term to that board, and that legislation included a waiver to allow Salem up to five terms on that board.

Salem is said to have substantial financial commitments to his cause already.

As well, Curry’s high-powered political consultant Tim Baker will serve as Salem’s strategist for this campaign.

For many candidates, the sight of Baker’s name will inspire them to reconsider their nascent bids.

There may be one exception, however.

Despite Baker playing a role on his behalf, Salem likely won’t be alone in that race in At-Large District 2 for long. Former two-term councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Bishop is exploring his options for a political comeback in that same district.

Bishop became persona non grata with many local Republicans in 2015 after running against Curry and then endorsing Democrat Alvin Brown after his elimination.

Bishop, though he polled well in 2015, arguably did so as an alternative to the two better-funded candidates.

Meanwhile, Salem’s strategist offers an edge that Bishop won’t be able to match.

Former Florida Times-Union writer likens Trump inauguration to 9/11, loses job, sues

Those of a certain age in Jacksonville will remember Bart Hubbuch.

Hubbuch, who left the River City some years ago, used to cover the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Florida Times-Union.

He moved on, ending up with the New York Post.

Hubbuch is back on the job market now, reports Deadspin, after an ill-advised Tweet comparing the inauguration of President Donald Trump to September 11, 2001 and the Pearl Harbor attacks.

“12/7/41. 9/11/01. 1/20/17,” Hubbuch wrote, clearly not sticking to sports on Inauguration Day.

The Tweet got some traction — if you call eight Retweets traction, that is.

However, it proved to be fateful for Hubbuch’s career in the sports capital of the United States, given that New York suffered most grievously on 9/11, with people still experiencing psychological and physical consequences from the attacks to this day.

Hubbuch was fired soon after Tweeting that, despite complying with an organizational directive to delete the Tweet.

As Vocativ reports, Hubbuch is now suing the New York tabloid.

Hubbuch’s case is predicated on a statute in New York labor law, which boils down to not being able to be fired for political activities off the clock.

Vocativ also notes that Hubbuch asked about the Post’s social media policy.

The response boiled down to “what policy?”

Hubbuch had a history of controversial Tweets, which Vocativ also documented, and which no doubt will serve as a foundation for the Murdoch empire’s defense against Hubbuch’s legal action.

Meanwhile, as an at-will employee, Hubbuch essentially has no recourse in New York state. The employer can can him at any time, for any reason.

And the New York Post did exactly that.

Former Duval School Board member carries KIPP charter school bill in Tallahassee

On Thursday, an appropriations bill (HB 2787) was filed in the Florida House for the benefit of the “Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP).”

The bill, filed by Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer (a former member of the Duval County School Board), seeks to continue the $1,224,000 appropriation from the previous budget to benefit Jacksonville’s KIPP school.

HB 2787 is well-positioned to succeed: Jacksonville powerbroker Gary Chartrand, a member of the local KIPP school’s Board of Directors, is close with Gov. Scott and is on the State Board of Education.

“The funds will pay for the incremental costs associated with the extended school day and year for students in the region’s most educationally undeserved community. Extended learning time allows hundreds more hours per year of classroom instruction versus public schools. The extended school day offers more time dedicated to literacy, math, history, and science. As a result, KIPP students achieve at consistently higher levels than their peers in core academic subjects and the arts,” asserts the appropriations request.

In an interesting side note, the official requester on this appropriations request is Tom Majdanics.

Majdanics, the executive director of the Jacksonville KIPP location, made news of a different sort last year when he mounted a determined campaign in opposition to the pension reform referendum that Mayor Lenny Curry was pushing.

The most dramatic confrontation between Curry and Majdanics occurred in August at an unlikely location: the normally sedate Jacksonville Rotary Club.

Just months later, a state representative that got a lot of help in the pivotal August primary from Curry is carrying a bill that benefits someone who tried to scuttle a key Curry initiative.

This is yet another illustration that Jacksonville is a small town.

The lobbyist on this bill: Mark Pinto of The Fiorentino Group.

Jacksonville sues Councilwoman Katrina Brown’s family businesses

The city of Jacksonville’s battle against the failing family businesses of a Jacksonville City Councilwoman was escalated this week.

Jacksonville filed a suit Tuesday against CoWealth, LLC and Basic Products, LLC. in Florida’s 4th Circuit. [COJ v. Cowealth Complaint]

Both limited liability corporations see Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown, a member of the council’s Finance Committee, listed as a member-manager of the business.

The lawsuit is intended to clawback grant monies totaling $210,549, loaned to the Browns’ business to renovate a building (5638 Commonwealth Ave.) to make barbeque sauce.

A condition of the grant: job creation.

CoWealth was to create at least 56 jobs under the agreement.

Those jobs were to last two years at least, and were to have been created by Apr. 30, 2016.

The company failed to provide proof of any job creation. Audited financial statements covering 2014 and 2015 were never provided, and required surveys/jobs reports from 2012-2015 indicated that no jobs were created.

Under the conditions of the grant from the perennially-troubled Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund, the city has a clawback option of $4,443 per job not created.


In addition to this lawsuit, the Browns’ collection of LLCs faces other challenges.

Already this year, a foreclosure action was filed in Duval County by Florida Capital Bank on a property associated with “KJB Specialties.”

Councilwoman Brown is a managing partner of KJB.

The property, located at 1551 W. Edgewood Avenue, corresponds to the location of “Jerome Brown BBQ.”

KJB owes $100,902 on its note.


Last month, Ameris Bank moved for a Summary Judgment against KJB Specialties.

Back in 2007, KJB Specialties borrowed $50,000 from Ameris Bank. Payments were made as agreed until March 2015, during the time when Councilwoman Brown was running for office.

However, as the councilwoman’s electoral and political fortunes rose, KJB went AWOL on its loan and other financial obligations.

Principals were informed of the default in August 2015, and the impending legal action a month thereafter.

Now the bank demands what is due: a $37,490 principal; $1,399 of interest; $253.40 in late charges; and $7,681 in legal fees.


KJB Specialties was also in the news in January for warrants incurred for failure to pay sales tax.

“Basic Products, LLC,” likewise was in the news for failure to pay sales tax.


Brown has been evasive when asked by media about these issues, generally arriving at council and committee meetings late to avoid the press.

She had been offering anodyne assurances that jobs would be created on social media, exhorting her friends and followers to look for her barbeque sauce on store shelves.

Those pitches came to an abrupt close on Dec. 20 when the building on Commonwealth Avenue was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a variety of local and state authorities.


Ironically, a day after this suit was filed, the Finance Committee considered a measure dealing with reform of the NW Jacksonville Economic Development Fund.

Brown’s demeanor throughout that discussion was interesting.

She stared down at her phone for minutes on end, shrinking down in her seat as if she didn’t want to be seen.

Corrine Brown won’t plead guilty, rebuffed in request for trial delay

It was never supposed to be like this for Corrine Brown.

The now-former twelve-term United States Congresswoman was one of the leading politicos in Jacksonville, upbraiding media that crossed her, and picking winners and losers in primary and general elections alike.

The slogan: Corrine Delivers.

The end of that era: July 6, 2016, when Brown and her chief of staff were presented with wire fraud, mail fraud, and other associated charges in a 24-count indictment that changed Jacksonville politics forever.

From that point on, delivery was refused.

Now, one by one, the acolytes have fallen off, like leaves from a windswept autumn tree.

The branches are barren now. The checks have stopped coming from Washington D.C. and from other sources, such as One Door for Education and her two federal PACs.

And the cronies have made their own arrangements, like members of a disbanded pop group.


Former aide de camp Von Alexander is no longer on the payroll, and can’t talk to Brown without counsel present.

Carla Wiley, who ran the non-performing One Door for Education charity which collected $800,000 over a few years, with all of that money going to Brown and her chief of staff rather than to helping poor kids with educational costs, awaits sentencing while cooperating with the Feds against Brown.

And that chief of staff?

He’s going to roll on Brown too.

Ronnie Simmons pleaded out on Wednesday, and — unless his cooperation is deemed valuable enough by prosecutors — is poised to spend 30 years in prison, and is on the hook for almost $1.8 million in restitution and fines. [Ronnie Simmons’ Plea Deal, in full.]

All of that prologue set the stage for a hearing in federal court Thursday, where Brown was slated to agree to the commencement of jury selection for her now-solo April trial.

Instead, she requested a continuance, with the rationale being that her defense was undermined by Simmons’ abrupt plea of guilty.

However, that request ultimately was denied, with the judge noting that, while Simmons’ plea may have surprised Brown, the plea came in five weeks before the Mar. 16 plea deadline.

That said, the defense has thirty days to formulate a “documented motion to continue,” including potential “impediments” to the April 28 start.

The motion must be filed by March 9.


The former congresswoman was not alone Thursday, despite betrayal by her inner circle

Brown was accompanied by a dozen supporters, most notably Martin Luther King III, as she entered the courtroom ten minutes before 2:00 p.m.

Wearing a purple dress, she was cordial as she faced her first hearing as the sole defendant in the One Door for Education case.

Though the Feds have reached out for a plea deal, Brown isn’t interested in that course of action at this point.

As her attorney, James Smith pointed out, Brown currently has a “firm intent” to go to trial.


U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan started proceedings by declaring previous motions in the case moot, with at least one related to Brown’s former co-defendant.

From there, the prosecution, via A. Tysen Duva, had its say.

Among the highlights of the government’s strategy: a forensic accountant will be called, and so will someone from the IRS, but neither as an expert witness.

Discovery, meanwhile, continues apace on Brown’s bank records, including the Friends of Corrine Brown bank account.

And the prosecution conducted a four hour interview with Simmons, which will lead to some discovery in itself.

And the government expects the trial to last nine days, approximately.


Then the defense spoke, addressing issues of reciprocal discovery and intentions going forward.

Smith does not intend to call an expert witness in.

He is happy with the pace of discovery, but is not ready to go to trial, given the government has access to information the defense does not.

Brown’s defense has been predicated on Simmons and she not being guilty, having been exploited by Wiley.

That ineluctably has changed, Smith said, and further investigation may be necessary.

Hence, a request for a continuance of at least 60 days, given that discovery is still coming in.

Simmons “said that he was guilty, but doing it all at the direction of my client,” Smith said.

Smith then said he wanted to “fully investigate Simmons’ background for other crimes he may have committed,” a remarkable position given Brown and Simmons have been close for “20 + years.”

“In many ways,” Smith said, “he was a son to her.”

The plea was a surprise to Smith and Brown both, the defense attorney said.


A. Tysen Duva rebutted Smith, saying that the previous status meeting precluded a continuance barring an unusual development.

A co-defendant copping a plea, Duva said, does not meet that threshold.

“The plea changes nothing,” Duva said.

The need to investigate Simmons’ background was characterized as a “red herring” by Duva.

And the defense strategy, said Duva, was “untenable.”

“The factual basis of the plea agreement was extensive,” Duva added.

Simmons told Duva that Brown knew what was going on related to One Door for Education and the schemes alleged in the indictment.


Smith rebutted Duva.

“From the beginning, Corrine Brown’s defense has been that Ms. Wiley was responsible for this,” Smith said, “taking advantage of Brown and Simmons.”

“Knowing that a co-defendant has just pleaded guilty … how can the government say this does not affect our defense?”

In a case that comes down to the credibility of the alleged co-conspirators, Smith asserted that his defense was undermined to such a degree that a continuance was necessary.

“This isn’t a very simple case at all,” Smith added. “Now the individual is saying … I’m guilty and I was ordered to do this.”

When pressed for why 60 days was needed, Smith said that there was an issue with “trying to find witnesses to impeach the credibility of Simmons,” given various issues leading to a reluctance to testify.

“This did come as a shock and surprise to us,” Smith said. “After receiving no notice of this short of an email notification … one of the things we intended to do this week was meet with Mr. Simmons … this fundamentally changes the direction this goes in.”

Judge Corrigan urged that he be told about those witnesses who might need counsel, so the trial is not “interrupted by those issues.”


Duva wasn’t finished.

If Brown can’t find witnesses in ten weeks, he said, another 60 days won’t help.

“Mr. Smith, there’s nothing to be gained in these additional 60 days,” Duva said.


Smith noted that he would have multiple members of Congress, and other high-profile figures, as character witnesses for Brown.

How that relates to the charges was left unsaid.

Corrigan noted that there may be “honest disagreement” between the two parties as to how many character witnesses are actually necessary.

“Whether you can call 15 members of Congress or only ten members … I’d rather have those discussions pre-trial,” the judge said.

Finally, Smith asserted that Brown does not intend to plead guilty, despite the government’s entreaties.

“The firm intent is to go to trial,” Smith said.


Judge Corrigan, after a recess, issued his ruling on the continuance request.

“I feel that would be kicking the can down the road,” Corrigan said. “Scheduling a three or four week trial is a difficult undertaking for everybody.”

“I’m not convinced an extra 60 days is going to benefit anybody,” Corrigan added.

As stated above, the defense has the option of filing a formal motion for continuance by Mar. 9.

“It’s going to take some persuading to convince me otherwise,” the judge said.

Barring any developments, the next status conference in this case will be Apr. 5 at 2:00 p.m.

And Corrine Brown will be in attendance.


After the hearing, Brown took questions from reporters.

The most notable quote?

When asked how she felt about Simmons’ betrayal, she asked plaintively how one does “sign language for a broken heart.”

Cord Byrd sponsors bill for Jacksonville ‘COPS’ grant

A priority of the city of Jacksonville during the Lenny Curry era: increasing police presence on its most dangerous streets.

One vehicle to do just that: COPS Grants.

The city is pursuing state money for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Matching Grant. The vehicle in the 2017 session of the Florida Legislature: HB 2781, filed by Rep. Cord Byrd.

Jacksonville seeks $250,000, a number it has gotten previously, to match $625,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice, and $294,211 in local monies.

The appropriations request speaks to the success of the program, which Jacksonville uses to quell gun violence — a recurrent concern of policy makers as homicide rates have climbed in recent years.

Jacksonville “received seven letters of support from apartment complexes that are receiving services that the COPS program provides. The complexes have seen great progress in a short time: strengthened relations with local housing communities and tenants receive safety inspections to make their homes meet the standards of the Jacksonville Crime Free Multi-Housing Program.”

The lobbyist working on this bill on behalf of the city: Brian Ballard of Ballard Partners.

The city broke with the previous administration by enlisting a three-headed monster of lobbying firms to advocate for its interest.

In addition to Ballard, the Fiorentino Group and Southern Strategies Group carry the city’s water in Tallahassee.

With Mayor Curry in the state capital this week, chances are good that more local appropriations bills may be rolled out by the Duval Delegation.

Jax HRO opponents plan seven-day fast, praying for ‘extreme confusion’

A familiar sight at the Jacksonville City Council meetings of late: Blake Harper.

Harper, staunchly opposed to the city’s proposed expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity, has shown up at meetings of the full council and committees with a large Bible under his arm for the whole meeting.

While the Bible is an important accoutrement for attendance at local council meetings, it won’t be enough in and of itself to defeat the ordinance.

In an email to ideological allies, Harper urged a seven-day fast against this bill, tapering off food in preparation for the vote (admittedly a good strategy ahead of any council meeting).

Fast participants taper down from two meals a day, to one meal a day, to a liquid fast in the three days before the vote.

Shockingly, Harper recommends stimulants among that liquid diet: coffee and tea are permissible for those involved in the fast.

Beyond that, lots of prayer is recommended: “for an awakening in Jacksonville to the extreme threat this HRO Bill 2017-15 poses to the Christian faith, to the traditional family, to small businesses in general and to Christian owners of small businesses, specifically … for a spirit of extreme confusion in the camp supporting the HRO bill … for City Council members Greg Anderson, Anna Brosche, Katrina Brown, Reggie Brown, Garrett Dennis, and Reggie Gaffney to vote against the HRO bill.”

But wait — there’s more!

“Pray for City Council members Boyer, Bowman, Crescimbeni, Hazouri, Love, Morgan and Wilson to be disturbed by frightening dreams and extreme anxiety over the HRO issue that they might be compelled in their spirits to dramatically renounce their rebellious support for the evil HRO BIll 2017-15,” advises Harper.

With no assurance that the bill will get 13 votes, Mayor Lenny Curry may be the final arbiter of whether this bill becomes law.

Harper’s got the mayor’s back: “Pray for Mayor Lenny Curry to intervene aggressively and quickly against the HRO at any necessary point in this process.”

With the HRO having cleared the committee process, Jacksonville residents can take heart: if all goes as scheduled, and council members aren’t reduced below a quorum by the requested divinely ordained anxiety, confusion, and the like, this whole sorry circus may leave town in a week.

Kim Daniels files ShotSpotter appropriations bill

The city of Jacksonville, plagued by gun violence in certain parts of the city, has gotten behind ShotSpotter technology as a solution.

And a former city councilwoman turned state legislator, freshman Rep. Kim Daniels, has filed a bill to augment the city’s $435,000 investment in the pilot program.

House Bill 2703 would allocate $325,000 for Jacksonville’s two-year pilot program of the ShotSpotter technology, which detects gunshots after they are fired.

The initial deployment of the program, a priority of the Lenny Curry administration, would be in a five square mile area of Health Zone 1.

While she was on the Jacksonville City Council, Daniels was among the more creative members when it came to attempting to stop the violence.

Among her suggestions: a 9:00 p.m juvenile curfew.

Ronnie Simmons pleads guilty to two counts in One Door for Education case

On Wednesday, Ronnie Simmons, a co-defendant in the One Door for Education trial with Rep. Corrine Brown, pleaded guilty to two federal felony counts.

The timing was notable, as Brown and Simmons were slated to appear at a joint status conference on Thursday for jury selection for the April trial.

The symbiosis between Brown and Simmons, her chief of staff during her entire career in the U.S. Congress, is decades old.

Simmons pleaded guilty to Counts 1 and 18 of the indictment, withdrawing previous not guilty pleas. Meanwhile, other charges are to be dismissed if the plea deal is ultimately accepted.

Simmons will not be eligible for parole, and his sentence could be more severe than he expects, said Judge James Klindt.

As it stands, Simmons could face 30 years in prison, $500,000 in fines, and $1.287 million in restitution.

An appeal is precluded barring a sentence that is unusually harsh or against the 8th Amendment.

And he is expected to cooperate with prosecutors against his former boss.

Simmons is at liberty pending sentencing, which could be more than three months out.


The first count to which Simmons pleaded guilty: conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, with six different allegations rolled up into it.

The federal government alleges between late 2012 and early 2016, the defendants were involved in a “scheme and artifice to defraud,” a conspiracy driven by One Door head Carla Wiley who gave the checkbook and debit cards for One Door accounts to Simmons.

Simmons, Brown’s chief of staff, also controlled the finances for two Brown-associated PACs as part of this “unlawful plan.”

Money, say the feds, flowed from Brown’s campaign and those PACs, “Friends of Corrine Brown” and the “Florida Delivers Leadership PAC,” to One Door and Brown’s personal account.

Brown, Simmons, and Wiley exploited Brown’s membership in Congress to fraudulently solicit and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars of payments toward One Door starting in 2011 on the pretense they would be used for charity.

Money flowed in and out of the One Door for Education account, despite the charity not actually distributing money for its intended purpose, with Simmons the regular conduit for outflows of cash from the account, filled with donations from leading Florida and Washington, D.C. political figures.

Funds were used for “luxury vacations” in Los Angeles, for skyboxes at Beyoncé concerts, and for walking around money.

The penalty for that count: 20 years, $200,000, or twice the gross gain of loss, plus three years of supervised release.


Theft of government funds constituted the second count to which Simmons pleaded guilty.

A “close family member” of Simmons, alleged the Feds, derived $735,000 of gross compensation from this scheme from 2001 to 2016, despite having done no real work for the money.

The “close family member” is a teacher in Jacksonville, a full-time role that presents schedule conflicts with political work such as “outreach specialist” and other fanciful titles.

Simmons himself was a co-signatory of the account, and used $80,000 of funds paid to his sister for personal use.

The penalty: 10 years, $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, with up to three years of supervised release.

All told, Simmons could serve 30 years in prison, with $500,000 of fines.

Additionally, Simmons could be forced to pay $1.287 million in restitution to those defrauded.

Simmons was dispassionate when acknowledging the verdict and his understanding of the charges he pleaded guilty.


Brown and Simmons were indicted in 2016 on 24 charges combined, enumerated in a 46-page indictment related to the One Door for Education scheme.

The charity, which collected $800,000 from some of Jacksonville’s most prominent politicians and public figures, disbursed $1,200 of that sum.

Brown faces a possible 357 years in prison and $4.8 million fine if all counts are found valid.

If guilty of all counts, Simmons would have faced as many as 355 years and a $4.75 million judgment.

With Simmons reversing his original plea of innocence, the pressure is now on Brown to plead out or stand alone against the power of the federal government.


After the hearing wrapped, Simmons’ lawyer, Anthony Suarez, addressed the media, describing his client’s decision to “end his battle.”

Among the revelations: Simmons would “testify truthfully” if called to do so by the prosecution.

The decision to plead out, Suarez said, was made just two days ago, to offer him and his family “peace after a long year of struggle and anxiety.”

Simmons is now divested of his social circle, and will have to get “new friends, a new life,” Suarez said.

Jacksonville HRO clears final city council committee

The Jacksonville City Council’s Finance Committee approved the expansion of the city’s Human Rights Ordinance on Wednesday morning.

The measure was approved by a 4-3 vote, with Bill GullifordSam Newby, and Matt Schellenberg opposing expansion.

The expansion would add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of protected categories under the ordinance, which ensures that people aren’t discriminated against in the workplace, the housing market, or public accommodations (restrooms, locker rooms, and so on).

An amendment to allow companies with up to 50 employees to discriminate against LGBT people in employment practices was passed in the first committee to consider the bill on Monday, but it did not pass the second committee on Tuesday

In a process fraught with interesting wrinkles in parliamentary procedure, Wednesday’s meeting was no different, as Schellenberg immediately pushed for reconsideration of the “50 employees” amendment.

It was spiked 4-3.

From there, another amendment from Gulliford: to put the HRO expansion up to a referendum in Aug. 2018.

The referendum discussion showed the demarcations on the issue at large.


Referendum Amendment fails 5-2: “This is a contentious issue … I have friends on both sides of the issue,” Gulliford said. “If you think passing a bill will end [discrimination], you’re naive. But a vote will end it.”

Councilman Aaron Bowman noted the impact of inaction, citing the economic havoc wreaked on North Carolina via HB2 passage, including losing NCAA championship games, the NBA All-Star Game, and concerts by groups such as Pearl Jam.

“We’re getting ready to open a new amphitheater,” Bowman noted, before calling the referendum an attempt toward “tyranny by the majority.”

Heated discussion continued, with Councilman Tommy Hazouri noting his history of activism on “human rights” issues, such as the Equal Rights Amendment and minority set asides.

“A referendum is not good for us,” Hazouri thundered. “Who are we as a city? What’s right?”

Hazouri got a groan from the crowd when he mentioned the Pulse massacre in Orlando, and then gave back as good as he got, saying “nobody asked you to speak. You already had your opportunity.”

Councilman Greg Anderson dialed back the heat, saying the referendum “fundamentally alters” the bill, as the legislation would hang suspended pending the plebiscite.

The general counsel disagreed with that read; however, Anderson stood his ground, opposing the amendment.

Gulliford noted that Texas is going to pass its own version of HB2.

“There’s some people that feel like they should be able to exercise their feelings and beliefs according to the Constitution,” Gulliford said, noting his belief that “the only way to put this to bed is a vote of the people.”

Council VP John Crescimbeni proposed a referendum on the entire HRO, given that the other protected classes were included by council ordinance.

Gulliford said the addition of sexual orientation/gender identity protections was more “contentious” than protections on race were in 1992, when the city council passed the larger ordinance

Council President Lori Boyer noted that she had asked for legal advice on whether a referendum amendment would be in order; she noted that “it would be permissible,” and up to the council to decide if the amendment was cause to be substituted and re-referred to committees.

Councilman Matt Schellenberg went against Gulliford, noting that the votes aren’t there for the amendment.

That said, Schellenberg noted “this is going to a referendum anyway.”

Councilwoman Katrina Brown wondered if it was even possible to vote on excluding two groups from the HRO.

Crescimbeni: “it’s winner take all.”


Religious Exemption Language: An amendment was brought to the committee attempting the clean up the definitions of “religious organizations” and “religious corporations,” after confusion in a previous committee.

While mosques, synagogues, and so forth are excluded, the question comes down to church related businesses and businesses that are for profit but predicated on an assertion of religious values.

Religious organizations, in the amendment, would include a “religious corporation, association, or society,” consistent with federal law.

Crescimbeni noted that a company like Hobby Lobby, absent clarity, could position themselves as religious organizations. Likewise, a religiously-affiliated school could.

Theoretically, said Crescimbeni, a group could opt out of the HRO if the language was not more strictly defined.

Gulliford countered that a “non-profit based on Christian principles,” such as a homeless shelter, may have a “legitimate concern” about this legislation.

“This is crazy. It gets into the whole issue of a lack of definition of all this,” said an “appalled” Bill Gulliford.

Despite objections, the amendment was approved without objection by a hand vote.


Let’s ram this thing through: Councilman Aaron Bowman discussed lost economic opportunities because of a lack of an ordinance, noting that he has hosted many site visits from companies that did not come here for that reason.

The impact is especially felt with companies with younger, skilled workers; these corporations, for whatever reason, value equal rights over arcane and politicized interpretations of Christian doctrine.

Feeling a loss coming on in yet another committee, Gulliford posited that small businesses drive the economy, and lamented the supporters’ unwillingness to “compromise,” as evidenced by the spiking of his substitute bill Monday.

“Let’s ram this thing through” was how Gulliford characterized resistance of “legitimate concerns” from expansion opponents.

Hazouri noted, in response, that those concerns are really a “parade of horribles.”

“There’s nothing to fear but fear itself,” Hazouri said.

Schellenberg, meanwhile, said that companies that didn’t come to Jacksonville were “discriminating against us, without knowing who we are.”

Voting for the HRO, Schellenberg asserted, negates the prima facie truth that Jacksonville is a great, loving place where people say hello to each other in Publix.

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