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Ethics Commission finds probable cause for Kim Daniels’ dodgy financial disclosures

More financial ethics issues have emerged for Rep. Kim Daniels. And they could lead to action in the Florida House against the Jacksonville Democrat.

The Florida Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe that Daniels filed inaccurate Form 6s, representing financial disclosures for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Kim Daniels FEC investigation.

Daniels failed to list properties owned by her churches, which added up to $1,000,000 of undeclared assets. Indeed, her churches had multiple properties — “parsonages” in multiple cities, timeshares, and over a dozen cars.

Daniels, at that point, was serving her term on the Jacksonville City Council.

Daniels has faced similar scrutiny related to campaign finance before: the Florida Elections Commission found probable cause that Daniels spent campaign funds advertising one of her religious books, the Demon Dictionary, in a vanity-press publication called Shofar.

Daniels, a traveling evangelist, went through a rocky divorce earlier this decade, one which led to sensational allegations regarding her management of household and church finances.

Her 2016 financial disclosure revealed salary of roughly $200,000 from preaching and a net worth of just under $600,000.

Daniels could settle or could have an administrative hearing regarding these charges.

Daniels is not talking to Florida Politics about these matters. She did conduct an interview with Action News Jax recently, in which she vigorously denied the findings of the state commssions.

With Council behind him, Lenny Curry introduces Jax children’s program reforms

After months of deliberation, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry rolled out long-promised reforms of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey this week.

After a summer of bumpy news cycles for the JCC, in which summer camp funding issues were revealed, followed by after-school program funding issues, with an exasperated email from Curry’s chief administrative officer saying that he had “another mess” to clean up after a botched appropriation from an organization whose oversight he questioned, the case for reform was made, over and over, via a spotlight on the beleaguered organization’s problems.

Curry hinted at what the reform might look like in recent weeks: programs with clear, defined services and benchmarks, with an “aggressive” management structure that demanded results for the allocations. Deliverables, in the business sense.

On Tuesday afternoon, ahead of a Wednesday morning rollout, Curry discussed what reform will look like.

Those reforms: major — a comprehensive re-organization going far beyond simple tweaks of extant structures.

Curry will roll the JCC and the Jacksonville Journey into one new structure: the Kids’ Hope Alliance (the Jacksonville Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families).

The group will have a seven-person board, comprised of mayoral appointees that must be approved by the City Council; as with Curry’s reformation of the JEA Board earlier in his term, the goal is to move the organization toward linear accountability. In this case, accountability regarding helping “at-hope kids.”

“Hope was a really important word given the feedback I’ve gotten,” Curry said Tuesday.

The transition period will take six months: the first three months, starting in October, will allow the Journey and the JCC to finish its business; by January, a board should be seated to carry on the KHA’s mission. If that doesn’t happen, Plan B is to run JCC and Jax Journey out of the Mayor’s Office, until the board is approved by City Council.

The strong indication is that the board will be in place by the end of the year, however.

Curry is prioritizing business-minded people with big picture visions and strong resumes for board inclusion, similar again to his reformation of the JEA Board. Board members will understand finance and org structure, Curry said, and would understand the necessity of hiring management and staff that understands the mechanics of the services offered.

“A board structure with strong oversight that’s empowered to hire management, one with a focused mission — that’s going to work,” Curry said.

There will be an interim executive director appointed for the six-month period, and one can expect him or her to be a truly transitional, yet respected, figure with experience in these matters; from there, the board of directors will hire someone permanent.

The organization will focus on four strategic elements, that are intended to facilitate long-term transformation and accountability every step of the way.

One such element: early learning and childhood development, with a focus on school readiness and literacy. The goal here is to stop the skills gap that can emerge from rearing its head.

Another element: preteen and teen programming, intended to continue the trajectory of earlier programming.

A third element: juvenile justice programming, including intervention programs much like those found in the Jax Journey.

And the fourth element: out of school programs, including summer camps and after school programs.

As is always the case when introducing reforms, Curry worked overtime to introduce the package to members of the Jacksonville City Council, via individual meetings designed to acquaint the legislators with the Mayor’s vision.

Curry realized that he had to make the sale to the Council. He spent the first two days of the week in the suite of Council offices, selling the changes to Council members on their own turf. In the end, the changes require a unified vision, and the Mayor became an evangelist, as he has so often when reform has needed to be sold.

The stakes are high, Curry said. With roughly $100M invested into city summer camp programs and after-school programs over the last decade, there are many unanswered questions as to the ultimate outcomes for those who have been in the programs.

“We have to have measurements and outcomes,” Curry said — and those have been lacking, until now.

The goal: to be able to track a child over the course of years, to understand what’s working and what isn’t, so finite resources can be marshaled effectively — which hasn’t always been the case under the current schematic.

Administrative issues, like money sitting in subfunds not being used, are also a concern — and also drive the need for reform.

“If you look at some of the administrative issues you’ve seen play out,” Curry said regarding the summer camp and after-school program funding issues mentioned above, “if your administration’s not organized and right, you’re going to have the same culture serving kids.”

The goal: focus.

“We need a radical shift in culture. The only way you shift a culture radically,” Curry said, “is to upend the whole thing.”

And to that end, a refashioned board will lead to a more “focused mission,” one that also incorporates what is working from JCC and Jax Journey programs, such as tracking children as they utilize services.

Some veterans of Journey 1.0, such as City Hall veteran Susie Wiles, have had considerable input into this process.

As well, research is being conducted on other models working throughout the country, as Jacksonville reconfigures its services to accord with national best practices.

“This is organizational change,” Curry said, “to identify the right kids, delivering the best service to them, and following through over a period of time.”

“I know when this is done right, it works,” Curry added. “If you stick with the right programs, if you follow through, if you care for the kids, it works.”

____

Wednesday morning’s press conference confirmed the above, and added new details regarding the “real reform” Curry was bringing to the city’s children’s programs.

Curry said that “government has a role in making sure at-hope kids don’t fall through the cracks,”

And, fortuitously for the proposal, Curry had 14 Council members show — a measure of his use of political capital to introduce the measure.

Though Council President Anna Brosche and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis were notable in their absences, most everyone else (save Doyle CarterGreg Anderson, and Joyce Morgan) were in attendance.

Dennis had a meeting scheduled, as did Brosche — a partner meeting at her CPA firm that had been scheduled before the presser was.

When asked if they were willing to co-sponsor the legislation, 14 Councilors’ hands went up. However, Council President Brosche (a former JCC Board member) is less enthusiastic.

“I’ve been so tied up that I haven’t heard or (read; sorry) all of the proposal details. As for co-sponsoring, I’m a details kind of person and will need to read before I sign on, or comment further on your questions.”

“We have to get this right. Not an easy road, but we have to get this right,” Curry added.

Republican Councilman Jim Love welcomed the reforms, saying they would be a welcome reprieve from the “panic attacks” created by the kinds of funding emergencies that necessitated the reform package to being with.

The bill will be filed Wednesday afternoon; expect another update to this piece when it happens.

 

Jax Sheriff Mike Williams talks community policing in the Donald Trump era

The Donald Trump era has created unique challenges for law enforcement, including in Jacksonville, where local activists have pressed Sheriff Mike Williams for his commentary on President Trump’s jarring comments last week that seemed to encourage police brutality.

“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,’” said the leader of the Free World last week to police officers.

While some police departments in the area, such as Gainesville’s, were quick to condemn the comments, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has withheld comment … until Wednesday, when Florida Politics asked Sheriff Williams his thoughts on Trump’s commentary and worries from the activist left that they may end up targeted by the 100 new cops sought in the FY 17-18 budget.

“I try to stay away from getting involved, trying to justify anything the President says,” Williams noted.

“Talking about Jacksonville, and what appears to be a joke about police brutality, we take that very seriously,” Williams said.

“We’ve shown in the last two years, when it comes to police brutality and misconduct, that we take it very seriously and act swiftly and appropriately. That’s the lens through which we should look at Jacksonville — how we respond to stuff,” Williams added.

“I’d encourage people to look at what we do in Jacksonville and how we respond,” Williams continued, “instead of broadbrushing us with a joke from D.C.”

When asked what Trump’s comments did regarding community relations between the police and citizens, Williams pivoted back to his original point.

“I would encourage people to look at what we’ve done, look at our actions. Don’t look at the words of the President and apply them to JSO,” Williams said.

“Look at what we’ve done and what we do. When we see misconduct, we act swiftly and appropriately, especially when it comes to brutality or any inappropriate use of force, we don’t tolerate it and we drive that message down to the troops,” Williams said.

“That’s the benchmark I’d like to see us judged by,” Williams added, “not what the President says.”

When we asked Williams if he would advise the President to avoid such quips going forward, Williams laughed, saying “a lot of people try to give the President advice, and I’m not sure how much he takes at this point.”

“When it comes to local law enforcement,” Williams continued, “our relationship with the community is especially important. It cannot be us against them. We work hard to keep that from being the perception, and we will continue to work hard.”

“If you take your eye off the ball,” Williams continued, “you can lose ground there. There’s a natural inclination of many in the community to create an ‘us against them’ and we need to push back against that.”

“Things that don’t help us in that area don’t help us,” Williams added.

Regarding the 100 new police officers in the new budget, Williams asserted that the force additions will help with community policing, including the kind of relationship building that can foster trust.

“Everybody sees the videos of the guys playing basketball with kids … when there’s no time to do that,” Williams said, “that’s not going to happen.”

“What we have here in Jacksonville today,” Williams said, “a guy comes into work, turns on his laptop, and has three calls for service waiting.”

“It stays like that for twelve hours in many parts of the city. There’s always three people waiting for him to get there. For 11 ½ hours, he’s going call to call to call.”

What this means: that officer can’t stop in local businesses, or talk to people in neighborhoods, as he hurtles from crisis to crisis.

“We’re not going to be exceptionally staffed when we do this. We’re going to be appropriately staffed for a community our size,” Williams added, and that will allow time for the kinds of policing that schedules don’t allow now.

Officers are tracked every minute of the day, Williams said, and the goal is 45 percent of time being unassigned, which would allow officers to build those relationships.

“You can’t really do that in lieu of responding to somebody’s call,” the Sheriff added.

Ahead of court hearings, Corrine Brown continues promoting concerts

Jay-Z famously rapped that one “can’t change a player’s game in the 9th inning.” And so is the case with Corrine Brown, who continues promoting fundraising events for her legal defense fund, as she fights convictions on 18 counts in a federal fraud trial.

A recent Facebook live video found Brown in a familiar salon in North Jacksonville, making a pitch that is almost as familiar: to buy tickets for the capstone of Brown’s benefit tour, a Shirley Caesar concert on Sunday.

The video begins awkwardly; the photog tells Brown she has “something on [her] lip,” which leads Brown to lick said lip until said obstruction is removed.

Brown then goes on to “thank the community for … support and prayers.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing everybody at 5:00 Sunday for the Shirley Caesar’s program,” Brown exclaimed.

“I know everybody said they’re praying for me, but I need to physically see you and touch you Sunday,” Brown said.

Caesar is name-checked with Brown saying Caesar is coming for “prayer with a purpose — to pray for me.”

Tickets, Brown reminded viewers, start at a “very reasonable” $25 and go up in price, with the “VIP tickets” representing even better value and $100 tickets allowing one to be “in the back with refreshments.”

The concert will be in a church. It is Brown’s hope that all 4,250 seats sell by Thursday.

Brown’s benefit concert is less than 24 hours before a hearing in her case to consider motions for acquittal and for a new trial.

It is currently unknown how much money is in the Corrine Brown Legal Defense Trust Fund. Even after two benefit events already, the website claims the account is “0% funded,” suggesting that the accounting practices that led to Brown’s conviction are still as loose as ever.

Mia Jones backs Andrew Gillum for Governor

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum rolled out his most significant Jacksonville endorsement of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor Wednesday, in the form of former State Rep. Mia Jones.

Jones called Gillum a “tireless public servant willing to take on the tough fights … just the kind of leader Floridians need now.”

“He will rebuild our economy so it creates better-paying jobs at every rung of the income ladder; protect and defend our access to affordable health care; fight for public school students’ education; and confront our climate change crisis,” Jones said, saying that Gillum would “fight for what we believe in.”

Gillum is “thrilled” to have Jones’ endorsement, calling her a “fierce fighter for affordable health care and common-sense health care policies,” an advocate for “our most vulnerable seniors in Florida nursing homes,” and “a champion for our historically black universities and all of Florida’s higher education institutions.”

The two are excited to campaign together, both said.

Gillum and Gwen Graham are the only two candidates for the Democratic nomination making a play in Jacksonville.

Graham has endorsements from former Mayors Tommy Hazouri and Jake Godbold, along with City Councilman Garrett Dennis.

Jason Fischer endorses Wyman Duggan in HD 15 GOP race

The campaign rollout for Jacksonville lawyer Wyman Duggan in his bid for the GOP nomination in House District 15 has been textbook.

Already this week, Duggan launched with Tim Baker and Brian Hughes running the operation, and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry endorsing the candidate he urged to run.

On Thursday, another key endorsement from a would-be colleague in Tallahassee and Curry ally, Rep. Jason Fischer.

Fischer, notably, is the only State House candidate Curry endorsed in 2016, a distinction which helped close the deal for Fischer before his dispositive August primary victory.

Fischer described Duggan as “a committed conservative who will fight for taxpayers and hold government accountable” in his endorsement.

Duggan, in accepting the endorsement, called Fischer “a strong leader for our community and a champion of transparency and accountability in government.”

Rep. Jay Fant, pursuing the GOP nomination in the Attorney General’s race, will not run for re-election. One wonders if any competition will emerge for Duggan.

Lenny Curry endorses Wyman Duggan in HD 15 GOP primary

The Republican primary will likely decide Jacksonville’s House District 15 next year. And Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made his endorsement known Tuesday.

Curry is backing Wyman Duggan … an unsurprising development, given that Curry encouraged Duggan to get in the race, and given that Curry’s own political team is running Duggan’s campaign to replace Jay Fant (who is vying to be Attorney General next year).

“I’m proud to support Wyman Duggan, a true conservative, for State Representative in District 15,” said Mayor Curry.

“I have known Wyman for many years and know he has the character and courage to stand up and fight for our conservative values in Tallahassee. I look forward to doing all I can to help Wyman be successful in his campaign,” Curry added.

Curry has gotten involved in one State House race during his term, and his support — financial and otherwise — helped push Rep. Jason Fischer to a convincing victory over political veteran Dick Kravitz.

Duggan said it was “an honor to have the support of Mayor Curry.”

Duggan said Curry “is a conservative of tremendous courage and has been a transformational leader who has provided conservative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our city. I look forward to working with Mayor Curry to fight for Jacksonville in the State House,” Duggan added.

Expect more endorsements to follow quickly.

Jacksonville wins $222K default judgement against Councilwoman’s business

Last week, the city of Jacksonville won a $222,000 default judgement against businesses belonging to the family of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown.

This judgement was the culmination of a long-standing legal action against CoWealth LLC and Basic Products LLC, two shell companies of the Brown family that — back in 2011 — accepted roughly $600,000 in loans and grants designed to kickstart a BBQ sauce plant that was intended to be a job-creating engine for Northwest Jacksonville.

Alas, the engine stalled — of the 56 jobs that were intended to be created, zero permanent jobs came to pass.

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 $210,549.99 in clawback money, and another $10,585.01 for interest, calculated back to June 2016, when the city of Jacksonville began to move toward litigation.

CoWealth originally borrowed $2.65 million from Biz Capital, in addition to $380,000 of loans 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, essentially rendering this a valueless default.

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.

She has resisted all attempts to secure meaningful comment, even as she serves on Finance, evaluating economic deals involving the very Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund that her companies stiffed this decade.

Wyman Duggan enters HD 15 race as instant establishment favorite

Despite facing challenges, state Rep. Jay Fant‘s position regarding the GOP primary for Attorney General is simply put as “AG or bust.”

This leaves a void in the House District 15 race for 2018. And it appears the invisible primary is all but over as local establishment favorite Wyman Duggan is poised to enter.

“After much encouragement from members of our community, I am announcing my candidacy to serve our [community] in the Florida House of Representatives and sent my paperwork to Tallahassee this morning,” said Duggan in announcing his campaign.

“As a fourth generation Northeast Floridian and now raising my family here, I am running to ensure the brightest possible future for Jacksonville and to stand up for our shared conservative values. I’ve spent my career representing people and businesses in our community trying to build better lives but see them struggle against government regulations and overreach. As a State Representative, I will be a conservative champion of freedom and opportunity for Jacksonville and our state,” Duggan added.

Duggan will have some road-tested names running his operation: Tim Baker as consultant, Brian Hughes on comms. Baker and Hughes — the top talent working this market — will have the resources they need for whatever campaign awaits the candidate.

Expect a top-shelf finance committee behind Duggan, especially given that Duval GOP legend John Falconetti and  Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry have been key to urging Duggan to run and getting support from local stakeholders.

Duggan, a shareholder at the Rogers Towers law firm, has the kind of credentials that lend themselves to moving into public service. Among the highlights of a long list of honorifics: he chaired Jacksonville’s Charter Revision Commission, and served as Vice Chair of the Consolidation task force. With that experience, he is uniquely suited to advocate for Jacksonville’s interests in Tallahassee — avoiding the kind of learning curve many first-time candidates might have regarding local issues.

Duggan had floated a run for state Senate in 2012; that run lasted but a couple of months, as the money went in a different direction.

In this race, however, expect that the early money and a commensurate windfall of endorsements will go Duggan’s way.

More money for Jax after-school programs as Lenny Curry pushes for reform

Monday morning saw Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Anna Brosche announce that $1.071M of new money would be available for after school programs this coming academic year.

With reforms to be announced Wednesday morning at a press conference for the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey this week, this is another short-term solution to a problem that Curry doesn’t want to see in the long term, with money to pay for it swept out of various accounts — more detail on that will come in the filed legislation.

Curry’s statement spoke to that “Band-Aid” solution reality, ahead of meetings with nine Council members on Monday, more on Tuesday, and a Wednesday press conference to announce comprehensive reforms.

“Council President Brosche and I remain committed to creating a city where children from their earliest age through young adulthood have the tools and resources to thrive,” said Mayor Curry.

“As I’ve stated many times before, our youth are our city’s future, and I believe every child deserves access to programs and initiatives that will build brighter futures, pathways and opportunities for them,” Curry added.

“Although we are pleased to increase the offerings and improve access, we recognize that this is essentially a Band-Aid. It is another stopgap measure to help meet the urgent needs of children this school year, which is why the reforms that I will be introducing are essential to our children,” Curry continued.

Much of Curry’s summer has been occupied with the problem of underfunded summer camps.

The city allocated nearly a million dollars to funding camps for underprivileged youth in June. Despite such an allocation, hiccups remained in the dispersal of money to providers, at least one of which was running the program out of her own pocket.

Curry has promised reforms to the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey frameworks, and one should expect those to be rolled out in the coming days. A significant architect of the Journey vision, we hear, is involved in the schematics.

The reforms, CP Brosche said, would be “structural in nature.” (For an analogue of such structural reforms, one might consider Curry’s reforms of the JEA Board, to which he brought people who shared his vision, who then instituted changes in governance and accointability).

JCC will continue to exist and be independent, per Brosche, a vision that accords with her larger vision for the city’s children.

Council President Brosche added, via statement, the following.

“Back to school is a time when students, families and educators are full of hope about the new school year,” said  Brosche. “How the city wraps itself around our children is one of the most important investments we can make in our future. I appreciate and applaud Mayor Curry’s efforts to find and reallocate budget resources to reach more children.”

Council members beyond Brosche are conceptually in favor of reform, but they all have individual concerns — which will come up this week as the Mayor meets with Council members one-on-one, with nine meetings slated for Monday alone.

Southside Republican Scott Wilson notes that some of his neighborhoods struggle like those that are in the ten Jacksonville Journey zip codes, and wants to ensure that his district’s interests are protected.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney, one of the first Council members to meet with the Mayor, noted that reforms would be unveiled in a Wednesday press conference — and that he support Curry’s “vision to restructure” the beleaguered JCC’s changes.

“The program will be totally different,” Gaffney said. “I do support his vision and direction.”

Also supporting Curry’s reforms: Councilwoman Katrina Brown, who took to Facebook Monday afternoon to communicate that commitment

Councilman John Crescimbeni, meanwhile, described his chat with Curry as a “preliminary conversation,” suggesting that details would be in legislation from the Mayor’s Office, expected to drop this week.

Expect that those who appear Wednesday with Curry at the aforementioned press conference share his vision for reform.

And those who don’t, meanwhile, may be hazarding a certain level of risk vis a vis the Mayor’s Office.

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