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Jax Council Rules committee relaxes inspector general ‘2-year rule’

On an otherwise quiet Tuesday in the Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee, the panel moved to remove the provision that the inspector general shall not have been employed by city government or any other governmental entity within two years before before being selected, unless the appointment was in the IG’s office.

The bill, moved on an emergency basis, was timed to help facilitate the city government’s search for a new inspector general, after the previous one resigned earlier this spring.

Former City Hall attorney Steve Rohan serves currently as the interim inspector general.

The bill simply deletes the two-year requirement, said President-Designate Lori Boyer, that was adopted in a Rules Committee amendment in 2014 at the urging of the council auditor’s office, which was worried their employees would be “poached.”

Boyer, who helms the Inspector General Selection and Retention Committee, notes the committee wants the restriction lifted from the ordinance to broaden the pool to people employed by independent authorities and the sheriff’s office.

If there were “potential conflicts,” Boyer said they would be discussed in the hiring process.

Ethics head Carla Miller believes the idea a “fallacy” that someone who has been gone for two years automatically has the necessary “degree of independence.”

Ultimately, it is council’s decision, she said.

Rules Committee members pushed back.

Anna Brosche said she had “reservations,” but could support it nonetheless. Tommy Hazouri “shared those same concerns,” but said he’d support the measure nonetheless.

John Crescimbeni, who is not a Rules member, expressed concerns about “poaching city employees” and also posed the idea that someone who left an agency could give proper “scrutiny” in that investigation.

“The risk of coming from somewhere in city government that may be the subject of a complaint” worried Crescimbeni.

Miller said that risk was a potential issue, and that the inspector general’s office needed to develop a policy to deal with it.

“We have to depend on the integrity of the person we hire for that position,” Miller said, and “protocols and rules have to be established.”

Crescimbeni noted a previous iteration of the inspector general “worked for the mayor, so there [was] no independence.”

“That doesn’t always pass the smell test in the eyes of the public,” Crescimbeni said.

Boyer noted that familiarity with how city government works creates an advantage for an incoming candidate, in terms of knowing where the issues were, as compared to a candidate, such as the previous IG, who was from out of town and out of his depth.

Crescimbeni pushed for an amendment to outline the procedure for how an internal candidate might handle potential conflicts of interest. Ethics head Miller said more IG-related “cleanup bills” will be coming before the committee to address that and other issues, but Crescimbeni was not mollified, wanting an amendment ahead of Tuesday.

Interim IG Rohan noted there is a “very elite and accomplished selection committee … vetting the candidates and making good decisions.”

Rohan said if Crescimbeni’s logic were extended, no candidate who had ever worked for the city could qualify for the position.

“You have a solution that you’re looking for a problem for,” Rohan said, given the “superb” committee in place.

“I can’t imagine an official of the city whom I would not be willing to investigate,” said Rohan, including a member of the Office of General Counsel, city council, or the mayor.

Rohan, meanwhile, “has not ruled out” filling the role himself, albeit on a part-time basis that wouldn’t impact his retirement.

Concerns about independence (or the lack thereof) notwithstanding, Rules passed the measure 6-0, which will need to be approved by the full council on June 14.

Andrew Korge has raised more than $200K during last two months on campaign trail

Andrew Korge, a first-time Democratic candidate for Senate District 39, has raised more than $200,000 during the last two months on the campaign trail.

Korge announced Monday that he brought in roughly $102,000 in May. That’s on the heels of more than $100,000 raised in April.

“Voters in District 39 are responding to our 21st century vision for Florida, and our fundraising proves it,” Korge said Tuesday.

This is the third time since Korge entered the SD 39 race he has cleared the $100,000 per month hurdle. In March 2015, Korge reported an impressive $250,000 raised in just two weeks.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Korge’s May report is that he is starting to raise Tallahassee money, which many expected would only go to Republican Sen. Anitere Flores.

“As a pro-growth Democrat who is business partners with Jeb Bush Jr., it makes sense that major donors would play both sides in a highly competitive race like this,” Korge said. “I am humbled by their support and confidence in me.”

The Korge campaign says it is likely more Tallahassee donors will cover their bases in the coming months because many are starting to realize that GOP nominee Donald Trump could be a major drag on down-ticket races in Hispanic areas like Miami. In 2012, Barack Obama won Miami-Dade by more than 200,000 votes against a far less controversial opponent.

4th Circuit Public Defender candidate Charles Cofer spends big in May

In May, former Duval County chief judge Charles Cofer began spending in earnest in his GOP primary bid to unseat 4th Circuit Public Defender Matt Shirk.

The 4th Circuit encompasses Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties.

Cofer raised just over $11,000 in May, including two key max contributions: one from Gate Petroleum, the company of former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton; the other from the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.

His total money raised is $115,815. His total spend thus far is $74,338.

Cofer spent $53,391 of that money in May, with over $44,000 of that going to Daigle Creative for a $40,000 media buy, a $3,000 consulting charge, and $1,079 for graphic design, printing, and media relations.

Cofer has just over $47,000 cash on hand, a number boosted by a $7,000 loan early in the campaign.

Cofer’s opponent, incumbent Shirk, had just over $25,000 on hand through April.

His May numbers are still pending.

Six-figure haul for Melissa Nelson’s ‘First Coast Values’ political committee

The May numbers for “First Coast Values,” a political committee associated with 4th Circuit State Attorney Republican challenger Melissa Nelson, augur well for her campaign.

The political committee’s first month of fundraising brought in $108,500, of which $50,103 was spent.

Of that money, $80,000 came from three donors, all attorneys.

Ellen Fitzsimmons, general counsel for railroad company CSX, gave $50,000.

George “Buddy” Schulz, of the Jacksonville law firm Holland and Knight, gave $25,000.

Scott Cairns of McGuire Woods (Nelson’s firm) gave $10,000.

Multi Media Services, got $50,000 of the May spend, for a big-ticket ad buy that started running in the Jacksonville media market in May.

The entire 4th Circuit, which includes Duval, Nassau, and Clay counties, is encompassed by that media market.

Nelson’s May fundraising numbers are not in for her campaign account as of Wednesday afternoon. However, she has a steep hill to climb.

As of her April filing, incumbent State Attorney Angela Corey has over $200,000 on hand.

Rick Scott meets with Jax first responders, calls for federal help on Zika

With Tropical Storm Colin now a memory for the Sunshine State, Gov. Rick Scott stopped in Jacksonville Tuesday to thank first responders at Fire Station #1 on Jacksonville’s Eastside.

While he was here Tuesday morning, he sounded the alarm — yet again — on the matter of federal funding for Zika prevention.

When discussing the storm, Scott noted that standing water is a recurrent problem still, which is obviously an issue given that water is a breeding ground for the mosquitoes that carry Zika.

Scott, discussing Zika, said he was “really disappointed” Congress went on recess instead of passing the Zika funding necessary to handle the state’s needs.

“We’re doing our part,” Scott said, but “this is a national issue” and “the federal government needs to show up.”

“There’s money in the federal budget right now,” Scott continued, to fight Zika.

When asked if the state budget had money in reserve to handle the shortfall from the federal side, Scott said “the state’s going to do the right thing” but “the federal government needs to do its part.”


Addressing media along with Gov. Scott were Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams, who both spoke about the local experience with Colin on Monday.

Curry noted that Scott called on Monday, to see if the city needed any help, and to ensure Curry knew to call if any help was needed.

Sheriff Williams, meanwhile, noted that Jacksonville “came together as a city” in response to Tropical Storm Colin.

Town hall tonight in Jacksonville focusing on police shootings

Activists in Jacksonville are hosting a town hall meeting tonight at the Wells Fargo offices on North Main Street after weeks of protests against the shooting death of Vernell Bing.

The Kemetic Empire says it’s hosting the event “to present solutions, a platform for the community to express their views and concerns.”

Invited to appear are State Attorney Angela Corey, Sheriff Mike Williams, Public Defender Matt Shirk, and Jacksonville City Council member Reginald Gaffney, among others. No word yet if any of those officials are confirmed.

JSO continues to face criticism after Bing was shot by police on May 22 in Springfield after he rammed a stolen vehicle head-on into a braking patrol car, ending a high-speed chase.

For his part, Williams says he’s committed to more transparency with the public and wants to regain trust in the city’s African-American neighborhoods. His Sheriff’s Initiative, a study of police policies, is expected to issue a report later this month.



Second Jax council committee approves mosquito-control funds

On Tuesday morning, the Jacksonville City Council Recreation, Community Development, Public Health, and Safety committee mulled Zika-related legislation.

One bill, which moves $122,524 from the mosquito control fund balance to allocations for insecticide and equipment this fiscal year and next, was approved by the Finance Committee Monday.

RCDPHS approved the bill 5-0 without discussion.

A companion bill, which authorizes the finance director to execute budget forms on behalf of the city council with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services relating to mosquito control funding, was approved on an emergency basis, as it was in Finance.

These forms have to be signed by a constitutional officer, according to the city charter.

Without these signed forms, the state can withhold funding, which amounted to $43,000 this fiscal year.

These measures will have to be approved by the full council Tuesday.

After the discussion, Kelli Wells of the Department of Health said door knockers were being put out on doors to raise Zika awareness. Unlike in some cities, condoms (to nullify the threat of sexually transmitted Zika) are not included.

Wells noted that while the heavy rains from Colin disrupted the mosquito population momentarily, standing water presents a threat for mosquito population redevelopment.

Pregnant women are being monitored, said Wells, to ensure that they aren’t symptomatic.

Jayer Williamson adds $20K during May in bid to succeed Doug Broxson

House District 3 candidate Jayer Williamson added another $20,000 to his campaign account last month, increasing his lead over fellow Republican Johnathan Walters.

Williamson’s $20,102 haul came in across 36 contributions and his expenditures came in at $2,477, leaving the Milton Republican with $85,538 on hand in his campaign to take over for Republican Rep. Doug Broxson.

Notable donors last month include Duke Energy and former House Speaker Allan Bense, each contributing the campaign maximum of $1,000. The bulk of the May spending went to K. Ballard Consulting, which received $2,050 from the campaign coffers last month.

Walters, the only candidate running against the Santa Rosa County commissioner, hasn’t filed any May numbers yet, and he has so far posted no contributions since filing for the seat in April.

HD 3 carries a heavy Republican advantage and no Democrat has run for the seat since 2010, when Broxson took over the district from Sen. Greg Evers. Despite having another two years of eligibility in the House, Broxson announced he would run for Evers’ SD1 seat shortly after the exiting senator declared he would run for Congress.

Senate campaigns of David Simmons, Lauren Book, George Gainer post impressive May fundraising reports

George Gainer, Lauren Book and incumbent Sen. David Simmons continued to coast in fundraising last month, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

Simmons raised $126,072 last month, which accounts for more than half of the money the Altamonte Springs Republican has raised since filing for re-election back in September. Among the 213 contributions were $1,000 checks from several companies associated with taxi company Mears Transportation Group, alongside contributions from fellow driver services City Cab Company of Orlando and Yellow Airport Limousine Service.

The May contributions were offset by just $7,005 in expenditures, leaving Simmons with about $210,000 on hand in his unopposed campaign for the newly redrawn Senate District 9, which covers Seminole County and part of Volusia.

Over in SD 2, Gainer posted $34,515 in contributions for his uncontested effort to take over for termed-out Republican Sen. Don Gaetz, who was among the 56 contributors listed on the Bay County Republican’s May report.

Also on the list were future Senate President Wilton Simpson, his wife Kathryn, and his political committee, “Jobs for Florida.”

Gainer’s May numbers included $10,685 in expenditures, leaving the Bay County commissioner with more than $540,000 on hand heading into June.

Also turning in an early report was Democrat Book, who raised $15,100 last month including $1,000 checks from Anheuser-Busch and Publix Super Markets.

The author and child advocate spent more than she brought in last month, however, with $20,332 in expenditures. Among the outflow was a $13,000 payment to Coral Springs-based Win on the Ground Consulting.

The May numbers leave her with about $266,000 on hand in her campaign account, compared to just $265 for her lone rival in the newly drawn SD 32, Davie Democrat Emmanuel Blimie. Book also has another $689,000 in her political committee, “Leadership for Broward,” which has not yet released May fundraising numbers.

Early congressional filings assure primaries in CDs 6, 7, 9 and 11

Monday’s first day of qualifying for congressional races in Florida has seen enough candidates qualify to force Republican primaries in Florida’s 6th, 7th and 11th Congressional Districts and Democratic primaries in the 6th and 9th Congressional Districts so far.

In other districts expecting Democratic or Republican primaries, announced candidates either did not file Monday or came up short of the 2,298 verified signatures needed to qualify by petition.

They still have until June 24, or they may opt to pay a $10,444 qualifying fee to get on the ballot.

In CD 6, covering Volusia County and parts of Lake and Flagler counties, Republicans Fred Costello, G.G. Galloway, Patrick Mooney, Brandon Patty and David Santiago, and Democrats George Pappas and David Taylor all filed enough verified petitions to qualify to be on the Aug. 30 primary ballots. That forces primaries for both Republicans and Democrats.

In that race, Democrats Jason Kendall and Bill McCullough did not file anything Monday.

In CD 7, covering Seminole County and north central Orange County, incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica and Mark Busch filed enough petitions to set a Republican primary on Aug. 30. No Democrats  have announced to run there, and none filed.

In Florida’s 8th Congressional District, covering Brevard and Indian River counties and east Orange, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Posey filed enough petitions to qualify, while Democrat Christopher Duncan filed only 478 signatures so far.

In CD 9, covering Osceola County, south-central Orange and east Polk County, Democrats Susannah Randolph and state Sen. Darren Soto filed enough verified signatures to force a Democratic primary, while Wayne Liebnitzky was the only Republican to qualify on the first day. Republican Wanda Rentas filed 546 valid signatures. Democrats Valleri Crabtree filed 865 and Jason Borders, 439. Democrat Dena Grayson and Republican Terry Howard have not filed anything yet.

In Florida’s 10th Congressional District, in west Orange and northeast Lake County, only Democrat Val Demings and Republican Thuy Lowe filed enough valid petition signatures to qualify on the first day. Democrats state Sen. Geraldine Thompson filed 2,164 verified petitions and Fatima Rita Fahmy, 2074, while Republican Geoff LaGarde filed 387. Democrat Bob Poe has not filed anything yet.

In CD 11, covering most of Lake and Sumter and Marion counties, Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, who represents CD 10 currently, and Republican Justin Grabelle and Democrat Dave Koller all filed enough to qualify, assuring the Republicans a primary. Republican Mark Fisher filed 1,167 valid signatures.

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