Corrine Brown – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Corrine Brown’s lawyer: Former congresswoman’s guilt is a ‘myth’

On Monday afternoon, in Jacksonville’s federal courthouse, Corrine Brown came one step closer to learning whether or not she can avoid time in prison.

But she did not get a definitive answer in court.

Convicted of 18 counts in a federal fraud trial regarding “One Door for Education,” a sham educational charity Brown and her cohorts raised money for and extracted money from between 2012 and 2015, Brown has continued to maintain her innocence despite the guilty verdicts and the preponderance of facts supporting them.

Monday saw Brown’s lawyer, James Smith, present motions for a new trial and for acquittal. Judge Timothy Corrigan noted he was not inclined to rule from the bench Monday on those motions, which were presented at great length anyway.

The motion for a new trial was predicated on an interesting concept: Is the Holy Spirit an external force?

Brown posits that the jury was corrupted because a juror was removed for deeply held religious convictions that told him Brown was innocent, and that the Holy Spirit guiding someone does not disqualify that person from jury service.

The acquittal motion was much more quotidian, contending that the government did not prove its case, as some One Door money went toward charity, and there was no hard evidence that Brown conspired to defraud donors.

Ahead of the hearing, we caught up with Rev. Jesse Jackson, who told us why he stands with Brown.

“Corrine delivers,” Jackson said.

We asked Jackson to weigh in on the charges, and he was more circumspect.

“I came as a friend,” Jackson said, “not as a lawyer.”


Judge Timothy Corrigan noted that typically there is not oral argument on these motions; however, by special request from Brown’s attorney, he granted it.

“My purpose today is to listen to counsel’s arguments,” Corrigan said, noting he was “unlikely to rule from the bench” on these matters.


Acquittal was the first motion to be considered.

Brown’s attorney contended that there was not “one fundamental piece of evidence” presented in the trial that established Brown’s guilt conclusively, despite the length of the trial.

The conspiracy charge — unproven, beyond the testimony of former chief-of-staff and co-conspirator Ronnie Simmons, Brown’s defense said.

“There may have been an occasional use of the shorthand, ‘One Door Is my charity,'” Brown’s lawyer said. But that didn’t add up to conspiracy.

Brown’s lawyer also contended that there were no claims that the money would “solely be used for scholarships” in pitches to donors.

Regarding the lack of scholarships given out by One Door, Brown’s attorney said “that’s not a crime.” Nor was there a contention that she would give out the scholarships, he said.

Evidence presented, meanwhile, was “circumstantial,” because the government lacked direct evidence of conspiracy.  And as a result, the government’s case rested in “myth”, such as portraying One Door as “Brown’s charity.”

Circumstantial evidence, Brown’s attorney said, led to Brown being convicted via “guilt by association.”

While Brown was associated with One Door and did solicit money and did derive benefit, the defense contends that doesn’t prove criminal intent.

Similar defenestrations of the government’s case on financial disclosures and fictional tax returns followed, with the case boiling down to Brown not being aware of the forms that were submitted over the course of years, as her crowded schedule precluded attention to those matters.

While these forms were “not done in a way befitting a person of her position,” and her financial affairs were a “mess,” that is not evidence of guilt.

The prosecution, via U.S. Attorney Michael Coolican, noted that “we had the facts on our side, and now we have the law on our side as well.”

“The defense is not saying anything different today than it did [during] the proceedings,” Coolican continued, hammering in on repeated instances of “fraudulent omissions” regarding pitches to donors, statements on tax returns, and so on — with Brown’s word being the only evidence to the contrary.

Evidentiary points, such as Brown holding blank checks from One Door, loomed large as evidence of Brown’s involvement.

“She had hijacked the charity, had her chief of staff take control of the finances, and was bleeding it dry,” Coolican said.

Brown’s attorney countered that the elderly Brown was taken advantage of by “thieves in her office,” and the fundraising events promoted by One Door in fact took place — even though the money did not make it to student scholarships.


The motion for a new trial proceeded much along the same lines, with Brown’s attorney contending that the claim of the booted juror that he was getting insight on Brown’s innocence from “higher beings” did not disrupt the “deliberative process.”

“There was not sufficient evidence in the record to support the court’s conclusion,” the defense attorney said, given that the discharged juror never said he would ignore tangible evidence in favor of guidance from “the Holy Spirit.”

“Simply seeking guidance from a higher power is not a sufficient basis for a juror to be dismissed,” the defense attorney continued.

While Brown’s attorney believes his client got a “fair trial,” on this matter an error was made.

“Ultimately, we believe the court made a mistake here,” he said, because the conclusion was “not supported by facts.”

“Is it proper for a person of faith to be dismissed from a jury … we’re dealing with someone who said that faith motivated and provided guidance on the issues,” the barrister continued.

The upshot of the argument: sending the juror home deprived Brown of her right to a fair trial.

The prosecution, via U.S. Attorney Eric Olsham, countered that the juror said he “was told by his Father in Heaven that the defendant was not guilty on all counts.”

He claimed to have had “received … this mandate from a Higher Power,” and such reception rendered the juror unfit for deliberation.

A “more searching inquiry” was not required in that context, the state contended.

On the matter of the discharged juror, Corrigan noted that the matter today boiled down to “did I do the right thing” or not.

The government noted a preponderance of evidence that he did, based on repeated claims of having “received information” from said Higher Power.

Brown’s attorney was more bearish, saying that no evidence was provided that the juror couldn’t evaluate the case independently of his input from the Christian conception of the supreme deity.

“He was kicked off, and that violated Congresswoman’s right to a fair trial.”

This “mistake,” however, could be “corrected,” the defense attorney said.


After the hearing, we attempted to get answers as to the status of Brown’s “legal defense trust fund,” which suffered a setback this week when a concert by gospel act Shirley Caesar was cancelled due to “inclement weather.”

We asked about the state of the fund, and about Brown’s ability to pay her attorney; for his part, he didn’t seem concerned about how much of the money owed to him will ever be paid.

As Brown’s supporters yelled messages of acclamation and affirmation behind her, and as Rev. Jesse Jackson stood nearby, Brown was silent.


For Corrine Brown, the sentence has already begun

On Monday afternoon, in Jacksonville’s federal courthouse, Corrine Brown and her supporters and detractors will be one step closer to learning whether or not she can avoid time in prison.

Earlier this year, Brown was found guilty on 18 of 22 counts related to conspiracy to defraud via what prosecutors describe as a fake charity: “One Door for Education.” Those charges include conspiracy to commit and aiding and abetting wire and mail fraud, and multiple counts of fraudulent filing of federal tax returns.

All told, over $800,000 was raised from donors. Of that, $330,000 of One Door money went to Corrine Brown events. And $141,000 of shady cash deposits coursed into her checking account from pass-through sources from 2009 to 2015.

Despite the tangible proof of conspiracy to defraud and unjust enrichment, and despite the feds generally hammering the overmatched defense throughout the case, Brown filed motions seeking a new trial and for acquittal.

On Monday, there are hearings for both requests.

The motion for a new trial is predicated on an interesting concept: Is the Holy Spirit an external force?

Brown posits that the jury was corrupted because a juror was removed for deeply held religious convictions, and the Holy Spirit guiding someone does not disqualify that person from jury service.

“During deliberations, Juror 13 said the holy spirit had told him that Ms. Brown was not guilty. The Court found that the holy spirit was an external force, and dismissed the juror. After Juror 13 was dismissed, Ms. Brown was found guilty. The Court’s finding that the holy spirit is an external force is not supported by the record … Therefore, justice requires that Ms. Brown be granted a new trial,” the motion reads.

The acquittal motion was much more quotidian, contending that the government did not prove its case, as some One Door money went toward charity, and there was no hard evidence that Brown conspired to defraud donors.

Essentially, it repeated contentions made and rejected by jurors during the course of the trial.

Most observers assume these hearings are just hiccups on the one-way street toward sentencing for Brown.

However, there is a case to be made that the sentence already began for Brown — and that sentence began with the indictment 13 months ago.

Brown, back in July 2016, couldn’t attend a court hearing without political allies by her side. State Sen. Audrey Gibson, state Rep. Kim Daniels, City Councilman Reggie Brown were just a few of those supporting Brown last summer.

Such support became less visible at the hearings and months since, as the optics of photo-ops became less convenient for those whose political futures now needed a different engine than the Corrine Machine.

The ink on the indictment was still drying as Brown limped through the ass-end of her final political campaign.

Brown couldn’t raise money for her race against Al Lawson. She likewise could not raise money for her legal defense. It seemed that all anyone wanted to talk to her about was the federal charges.

The nadir of that campaign: a post-debate press conference in Jacksonville, which devolved quickly into Brown attacking the media — including this correspondent.

“What if I said I thought you was a pedophile? You’d think something was wrong with me.”

Those words, voiced on the debate stage Thursday night at Jacksonville University by incumbent 5th District Rep. Corrine Brown, recurred during that post-debate presser.

“If I said ‘young man, you a pedophile’, that’s a charge,” Brown said to this reporter, by way of attempting to establish that an accusation is not tantamount to conviction, “because somebody makes an accusation against you doesn’t make you guilty.”

Brown suggested the media was “lazy” for not being able to figure out that she wasn’t guilty based simply on her assertions.

However, whether the press corps was just a pack of lazy pedophiles or not, Brown all but said that the game was over for her at that point.

When asked about her anemic $25,000 cash-on-hand in the campaign, and the loss of a third set of lawyers on Thursday, Brown said “yes” that she was having a cash issue.

“It’s a very challenging balance running a campaign and [paying] legal bills,” Brown said.

And indeed it was. Brown lost convincingly, and her post-campaign celebration reportedly included the saddest Electric Slide of all time.

Much like the Electric Slide phenomenon, there was a retro feel about Brown’s cash and carry operation, around which there have always been a series of salacious stories, usually with election hijinks as the setting. The closest anyone came to make those allegations on the record regarded her allegedly pay-to-play Quick Picks tout sheet, in which she endorsed and hit the endorsees up for “printing costs” — a malleable concept, to be sure.

The congresswoman took issue with the idea that her endorsements are controversial, given that the Chamber and the unions offer endorsements. “How am I different? Oh, I know,” she said, laughing ruefully.

“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. People ask me how I’m voting. I’m so excited that it’s a discussion in the community. I’ve printed 50,000 of them,” she said. “It’s like the dog track: a cheat sheet.”

Brown even released 2016 Quick Picks; the story then was that her endorsement of Jacksonville’s pension reform vote was open for negotiation.

In the end, no endorsement. And no comment when asked.

Since the end of her political career, Brown has seen her co-defendant and former chief of staff roll on her, and has seen many of the old friends fade away.

A great indication of her diminished pull: recent fundraising for her legal defense fund. Or lack thereof.

Brown set up a series of fundraisers in recent weeks, with the culmination intended to be a Sunday concert at the 4,250 seat Bethel Baptist Church — Brown’s own church, helmed by a pastor with his own tax issues over the years totalling nearly a million dollars in arrears.

Brown attempted to book Shirley Caesar, whose gigs cost $30,000 each according to one booking agency. Tickets cost up to $100, which included VIP treatment and drinks.

Alas, Brown cancelled the concert — almost as if she couldn’t afford the booking fee.

However, Brown said the culprit was “inclement weather” — an interesting dodge for an indoor event, given the forecast Sunday only includes the “scattered thunderstorms” that are generally expected in Florida in August.

The storm clouds will be over the Federal Courthouse Monday afternoon. However, from the time the indictment dropped on her 13 months ago, Brown has been soaked — day after day — with legacy-killing revelations.

It’s hard to imagine a narrative pivot this late in the game.

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.

God and the grift: Corrine Brown’s last hustle

Corrine Brown is promoting a series of fundraisers to defray legal expenses, including a concert at Bethel Baptist Church billed as “Praise with a Purpose.”

The Aug. 6 event: less than 24 hours before a hearing on motions to acquit and for a new trial on her 18 felony convictions related to assorted types of fraud involving a non-performing educational charity for which she fundraised and from which she got paid over the course of three years.

In what was a sycophantic interview with the host referring to Brown as the “people’s champ,” the former congresswoman managed to promote a concert and paint herself as a martyr of sorts, one whose legal travails are just happenstance, rather than the result of being the center of a sustained and prolonged conspiracy to defraud.

“Everywhere I go, people come up and tell me they are praying for me,” Brown said. “God wanted me to go through this to have us be more prayerful.”

“This white gentleman came up to me and told me ‘Corrine, we’re praying for you in Georgia.”

Prayers help, but they likely won’t solve Brown’s problems.

“This is a tough time for me because of the lawyers and bringing on another lawyer — maybe one or two — so I really need the community to financially support me,” Brown pleaded.

The host chimed in at that point: “That’s right.”

“There are 4,200 seats — I want every seat taken. We have $25 tickets, $50 tickets, $100 tickets,” Brown added.

The host went on to say that “the judge messed up” the trial, to which Brown exclaimed “that’s right!”

“The judge is hearing two motions — a motion for a new trial and a motion for acquittal,” Brown replied.

She clapped her hands together.

“That’s what I’m praying for.”

As the half hour wrapped, Brown talked about young people seeing her on the street and wanting to take a picture with her, saying they’d seen her on TV.

“You want to be on TV for the right thing,” Brown said.

Brown added that at least one busload of supporters is coming to Jacksonville’s federal courthouse for her doubleheader hearing on Aug. 7, urging those interested in supporting her to show up before the 3:00 p.m state.

Celebrities, such as Rev. Jesse Jackson, may also be in attendance — schedules permitting, of course.

In other happy news, Brown added that the Corrine Brown Regional Transportation Center in Gainesville will not be renamed, despite the best efforts of the pernicious “media,” as the public clamored to keep the public building named after someone convicted on 18 felony fraud counts.

‘Queen Corrine’ Brown asks donors to ‘deliver’ for legal defense

Action News Jax reporter Jenna Bourne posted a flier Thursday on Facebook that revealed an energetic 11th hour fundraising strategy for Corrine Brown.

Brown, who faces hearings on motions for acquittal and a new trial on Aug. 7, will have three fundraising events in the weeks ahead of time, per the flier.

Sat. July 22 sees an “after party”, to follow a concert by 20th century soul singer Betty Wright.

A week later comes the “All White Throwdown,” a “party with a purpose.”

And then, on Aug. 6, a surprise party — with location TBA.

The Corrine Brown Legal Defense Fund, per its website, is 0 percent funded — so the Congresswoman needs robust support at these events.

Brown was convicted earlier this year on 18 counts related to a fraudulent educational charity; those counts included conspiracy to defraud, several counts of wire and mail fraud, tax fraud, and fraudulent financial disclosures.

For those wondering about the “Queen Corrine” nickname, it surfaced during the trial, when discussion of Brown’s signature drink — strawberry Bellini in a sugar-rimmed glass — titillated media and onlookers alike.

Corrine Brown acquittal, new trial hearing set for Aug. 7

Corrine Brown recently re-affirmed motions for acquittal and for new trial, in response to federal prosecutors opposing those original motions. Her attorney wanted a chance to make oral arguments.

And he is getting that chance: Aug. 7 at 3:00 pm in Jacksonville Federal Courtroom 10-D.

Brown, found guilty on 18 counts related to wire, mail, tax, and financial disclosure fraud related to a charity that led to the unjust enrichment of her and co-conspirators, continues to vigorously maintain her innocence.


The motion for new trial continues with the pyrotechnics revolving around Juror 13, the juror dismissed as it was ascertained that the Holy Spirit telling him Brown was innocent interfered with his impartiality.

The juror’s removal, the memo holds, violated Brown’s Constitutional rights.

Moreover, it exposed religious bias from the court.

“The Court’s decision to dismiss the juror was based on its findings: (1) that God exists; and (2) that God is an external force. As with the juror’s statements, the Court’s findings were statements of faith. They reflected the Court’s religious beliefs.”

“In fact, the juror was not dismissed because of his religious beliefs. He was dismissed because of the Court’s
religious beliefs. He was dismissed because the Court believes that God exists, and that God is an external force. But the record does not support these beliefs,” the memo contends.

“The Court’s decision, if it is not corrected, will discourage a broad section of our population from productive jury service,” the memo warns.


In the memo arguing again for acquittal, the defense maintains that insufficient evidence of fraud existed, with “fraudulent intent” unproven.

As well, the defense contends, albeit unsympathetically, that there is no requirement that a charity dispense any amount of money — an interesting canard.

The defense also contends that Corrine Brown was not the “primary beneficiary” of the One Door for Education “fraud,” as she got just $37,000 out of it.

As well, Brown could not have been guilty of tax fraud: “A fair reading of the evidence show [SIC] that the Defendant’s taxes and financial disclosure forms are exactly what one would expect given the lack of attention
to detail and the last minute rushed nature of their preparation.”

In other words, contends her attorney, Brown was too sloppy with forms to commit tax fraud.


Brown was found guilty on 18 total counts, which sets her up potentially for a prison sentence of over 300 years, and fines and restitution in the millions of dollars.

On Count 1 — conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud — the jury ruled that Brown was found guilty of mail and wire fraud both.

Counts 2 through 17 involved mail fraud and wire fraud. Counts 2 through 8 — mail fraud — come down to shipments of checks via FedEx; counts 9 through 17 — wire fraud — involve interstate wire transfers, emails, et al.

Counts 2 through 8 saw the aforementioned co-conspirators, her former chief-of-staff Ronnie Simmons and his one-time girlfriend and CEO of the charity, Carla Wiley, at the other end of the mail solicited from donors, with the biggest pitch being for a check upward of $28,000 from a single donor.

The jury ruled that Brown was guilty on five of the seven counts.

Counts 9 through 17 saw Simmons soliciting checks from donors on some, with some “pass-through” transactions reflected in some counts, through the Alexander Agency — the agency of former Brown part-time employee Von Alexander.

The jury ruled that Brown was guilty on seven of the nine counts.

On Count 19 — scheme to conceal material facts on Congressional financial disclosure forms — the jury ruled that Brown was guilty.

Count 20 — scheme to conceal material facts — was predicated on “underreporting income” and “bogus” charitable deductions. The jury ruled that Brown was guilty.

Counts 21 to 24: four tax counts. 21 is to “obstruct and impede the due administration of Internal Revenue laws”, with false tax returns from 2012 to 2014 constituting the final three tax counts. Brown was found guilty on all.

In tennis game of court motions, it’s Corrine Brown’s serve

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown has already seen the government’s response to her motions for acquittal and a new trial in her court case.

Federal prosecutors oppose both the acquittal motion and the motion for a new trial.

The feds contend, contra Brown’s contention, that evidence was actually sufficient to convict her of 18 of 22 counts in her fraud trial for phantom educational charity One Door for Education.

And, despite best efforts from Brown’s attorney, James W. Smith III, the feds still don’t believe that the Holy Spirit’s ineffable input is compatible with evidentiary-based reasoning as to the former Congresswoman’s innocence or guilt, calling that argument a “self-serving view of the facts” that ignores voluminous case law in a vain attempt to prove that the removal of the Holy Roller was a miscarriage of justice.

Smith had filed for a leave to reply, contending that “Ms. Brown contends that the dismissal of Juror 13 violated
her Sixth Amendment rights to a unanimous verdict, and to a jury of her peers. This contention raises important and novel questions about the role religious beliefs may play in the deliberations of individual jurors. More specifically, it raises important and novel questions about the extent to which the Court may investigate and eliminate religious beliefs from the deliberations of individual jurors.”

Important and “novel,” or not, time is a-wastin’.

With former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown set to launch a run for Brown’s former Congressional seat once Corrine Brown is out of the news and into federal custody, time is of the essence to pull the final curtain on Motion Theater.

And Judge Timothy Corrigan set limits Tuesday on a response to the prosecutors’ rejection of a new trial motion and acquittal motion: no more than a ten-page memo on each, due no later than Jul. 7.

That date is almost one year after Brown’s 2016 indictment, one which effectively ended her political career and delivered her House seat to political veteran Al Lawson of Tallahassee.

Money troubles for Corrine Brown legal defense fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reggie Gaffney disclaims responsibility for non-profit’s alleged training and HR failures

Community Rehabilitation Center – the non-profit of Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney best known for its cameo appearances in the Corrine Brown trial and a Medicaid overbilling scandal – is back in the news.

The subject this time: a late-May whistleblower lawsuit in Florida’s 4th Circuit, filed by an employee who alleges that she was “unlawfully terminated” by the non-profit … after she was allegedly exposed to risk from HIV-positive clients without proper training and licensure. [Complaint against CRC].

We caught up with Gaffney Tuesday, and he noted that he was too busy with Council business the last couple of years to be held responsible.

“The last two years, I spent my time being a City Councilman,” Gaffney related, “and that’s why you hire staff to run the day to day.”

“We’ll see where it goes from here. I do know this: last 24 years, I probably hired 500 or 600 [staffers], and we’ve trained them all the same,” Gaffney said — an interesting revelation, if indeed the whistleblower’s allegations are found to have merit, with regard to not being trained to deal with HIV-positive patients.

“I don’t know the specifics,” Gaffney added, “I want to believe that my management staff knew what they [were] doing.”

One allegation the complainant made had to do with Gaffney specifically — a claim that Gaffney would “say anything to you to get you out of his face.”

Gaffney was “disturbed … that any person would say that. But I haven’t yet began to look into that,” the Councilman said of the suit filed nearly a month ago, “because I’ve been so focused on city business.”

Gaffney doesn’t expect CRC to settle, saying “there’s no merit to settle,” and he will trust his staff and the decisions they made.


Backstory on the filing, in exhaustive detail, below:

The plaintiff, Darlene Peoples, worked for CRC from 2013 to Sept. 2016. Most of her tenure was unremarkable – until the end.

In Jun. 2016, Peoples was “inexplicably” re-assigned to be a “mental health counselor” from her previous position, “substance abuse counselor,” in a move the filing describes as “ill-advised.”

There was a problem with that re-assignment: Peoples allegedly wasn’t trained in this position, which requires licensure and training according to Florida Statute.

No license? No matter, Peoples asserts. Despite her concerns about not being licensed, and other “safety concerns,” the tenured employee was put in a position for which she was not ready. Allegedly.

Meanwhile, Peoples alleges that her replacement as a substance abuse counselor “had no experience in substance abuse counseling, and frequently expressed how overwhelmed and unqualified she felt in her new position.”

Weeks after the re-assignment, CRC set up an appointment to train Peoples in the job to which she was assigned. The trainer, alleges Peoples, no-showed the meeting. When Peoples told Human Resources, she allegedly was served up a cryptic response: “Emergencies happen.”

The training was scuttled – including training in AIDS education, via the state-mandated Ryan White program. The employee Peoples was assigned to shadow for two weeks in lieu of training also hadn’t been trained in this pivotal program. Allegedly.

The most Peoples learned from this employee? Billing procedures, asserts the filing. And even regarding how to bill, Peoples alleges that a key component – DCF’s “Functional Assessment Ratings Scales” – was not provided. So, allegedly, CRC got that wrong too.

“Given the mental health conditions of her [HIV-positive] patients,” the filing alleges, the “lack of risk management training from the Defendant was especially concerning and posed an acute threat to patients and herself.”

Despite her alleged objections to this, Peoples alleges that other efforts toward training were unfulfilled and frustrated, culminating in an alleged Aug. 2016 assertion by another CRC employee that “we don’t have a training manual for Ryan White mental health counselors.”

As slipshod as Peoples alleges the training was, the grievance process went no better, as she alleges she was thwarted when seeking the grievance policy.

And a conversation with Reggie Gaffney, the regional director of CRC, went no better – allegedly.

Peoples said she felt unsafe. Gaffney said he would look into it. Nothing happened from there, save another CRC employee telling her that “People need to follow the chain of command. Mr. Gaffney will tell you anything to get you out of his face.”

Soon thereafter, Peoples was terminated, allegedly for a “bigoted” attitude toward HIV-positive people. This, alleges Peoples, despite the fact that she had worked with HIV-positive inmates for six years as a correctional officer with no incident.

Peoples asserts that OSHA guarantees her a safe workplace – and that standard was not met, willfully, by the Councilman’s non-profit.


Councilman Gaffney’s brief career in political life has been characterized by an unusual amount of aspersions cast on his ethics.

On the campaign trail in 2015, Gaffney was hammered by a political opponent in a debate for Medicaid overbilling.

“He was charged with overbilling, worked that deal, and that’s how he stayed out of jail,” the opponent asserted.

It was left to Gaffney’s consultant, disgraced and currently incarcerated Brunswick preacher Ken Adkins, to make peace, walking Gaffney to his car.

As he and Adkins beat a hasty retreat, Gaffney issued a public prayer: “Father, I ask you to remove Satan from this room.”


Gaffney was expected to be a witness in the trial of his former political mentor, Corrine Brown, especially after documentation surfaced that money moved from one CRC subsidiary to Brown’s bank account, and after a pattern was established by the state that Brown issued dummy donations to non-profits.

Gaffney asserted that Brown was doing the “right thing with my money” – an interesting syntactical choice, given that the money was that of the non-profit. And Brown apparently donated to CRC over the years.

Brown’s attorney, James W. Smith III, was concerned by Gaffney’s statements (reported Action News Jax’s Jenna Bourne), yet ultimately chose to file new trial and acquittal motions based on other factors besides Gaffney’s credibility and ability to deliver on the stand.

In fact, the motion for a new trial was predicated almost exclusively on whether or not a juror could be removed for being guided in deliberations by “the Holy Spirit.”


Gaffney has told this reporter on numerous occasions that he intends to run for re-election in 2019. He faces, thus far, three opponents — though none have traction with donors as of yet.

Jax Councilor Katrina Brown town hall: a ‘dog and pony show’?

Though it’s the summer of 2017, things are heating up already in the 2019 race for Jacksonville City Council District 8.

And reaction to a town hall event held by incumbent Councilwoman Katrina Brown won’t cool the temperature.

Diallo Sekou, who filed this week to take on the embattled first-term Democrat, posted to Facebook last night his irritation.

“I just left a so called town hall meeting, the citizens never got a chance to speak!  An audience full of elders … elders and never let them speak,” Sekou posted.

Other attendees, albeit privately, raised their concerns about a Councilor’s town hall where said Councilor wouldn’t deign to take questions from the people who showed up to ask them.

Hardworking taxpayers and loyal Democrats wanted to ask Brown about her recurrent ethical challenges, but “no Q and A was allowed,” with an agenda packed with speakers that took the event to its end time, where Brown wrapped it with “many hands raised” and “lots of grumbling” from those who wanted answers.

One attendee said the event was more like “pecha kucha” than a town hall, which seemed to be a design element to insulate Brown from dialogue with taxpayers and voters.

“A couple of times people stood up and asked if they could ask a question and they got ignored and then [Councilwoman Brown] shut down the last one pretty sharply which elicited grumbles in the room. And of course the aide had to go over there and smooth it over.”

Of course, readers know full well what was on attendees’ minds — and why Brown apparently structured a two-hour event so that she wouldn’t have to face questions about glaring financial irregularities that have led to the sorry impasse of her companies being sued by the city of Jacksonville.

On Monday, Brown ducked questions about the city of Jacksonville suing two family businesses for which she is title manager. The city’s grievance: the two LLCs received almost $600,000 of city grants and loans to create 56 jobs for a BBQ sauce plant.

Alas, the companies fell 56 jobs short of that goal, and the city seeks a $210K clawback via a default judgement.

Brown, minutes after getting out of her Porsche SUV that is newer in vintage than that 2011 economic development deal, was in no mood to address such quotidian concerns on Monday.

“I continue to tell you no comment. You can ask me a thousand times and I would still say no comment,” Brown said.

When asked if she was worried about the questions coming up from taxpayers at her town hall, Brown said no.

“That’s not going to be the focus,” Brown said of the town hall attendees. “They won’t be able to bring it up.”

Brown and her family businesses may not have been as good as their word when it came to honoring an economic development deal with the city and other parties: CoWealth originally borrowed $2.65 million via an SBA loan from Biz Capital, in addition to $380,000 from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants, for the sauce plant.

However, she was successful in what seemed to be a primary goal of the town hall: to shut down audience reaction, and to create an impression that the people in her district don’t care about ethical lapses among their representatives.

For Katrina Brown, it’s been an interesting two years. One need only go back to May 2015, in which she ran a radio ad as her campaign ended, to see how her messaging has been compromised by the ethical and legal sinkholes in which her family businesses are stuck.

At that point, Brown pledged to “serve the people” … an ironic phrase, given that she didn’t want to take questions from the people at Thursday’s town hall.

“My daughter Katrina Brown took a small business and turned it into a million dollar entity … that’s why the Congresswoman Corrine Brown endorses her,” Councilwoman Brown’s father said in that ad.

Ironic. And here’s another irony from the same ad.

Brown also referred to the BBQ sauce business as a “Jacksonville success story” … hilarious, given that the company is dealing with legal actions on every front, and given that the BBQ sauce plant was subject to an FBI raid last year — all of which seems to indicate something less than success.

“Agents from the IRS criminal investigation division, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of the Inspector General and the FBI Small Business Administration division were on scene for more than three hours,” reported WJXT at the time.

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