jacksonville city council – Florida Politics

Duval Dems move to remove Terrance Freeman from Jacksonville City Council

On Monday morning, as District 10 Republican Jacksonville City Councilman Terrance Freeman settled in for his first committee meeting after being named last week to the board, a group of Duval County Democrats is asking for emergency relief from Gov. Rick Scott‘s appointment.

If granted, that relief would stop Freeman from taking action as a councilman until legal proceedings wrapped regarding his residency.

The presser at the Duval County Courthouse was in support of a petition (16-2018-CA-004630-XXXX-MA) by Brenda Priestly Jackson, a Democrat and former Duval County School Board chair who was passed up for the appointment to fill the unexpired term of suspended incumbent Democrat Reggie Brown.

Priestly Jackson and other Democrats charge that Freeman, who established residency in the district by renting two rooms in a private home the day he was appointed last week, was not a legitimate pick because he moved to Northwest Jacksonville solely to serve on the Council.

The Governor signaled his thoughts on this challenge even before Monday by opting to host a Senate campaign event in Freeman’s district on Monday afternoon. However, a united group of Democrats pushed back on what they believe was an illegitimate selection.

Duval Democratic Chairwoman Lisa King slammed Scott for having “chose to pick someone who lives 20 miles away” to represent 10. Vice Chair Daniel Henry blasted Freeman for “just show[ing] up, trying to rent two rooms” to establish residency. City Councilman Garrett Dennis bemoaned the “cronyism City Hall has been plagued with the last three years.” And State Sen. Audrey Gibson blasted a “tainted process” that led to a “blatantly wrong appointment,” noting that she could “write the script” on what Scott would say.

Priestly Jackson noted that of “over 50 applicants, approximately 15 to 20 lived in District 10.”

Both Priestly Jackson and her attorney, Leslie Jean Bart, noted that their preference would have been for a special election. However, Councilman Reggie Brown (the suspended indictee) maintains his innocence, and this put the fill-in slots in the Governor’s court.

The legal filing contends that at the time the Governor’s appointment became official, Freeman still homesteaded and was registered to vote in Mandarin. The city’s position is that Freeman was not a Councilman until his swearing-in ceremony, maintaining what could be called a Councilman-select status.

Democrats, while up in arms over what they see as the Lenny Curry administration stealing a seat from their party, nonetheless lack a credible, well-funded challenger to Curry on the 2019 ballot.

Help may not be on the way. When we asked about that lack of real challenge, we were told the presser was not the place for that question.

Meanwhile, Duval Republicans blasted the Democrats for objecting to Freeman, with Chair Karyn Morton suggesting that “We urge Democrat Party Chairman Lisa King to end her partisan attacks on Councilman Freeman and instead focus on keeping her own elected officials from becoming felons.”

King responded that the pushback isn’t about whether Freeman is Republican, but it’s about his “residency” — something attorney Jean-Bart isn’t prepared to say has been established even now, with Freeman leasing two rooms in the district.

Jacksonville City Council special committee to mull ‘historical remembrance’

Almost a year after the events in Charlottesville led former Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche to urge an inventory and potential relocation of Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments and markers. a seven-person committee on that body will mull “historical remembrance.”

“As we continue to have a dialogue about long-term planning for our city’s future, it is essential that we also take the time to reflect on our past,” reads the memo from current Council President Aaron Bowman.

“We must contemplate all that brought Jacksonville to this moment in time,” the memo continues, “and that should include recognition of a history that considers our diversity and the challenges we’ve overcome.”

The committee will look at how to acknowledge said history, in public parks and events, as well as legislation to that end.

One bill is on pause: 2018-420, a Brosche bill that would “claim its Duval County Memorial Monument from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama and to install the monument in Hemming Park to commemorate the county’s lynching victims.”

The monument to lynching victims would have proved to be a controversial addition to Hemming Park; this bill buys some time.

The committee, chaired by Council VP Scott Wilson, will include Brosche along with Greg AndersonSam Newby, Reggie GaffneyTommy Hazouri, and the newest Councilman, Terrance Freeman.

Audrey Gibson decries ‘shenanigans’ around Terrance Freeman Jacksonville City Council appointment

State Sen. Audrey Gibson is the most prominent Jacksonville Democrat thus far to weigh in against the appointment of a Republican (Terrance Freeman) to represent a historically Democratic Jacksonville City Council seat.

Six weeks ago, Councilman Reggie Brown was indicted, along with colleague Katrina Brown, for a scheme to defraud, via misappropriated economic development funds. The two were suspended, and both seats stayed vacant until this week.

While few have issue with the replacement appointment for Katrina Brown‘s seat (Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman), Freeman is a different matter.

A Mandarin Republican, he has moved in recent days, establishing residency in two rooms in a friend’s house.

Many people are saying his residency claim is tenuous at best (even as Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman called it “bothersome”). And a legal filing challenging the ruling is pending.

“I have read with interest, descriptions of an impending legal filing concerning the recent appointment to City Council-District 10. Characterizations of bothersome, distraction and political game are certainly disheartening when constituents of our city seek relief from an egregious wrong,” Gibson asserted.

“Clearly,” Gibson added,  the phrase “troublesome act of disenfranchisement and political maneuvering describes the shenanigans that overlooked the ideals of the majority of residents in Council District 10.”

“Given there were perfectly capable applicants who actually live and have long history in the district,” Gibson added, “the bothersome issue is the disrespectful manner in which the true residents of the district have been treated.”

Gibson continued: “Why is it a distraction for individuals to stand up for what is right and fight against subterfuge? Why is it that certain people have to accept what they are ‘handed’ when they deserve so much more?”

From there, she decried the “murky circumstances” around the appointment, contrasting them to “the moves to try to make it acceptable [which] are certainly transparent.”

“The latter transparency however, is not that which the public seeks nor that which they should expect. The District 10 appointee is a nice young man from Mandarin and were there an appointment opportunity in that district for him, there would be no issue. I guarantee no Democrat from District 10 would be appointed,” Gibson concluded.

Terrance Freeman residency questions loom over Jacksonville City Council installation

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott chose a Democrat (Ju’Coby Pittman) and Republican (Terrance Freeman) to replace indicted and suspended Jacksonville City Council members, Katrina and Reggie Brown.

On Thursday afternoon, in the Jacksonville City Council Chamber, they were sworn in to fill the Browns’ terms, pending resolution of the fraud charges facing them.

Yet, more drama is likely to come regarding Freeman and the District 10 seat: While Freeman’s residency question is seemingly resolved to the satisfaction of city officials, others hold more doubt, including local attorney and Democratic activist Leslie Jean-Bart, who told Florida Politics that a legal challenge is pending.

Freeman’s residence, at 7101 Gunston Hall Court, consists of two rooms, per Jenna Bourne at Action News Jax. The owner of that house is Michael Graham.

The Athletic Director at Eagles View Academy, where Freeman used to coach baseball, is named Michael Graham also.

Freeman, at this writing, did not immediately confirm whether they were the same person.

Questions will be asked as to whether or not renting two rooms in a friend’s house equals residency, at least in the spirit of the law.

If two rooms constitute a residence, Freeman and his allies are good.

General Counsel Jason Gabriel noted earlier this week that the threshold for eligibility to serve is when Freeman is sworn in. The governor’s appointment on July 10 (leaked on July 9 to local media) is not the time marker, per Gabriel’s interpretation, a read which may confound some reading this.

Municipal code explains it as such, per Section 5.04: “Every member of the council shall be continuously throughout his or her term of office, a resident and qualified elector of Duval County, and of his or her district or residence area.”

In other words, Freeman was living at the residence when sworn in, conforming with the statute.

Thursday morning, Gabriel stood by his read of the law: “The Office of General Counsel has rendered its position on this matter based on a straightforward reading of the law, and I am confident in it.”

“If anyone seeks to properly challenge the position, we will review the matter at such time and respond accordingly.”

Council President Aaron Bowman was emphatic in his belief that the Freeman appointment was legit and that the pending lawsuit was “bothersome.”

“That district’s been without a council member for almost a month and a half. We’ve finally got somebody who is ready to work and excited about working, and they file a lawsuit to try to stop it,” Bowman said.

“I’m very disappointed that they did that. It’s unfounded. It’s not going to go anywhere. It’s a distraction. It’s a political game, and really a waste of everybody’s time,” Bowman added.

Regarding the contention that the appointee should have lived in the district before the appointment process began, Bowman said that “to me, the law is pretty clear. It’s been vetted [legally]. The governor knew exactly what he was doing. He chose the right person for both positions.”

“If they don’t like the governor’s position,” Bowman quipped, “maybe they should run for governor.”

Councilman Garrett Dennis, a Democrat who represents District 9, warned of potential complications ahead.

“After six-plus weeks of a process with NO transparency, the Governor has exercised his authority to appoint individuals to the City Council to represent parts of Jacksonville in the most dire need,” Dennis said.

“I am glad District 8 and District 10 now have dedicated representation, although I can’t help but question the logic of choosing an individual who did not live in the district, has never campaigned in the district, and will take all 10 months he sits in the seat to learn the people, learn the streets, learn the parks, and learn the needs of the area,” Dennis added.

“Such a move has Mayor [Lenny] Curry’s back-room-deal fingerprints all over it. A hand-picked individual from outside the district will come in to address some of the most challenging issues, issues that are difficult to find in Mandarin,” Dennis wrapped. “In the coming days and weeks, it will show why this appointment was problematic from the start of his application and will be problematic for the citizens of District 10. I welcome my new colleagues to City Council because we have a lot of work to do.”

Despite Dennis’ objections, many of his new colleagues were on hand, including representatives of Curry’s office, suggesting that his position was not universally shared.

Meanwhile, more intrigue: Freeman’s current residence is in At-Large District 1, currently held by Anna Brosche.

Brosche, a Republican, has clashed with current Council President Aaron Bowman and Mayor Lenny Curry.

Some say it is possible that Freeman could use his new home — all two rooms of it — as a launchpad to challenge Brosche, should she run for re-election rather than running against Curry in 2019.

Freeman would have a tough road to victory in a district that’s 19 percent Republican. But citywide? He’d fit in with the principles and program embodied by Curry and his allies. And he could be carried by a mayor who could win re-election by a landslide, in addition to allies throughout the business establishment, both in Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

Court challenge mounted to Jacksonville City Council special election

David Taylor, a former Jacksonville City Council Republican candidate who has not been immune to controversy over the years, is taking legal action against the Duval County Supervisor of Elections.

Taylor’s charge: The special election in District 12 was not publicly noticed in a publication of record, one that saw the only qualified candidate, Republican Randy White, win without opposition.

White had filed as the only candidate for the 2019 race before incumbent Doyle Carter filed a resignation letter and had a head start with $86,000 (and political consultant Tim Baker) on his side. Qualifying for the 2019 race is Jan. 7 through 11, and Taylor hasn’t opened a campaign account for it.

The Florida Constitution offers scant guidance in Section 100.501 regarding local special elections: “County commissioners or the governing authority of a municipality shall not call any special election until notice is given to the supervisor of elections and his or her consent obtained as to a date when the registration books can be available.”

That seems to have happened in this case, with the Jacksonville City Council approving legislation to authorize the special election on the 2019 ballot.

This was Election Supervisor Mike Hogan‘s take, emailed to us Thursday morning: “The City Charter controls Municipal Elections – no requirement for Public Notice in the Charter. Was noticed by City Council and on our website.”

Indeed, Charter does not require published notice, and SOE and the Council did notice the vacancy and the process.

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel was likewise nonplussed: “We are confident that the City’s special election set in the upcoming election complies with all applicable laws. If or when the City is properly served with a complaint we will review and respond to any allegations that are raised.”

Taylor’s lawsuit asserts that state statute 100.141 prevails, however, requiring notice published twice within ten days in a paper of record at least ten days prior to qualifying. He contends that Hogan broke the law because no notice was published, and wants the election re-opened — and may want to run in it.

“No one that lived in District 12 knew there was going to be an election,” Taylor said, even as two candidates filed (though one, Sharol Noblejas, did not qualify). “If you’re in some inner circle … that’s great. But the law is the law, and it requires posting in a newspaper of general circulation.”

Taylor later added that those candidates had insider knowledge, and that when he called the SOE for guidance on qualifying, he was told to call back. (He did not memorialize those attempts in emails, he said).

Taylor noted that the legislation was on no Council agenda. Indeed, it was passed on a one-cycle emergency, but Taylor stopped short of advocating a remedy of ending emergency legislation altogether.

Taylor asserts that city ordinance on special elections requires that, if language is “void or vague,” then state statute that he cited shall prevail; his attorney, former Duval Democratic Party chair Neil Henrichsen, later told us the arguments were supported by Jacksonville Ordinance Code Sec. 350.103(b)(3) and Fla. Stat. Sec.100.3605

“It’s going to be a vicious circle for the Supervisor of Elections. They’re either bound by state election law, or bound by state code,” Taylor vowed.

Taylor did not indicate interest in the 2019 election, saying that the special election should have been “properly noticed” and that officials should “comply with the law.”

 

Is Shad Khan picking winners in Jacksonville City Council races?

A common thread in uncompetitive Jacksonville City Council races: June checks from the owner of a certain local NFL franchise.

In District 2, challenger Jack Daniels has $115 on hand. The perpetual challenger is not exactly keeping pace with incumbent Republican Al Ferraro.

Ferraro, a Mayor Lenny Curry ally, brought in $5,825 in June alone, with donations from Shad Khan and the Jacksonville Jaguars showing that no matter what Khan thought of Ferraro’s HRO opposition, he knows Ferraro will do business when it counts (such as whatever the city buy in will be for the next round of Sports Complex improvements).

District 5 is even more brutal.

Republican LeAnna Cumber, whose husband was the rare survivor of a JEA Board purge of Alvin Brown appointees, holds serve, with almost $186,000 raised and $178,000 of that on hand.

Running against a Democrat with less than $500 on hand, her fundraising has slowed ($5,100 in June). But she likewise got the attention of Shad Khan, the Jaguars, and the man some call “the 20th City Councilman,” the Jags’ (and everyone else’s) lobbyist Paul Harden.

In District 7, Democrat Reggie Gaffney has raised $51,600.

Gaffney, as much a Currycrat as a Democrat, only raised $3,000 in June, via three four-figure checks from the Khan/Jaguars/Harden triumverate.

However, how much more money does he need? He has six opponents, only two of whom have raised over $10,000.

Republican Rory Diamond, running without opposition in District 13, likewise got a Khan check in June. He has $113,000 or so on hand.

And Matt Carlucci, with over $263,000 raised and $240,000 on hand, got checks from Khan and the Jaguars in June. His two opponents, Harold McCart and Don Redman, have struggled to surpass $10,000 raised.

Ju’Coby Pittman, Terrance Freeman would face little fundraising challenge in Jacksonville City Council bids

Tuesday saw Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman and Republican Terrance Freeman appointed to the Jacksonville City Council by Gov. Rick Scott.

They will be sworn in at 3 p.m. Thursday, in Council Chambers.

The appointments were necessitated by the June suspension of incumbent Democrats Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, after an indictment on a scheme to defraud.

Pittman isn’t saying whether or not she wants to run in District 8. Freeman isn’t saying regarding District 10.

However, if they wanted to run, they have proven that they have the fundraising chops to compete in what are diffused and lightly-funded fields.

Pittman, who raised over $138,000 in 2015 (when she narrowly lost an at-large race to Republican Sam Newby, who was buoyed by the Lenny Curry mayoral campaign) would need a fraction of that haul to compete with the current field.

As of the end of June, the most prolific fundraiser has been Tameka Gaines Holly, who has brought in just over $26,000.

Holly’s fundraising has, alas, sputtered of late. She brought in $2,477 in June, which is in the range of what she’s raised the last four months.

The other candidates in the race, including incumbent Katrina Brown (who won the seat with $45,000 in 2015), Diallo Sekou-SeabrooksAlbert Wilcox, and former state Rep. Terry Fields, are all under $10,000 in fundraising.

Worth noting: Fields, who has yet to report June numbers at this writing, did raise $90,000 in his 2015 bid for the same office, but he didn’t make the runoff in the May general election. He also raised $63,000 in his failed 2016 bid for state House.

The path for Freeman, a Republican with pre-appointment residency concerns who is serving a district that is just 19 percent Republican, is clearer still — at least in money terms.

In his 2016 race in House District 12, Freeman, beloved by much (but not all) of the local political establishment, raised over $73,000. That’s more than the $42,000 Reggie Brown raised in 2015 to win the seat. And much more than anyone in the field has raised thus far.

No candidate has more than $2,000 on hand. Freeman could match that sum with a five-minute trip to bestbet corporate offices.

Since Pittman and Freeman have been appointed to serve the final year of the suspended indictees’ terms, they could — at least in theory — win the elections in 2019 and 2023.

Jacksonville City Councilors Tommy Hazouri, Danny Becton wow with June fundraising

As the latest Jacksonville booster slogan goes, “It’s easier here.” And that especially holds true for City Councilmen running for re-election without opposition, particularly if they have gone along with the money’s agenda for three years.

Exhibit A: former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri, a Democrat seeking a second term.

Hazouri notably scrapped with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in his first year in office, but fell in line when it became time to sell the 2016 pension-reform referendum, including fundraising for and cutting an ad for the push.

The reward: boffo June fundraising.

The Hazouri haul of $55,285 was boosted by money from Republican donors, including $500 and $1,000 contributions from multiple companies related to the deep-pocketed best bet empire, Preston Haskell, former Donald Trump Florida campaign chair Susie Wiles, former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton‘s Gate Petroleum, J.B. Coxwell Contracting, and Peter Rummell.

Yes, some key Democrats gave too. But the message is clear: Hazouri got with the program in 2016 and 2017, and gets the checks in 2018 and 2019. It will be tough for a Republican to run against him.

Exhibit B… but with some caveats: Republican Councilman Danny Becton, who launched strong ($62,745), but — ironically enough — with many different backers, with some key Curry backers holding off in his firs

Yes, Becton had the best bet money.  And Michael Munz, a key Curry backer, also ponied up. But Haskell, Wiles, et al did not.

Becton did have money, however, from Sleiman Holdings: an interesting donor, especially in light of Sleiman and the city of Jacksonville’s continuing legal wrangle over the future of the Jacksonville Landing.

Becton has been known to raise fits before: his cavils on Council committees sounded a rare discordant note ahead of the city’s decision to drop $45 million into the latest round of improvements at the Sports Complex. And his push to put more money toward pension obligations likewise went over poorly with the Mayor’s Office.

Worth watching: will more of Curry’s base fall in line behind Becton? Or might a candidate emerge to challenge and to collect that institutional money?

Rose Conry stretches cash edge over Michael Boylan in Jacksonville City Council race

More of the same in June in what is still a two-person race in Jacksonville City Council’s District 6.

Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as two Republicans vie to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.

And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage. Conry raised $86,585 and has over $77,000 on hand. Boylan raised $61,150 with just over $42,000.

Boylan, who is raising less than his opponent over time, is spending more in aggregate.

In June, Conry actually raised less than Boylan, though the $4,500 she brought in included checks from U.S. Rep. John Rutherford (who shares a political consultant, Tim Baker), and Rep. Travis Cummings‘ committee “First Coast Conservatives.” She spent just $290 in the month.

Boylan, who outraised Conry in June, brought in $7,700. The most interesting donor on the list: Sleiman Holdings.

Local developer Toney Sleiman endorsed Alvin Brown over Lenny Curry in 2015, and since Curry’s election, Sleiman and the city have sparred over the dilapidated Jacksonville Landing — a feud that is now in court. Conry is Curry’s candidate; Boylan apparently is Sleiman’s.

Boylan spent almost as much as he raised ($7,011), with the bulk of the costs being on printing campaign materials and renting a venue for his campaign launch.

​Jacksonville City Council money race tightens between Sunny Gettinger, Randy DeFoor

The Jacksonville City Council District 14 race, a Riverside/Avondale/Ortega seat, continued in June with active fundraising from the leading candidates.

While Republican Randy DeFoor remains the cash leader, Democrat Sunny Gettinger gained ground again last month, setting the stage for what will be a costly race (at least by district Council standards), which likely won’t be decided until the May general election.

Gettinger, in the race for five months, never raised less than $10,000; June was no exception.

The Ivy-educated former chair of Riverside Avondale Preservation, professionally a communications manager for Google Fiber, raked in $15,835 off 69 contributions.

Among the bigger names cutting June checks: former Councilwoman Ginny Myrick and Sherry Magill, the former executive director of the non-profit Jessie Ball DuPont Fund.

Worth noting: Magill, an ally of former City Council President Anna Brosche, was co-chair of a Council task force, whose final report was heavily critical of Mayor Lenny Curry‘s administration regarding transparency issues.

Despite nearly $80,000 on hand, Gettinger will have to continue outperforming DeFoor to attain parity. Even after a month where DeFoor, a senior vice president and National Agency Counsel for Fidelity National Financial, raised just $9,800 between her campaign account and that of her political committee, the Republican still has over $142,000 on hand.

Also, DeFoor is attracting the kinds of hard money donors who, if inclined, are comfortable ponying up soft money on the committee side. Among them: Shad Khan and his Jacksonville Jaguars, W.W. Gay, Stellar, and Build Something That Lasts, Curry’s political committee.

The field is five people strong, with three male candidates behind the women in terms of finance.

Democrat Jimmy Peluso, yet to file June numbers at this writing, raised more than $26,000 in May. Republican Earl Testy stalled out with $164 in the bank; newly registered Henry Mooneyhan has yet to report any fundraising.

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