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Jax council president, counsel discuss texting, lawsuit, possible shade meeting

The Text-ghazi scandal may have initially be considered “much ado about nothing,” but the General Counsel’s office, in light of a lawsuit from the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, disagrees.

Greg Anderson closed the Jacksonville City Council agenda meeting Tuesday by  reaffirming the memo he sent last week banning cellphone use in meetings. He said he doesn’t make decisions “rashly,” then introduced General Counsel Jason Gabriel, who discussed the lawsuit against the city, Randy Wyse, and eight individual council members.

A judge has been assigned already, Gabriel said, adding all the named defendants are being sued for Sunshine Law violations.

“I just wanted to put that out there to let you know,” said Gabriel, whose office will be contacting council members.

“We are in active litigation on this issue,” said Gabriel, urging discretion.

“We’re going to request a shade meeting,” Gabriel said, though it may be cancelled.

“That’s all I really intend to say about the lawsuit at this point,” Gabriel said before reminding council members of their June ethics training. He affirmed more training is needed to “elaborate on some of the issues of the day.”

Gabriel is also preparing a memo  to that effect.

The scandal arose when Jacksonville City Council members Reggie Brown, Katrina Brown, Scott Wilson, Tommy Hazouri, and Reggie Gaffney texted with Jacksonville firefighters union head Randy Wyse during city budget deliberations.

Wyse was pushing, as Chris Hong reported in The Florida Times-Union, to ensure that fire chiefs didn’t lose $320,000 in salaries through 17 forced demotions.

A conversation with Council President Anderson before Tuesday’s meeting brought  out some insights.

One being that he was “disappointed” in the lawsuit, given that council was handling the matter proactively.

Asked whether the cellphone prohibition might be extended to council assistants, he was noncommittal, preferring to let the current process “play out.”

As one might expect, Anderson and Gabriel have been in contact on this matter as it evolves.

 

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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