Matt Schellenberg’s evolution on John Keane worth noting
Matt Schellenberg. Jacksonville City Councilman

Matt Schellenberg

Notable about Tuesday night’s Jacksonville City Council meeting, in which a settlement agreement with John Keane and the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund was “indefinitely postponed,” were the comments of Councilman Matt Schellenberg.

They were laden with direct address toward Keane. And they were personal, almost to the point of calling in question Council’s stance as good-faith negotiators.

After bewailing the money the Fund lost last year (which accords with larger, global market declines, especially in the energy sector where the fund’s investments were overexposed), Schellenberg went in.

Schellenberg postured about how “going to court for 2 million dollars … seems kind of insignificant” because it’s “time for us to be on the offense.”

“By going to court, we will aggravate the hell out of [Keane],” Schellenberg added, saying that he doesn’t want Keane to be able to “go on a cruise,” “go to Europe,” or “enjoy his grandchildren.”

“We’re willing to aggravate you, because you’ve been disrespectful to this Council, the administration, and the taxpayers,” Schellenberg said, slipping into the second person to address Keane, who was not in the room.

What a difference a few months make. Consider this Schellenberg quote from a Florida Times-Union article in August.

The subject? John Keane’s retirement:

“I know he wanted to retire years ago. He stayed there to make sure he represented the pension to the best of his ability. We have disagreed over the past four years, but I’ve always found him to be honest and trustworthy.”

From “honest and trustworthy” to “disrespectful” and not worthy of the opportunity to “go on a cruise” or “enjoy his grandchildren,” what a long, strange trip it’s been for Schellenberg’s estimation of Keane.

In 2013, Schellenberg operated as if the fund were a good-faith partner. He advanced a deal to relinquish seven properties in Jacksonville’s downtown to reduce the city’s unfunded actuarial liability obligation. The Shipyards, the old City Hall, and the Courthouse were among them.

A cynic would say that Schellenberg’s fiery rhetoric on Keane of late is at odds with his previous willingness to negotiate more constructively. A cynic might also note that in recent months, Schellenberg has sought to entrench himself further in Council.

His bid for Council vice president, which seems to have stalled out with one committed supporter, is one example of that.

The second example: Schellenberg’s proposed bill to authorize a referendum to extend consecutive terms that could be served by Council members from two to three, a bill that was expanded to include constitutional officers before the councilman caved to various pressures and pulled the bill.

Whether you buy the official version, which is that the referendum would distract from the pension tax referendum, or you take the view that the bill being dropped was because it would be a wildly unpopular ballot measure, is a matter of subjective interpretation.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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