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Dick Kravitz's electioneering while at the Duval SOE is under scrutiny.

Local

Dick Kravitz’s electioneering and Jacksonville’s permanent political class

On Tuesday, FloridaPolitics.com encountered HD 16 candidate Dick Kravitz working as a greeter at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections office.

image1We had heard from a tipster that “Mike Hogan, the Supervisor of Elections, has allowed an active candidate — Dick Kravitz — to work at the door greeting voters as they come in — he then accosts you outside as you leave about supporting him — and hands you this card.”

This card: a standard business card, yes, but one with an electioneering message: “Political advertisement paid for and approved by Dick Kravitz, Republican for State Representative.”

Kravitz and Hogan have been political associates for a long time. They served on City Council together in the 20th century, and Kravitz ran for Tax Collector (unsuccessfully) as soon as Hogan declared for mayor in 2011.

When we asked Kravitz if there was any truth to the allegations, he said that the allegations were “bogus” and that he’s given cards to “nobody in here,” even though he “might have met somebody walking down the street” and given them a card, or might have given out a card when he goes “to lunch around the corner,” or if “someone saw me and I recognize them.”

During the conversation, Kravitz handed this reporter that same business card (electioneering communication, to be clear), and said: “call me and make it easy for me,” rather than address the allegations at that time and place.

When asked about his employment at the SOE, Kravitz said he’d been working there part-time since July, and that there “absolutely” is not a conflict between working as a greeter at the SOE and running for office.

And in a sense, that is true. However, in terms of relevant city ordinance, there are conflicts involved when a city employee distributes campaign literature (such as that business card with campaign information) while on the clock, as Kravitz was when he handed FloridaPolitics.com that business card.

A city directive from February 2015, lays out the law pretty clearly, noting that “Sections 350.301 and 350.302 of the Municipal Ordinance Code place restrictions on campaigning by City employees during work hours.  It is unlawful and a class C offense for an officer or employee of the City or an independent agency to take any active part in political management or in political campaigns during work hours.”

What constitutes “work hours”? That’s an open question. A lunch break or a fifteen-minute break could constitute work hours. Handing campaign literature out while on the clock outside of official break time almost certainly would constitute work hours.

The directive asserts the following: “Breaks are considered paid work periods, and therefore, no activity is permissible. You may engage in political activities during an unpaid lunch break (because you would then be off-duty), and as long as you are off city property and not in uniform.

The directive, five pages long, continues to clarify restrictions. A city employee cannot participate “in a political campaign or discuss political issues while on duty or during any time you are being paid to perform services for the City of Jacksonville.”

Multiple times during this reporter’s conversation with Kravitz, Kravitz asked him to step outside the building to discuss this matter, seemingly as a way of complying with the letter of the law. This reporter declined that invitation. However, even if Kravitz had stepped outside, he would still be “on duty” or “paid to perform services for the City of Jacksonville.”

City workers likewise can’t “solicit, in-person, support or votes for any candidate, party or public measure.”

Kravitz did not seek support from this reporter. However, there certainly seem to be people who feel comfortable claiming that he did solicit their support; we heard from one such source, and since the piece ran Tuesday, we have heard other examples of anecdotal support. If one interprets ordinance and directive literally, noncompliance has been demonstrated.

The directive continues on: “there are different and more restrictive requirements applicable to those persons characterized as an ‘election worker.’ Therefore, if you are uncertain about a proposed activity, please check with your supervisor.”

Of course, Hogan, who was just elected in July, brought Kravitz aboard, so Kravitz’s “supervisor” may be biased.

And in a deadpan touch, the directive continues: “Also, if, as a city employee, you are considering running for an elective office, you are advised to contact the Supervisor of Elections at 630-1414 for additional guidance that may pertain to your particular situation.”

Indeed. FloridaPolitics.com contacted the SOE for “additional guidance.” He has yet to figure out how to return a phone call, however.

The FAQ lends additional ballast to the claim that Kravitz’s electioneering may not jibe with his contracted role. If a worker “would like to distribute a candidate’s political bumper stickers to my co-workers,” that worker “may do so when you are off-duty, not on city property, and not in uniform (if applicable).”

Likewise, there are prohibitions from participating in campaign activity while wearing a city badge … as Kravitz did when he talked to FloridaPolitics.com, and as he almost certainly did when he talked to other people about his campaign.

In 2015, General Counsel Jason Gabriel wrote in an email regarding a similar issue in the mayoral race that “the general rule is to keep the lanes separate between City business and campaign business.”

The paradox, exposed by the Kravitz situation, is that someone in city employ faces temptations to conflate the two functions. Jacksonville is a “big small town,” says everyone in a position to matter here. Kravitz, who has been in public life in Jacksonville for decades, clearly has conflated city business and campaign business. Whether he abided by the spirit of the law is an open question; his compliance with the letter of the law is not so open.

And Mike Hogan has aided and abetted him in that.

Mike Hogan hired Kravitz in July … more than six months after Kravitz began his campaign. One would have thought that the pre-hire interview would have involved a conversation about that active candidacy, and how to proceed. Both men have participated in Jacksonville politics since around the time every Good Ol’ Boy Dem became a Republican. They are certainly aware of the need to seem above board; in fact, when Hogan ran for SOE, he cited his experience running PERC elections as something that made him a better fit for the office than Deputy SOE Tracie Davis, who a campaign adjunct maligned as abusing the prerogatives of her position in the SOE for her own political claim.

Beyond that apparent hypocrisy, however, another issue is in play: the recycling of familiar names in Jacksonville offices, as the usual suspects do a couple of terms in one office, and then run for another (see: SOE turned Property Appraiser Jerry Holland, and Mike Hogan himself for prominent examples).

That penchant for recycled names and familiar faces was brought into sharp relief during the recently shelved bill to extend consecutive terms served by people in given offices from two to three, allowing them 12 consecutive years in a given office.

Bill sponsor Matt Schellenberg said it was all about “institutional knowledge,” and he seemed to get buy in from many on Council, and beyond, as Constitutional Officers bellied up to the trough with the same argument.

That bill got pulled, as Schellenberg claimed he didn’t want a referendum to compete with the pension tax one that Jax leaders want more than anything. But what it (and the anti-populist momentum behind it) indicated is that significant elements of the political class believe, on some level, they are indispensable, and that they need to be in some office at all times.

A city government could resolve this issue quickly, by passing a bill mandating city employees (especially those at the SOE) must resign their positions before running for office.

However, that’s not how the game works. The game works in the way the Kravitz example does. Republican or Democrat, the goal for members of the political class is to entrench one’s self for as long as necessary by any means necessary.

The balancing act in Jacksonville: superficial appeals to conservative populism against the careerism that lay beneath the surface.

There are, of course, other city employees running for State House. A full-time City Councilman’s assistant, a part-time employee of the Property Appraiser (who endorsed her in her race), and a JTA Lobbyist.

None of them (as far as we know) are dealing with campaign stuff on city time, though (yet?). If they were, it would be worthwhile for them to consider what would seem to be clear guidelines against it.

Their opponents, and their opponents’ spies, are watching.

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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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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