Reggie Gaffney: ‘People believe the Florida Times-Union is a racist paper’
Reggie Gaffney and supporters, including Katrina Brown, at his swearing in.

Reggie Gaffney sworn in

The big story of the weekend in the Florida Times-Union involved a fillet knife being taken (metaphorically, to be clear) to Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney.

Among the issues explored: the “tumult” in Gaffney’s first year in office; the councilman’s relationship with Rep. Corrine Brown; and the financial operations of his Community Rehabilitation Center (CRC), which was subpoenaed earlier this year.

However, the reaction many had, says Gaffney, is one of wondering why the Times-Union is going after him.

“People believe the Times-Union is a racist paper. That’s what people are saying,” Gaffney said, estimating that “over 50 people  called me, believed it was a witch hunt that [Chris Hong] wrote a story on me. I don’t even know him.”

“For the last 23 years, I’ve taken care of the least of them,” Gaffney said.

“When Chris Hong came to CRC a month ago, I didn’t know the story would be written like it was,” Gaffney said.

Hong “had a chance to talk to three consumers and staff … they all expressed that they were pleased with the job CRC is doing,” Gaffney said.

“I thought the story would be about the services we’re providing, not so much about me.”

“The agency’s been taking care of the community. All I did is take resources and develop jobs and training,” Gaffney said. “That’s what’s missing in everything written.”

Among the components missing: CRC’s “microloans” provided to small businesses, to help them “jumpstart” operations.

Federal guidelines, said Gaffney, require that only 10 percent of federal grant money goes to administrative costs.

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Speaking of federal issues, the Times-Union and other outlets have focused on Gaffney’s relationship with Rep. Brown.

“Everybody seems to think I know more about Corrine Brown than anyone in Jacksonville,” Gaffney said of his “lifelong friend” who has “advocated [for CRC] like other politicians.” Gov. Rick ScottCharlie CristAnder Crenshaw and Aaron Bean all have, he says, with letters of support.

“She’s a friend. She hasn’t done anything for me that she hasn’t done for the City of Jacksonville. We send her to Washington just like they send me downtown to be an advocate for District 7,” Gaffney continued.

Regarding allegations of malfeasance, Gaffney said if Hong had “wanted to know the truth, he could have looked at my personal finances,” where there has been no real change in over a decade.

“The paper trail will guide you,” Gaffney said.

His peak income in recent years, Gaffney said, has been $110,000, for which he worked “24 hours a day.”

Then Gaffney pivoted to Hong, again.

“Why he has a personal vendetta, I’m not sure. I just pray for him.”

Questions about his relationship with Corrine Brown followed: specifically, the charge the T-U made that he was a middleman between Brown and those seeking to curry favor with her.

“Before I was elected, I was a community advocate,” Gaffney said, willing and able to set up meetings between anyone “from the mayor to the least of them” with Rep. Brown.

“I thought it was an honor to be able to do the introduction,” Gaffney said.

“It’s all about relationships,” Gaffney added, and he also would introduce prospective candidates to the congresswoman.

One issue that speculation has centered on in recent years is Gaffney’s role, if there was one, with the Quick Picks, Brown’s endorsement sheet that she likened last year to a “cheat sheet at a dog track.”

“I’ve been around them for 10 to 15 years. They may have had influence,” Gaffney said, on how people voted.

“If she vetted candidates, she’d let the community know. That’s all she did.”

When asked if money changed hands during the process, Gaffney’s answer was oblique: “not that I know of.”

If someone “paid for Quick Picks, I have no idea.”

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FloridaPolitics.com spoke to Chris Hong before this story went live.

Hong said he and the paper “stand behind” the story as published, describing the process as “upfront and transparent.”

Times-Union reporters had multiple meetings with Gaffney and affiliates, and the Gaffney camp was advised to call if they noticed any inaccuracies.

No such call was made.

A.G. Gancarski

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



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