On Thursday, Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown were indicted on a 38-count conspiracy to defraud, after both allegedly misused city and federal funds intended for economic incentive purposes.
Friday saw Gov. Rick Scott suspend the two less than a year before elections, leaving the Jacksonville City Council to scramble in terms of figuring out how the constituents of the two Northwest Jacksonville Democrats would continue to have representation.
Monday morning saw the Council President-designate, an at-large Councilman, and the current Finance Chair outline the path forward.
President-designate Aaron Bowman is “hopeful we’ll have two replacements by the middle of July,” which is when Council gets back from its summer break.
Bowman will “lean on past presidents of the council” to help get those gubernatorial appointees up to speed.
“It’s easy for someone to step in and understand what’s important for their district, but understanding how the process works is a different story,” Bowman added.
“This is the governor’s decision,” Bowman said. “He’s had to do this before and he’s very confident in [the way he does it].”
Bowman expects the appointee to be a Democrat, but notes the appointee can move to that area if appointed.
At-large Councilman Sam Newby noted, meanwhile, that he will take over District 8 priorities, while current President Anna Brosche will handle district issues in 10.
Newby, a close friend of Reggie Brown, was surprised by his being swept up in the indictment.
“You’re innocent until proven guilty, but I was surprised,” Newby said.
Newby, a Republican, expressed confidence that Gov. Scott will pick the best person for the job.
Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, after seeing two of his fellow committee Democrats indicted, had no idea that this was going on.
“It was a surprise to me, surprise to all of us,” Dennis said, adding that the “resilient” Council would “continue the business of the city.”
Dennis rejected the premise that corruption was endemic among Duval Democrats, given the cases of Reggie Fullwood and Corrine Brown preceding them.
“Everyone has to be judged on their own merits,” Dennis said. “Individual lifestyle and things that they do. I wouldn’t paint with a broad brush the Democratic Party and black elected officials.”
“You have to look at each individual,” Dennis said, “and they have to stand on their own merits.”
Dennis also rejected the proposition that the two indictments reflect poorly on the Finance Committee, noting that the panel “scrutinized” the “Mayor’s budget.”
“It turned out to be a great budget,” Dennis said.