Jacksonville City Council downs transparency bill

Anna Brosche

A bill voted down 8-0 last week in the Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee nonetheless got its hearing in front of the full Council this week.

However, the result was no different, as the full Council followed the lead of Rules and the Council President and turfed Ordinance 2018-570 by a 3-16 vote.

The bill, written after a task force on open government and transparency during Brosche’s Council Presidency earlier this year, included a number of reforms.

The legislation would have required anyone doing more than $1 million worth of business with the city to disclose local political donations over the last five years. It would have also required emails and text messages between Councilors and registered lobbyists to be posted to an online portal as the public record documents they are.

However, the opposition in Rules was as much to bill sponsor Anna Brosche, the most recent previous Council President, as it was to the bill.

Council supports Mayor Lenny Curry; Brosche is exploring a run against him in 2019.

Before the Council vote, Sherry Magill, the chair of the open government task force, noted that the bill was a product of an attempt to “institutionalize transparency” by that group.

Magill fired back against contentions in Rules that the bill was punitive or duplicative, urging the body to “consider the intent of the bill.”

Councilors had their say as well, including Brosche ally Councilman Garrett Dennis, who noted his “utter disappointment” over the “disrespect” shown to Brosche, who was not allowed to defer the bill.

Dennis added that Council got its “marching orders to kill this bill,” and to kill it would be a “slap in the face of every [citizen] of Jacksonville.”

Brosche spoke also, noting that the bill was introduced three months prior, with deferrals to workshop and tighten the bill.

Her final deferral request, she added, was not allowed, a deviation from a pattern of bills deferred at times for many months.

“On last week’s Rules agenda, there were 14 bills deferred for a variety of reasons,” Brosche added, noting the bill was about disclosure.

Councilman Bill Gulliford fired back, saying that “an objective and fair deliberation of the content” led people to down the bill.

Gulliford wondered who drafted the legislation, saying whoever did doesn’t understand business very well.

Rules chair Tommy Hazouri was next, saying the bill had been “deferred forever.”

“Two hours before our meeting, she asked to defer it again based on what the Council Auditor said,” Hazouri noted, saying Brosche had an “ulterior motive” for deferral.

Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, meanwhile, was “extremely disturbed” by the discussion, “particularly worried about the process of how and when we defer bills.”

Morgan wondered why Gulliford didn’t use his “knowledge to help the bill, rather than kill the bill.”

“We need to work together as a City Council … to support and do our best on every bill,” Morgan said. “To throw it away and say it has no merit … I thought we took everything under consideration and look at it to make it the best bill possible.”

Morgan, Brosche, and Dennis were the only members to vote for the bill.

A.G. Gancarski

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 [email protected]


One comment

  • Frankie M.

    November 27, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    So much fer transparency…just don’t criticize Alvin Brown for lounging around on Kismet when the current mayor is doing the same thing in London. Pot meet kettle.

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