Nassau Commissioners give OK to new County Attorney contract
Image via Nassau County.

fernandina beach historic courthouse
The previous County Attorney resigned amid scandal.

Before Denise May could officially take the interim tag off her title of County Attorney, she was in the position of once again listening to Nassau County Commissioners discuss her possible future dismissal.

She came to the job as the Assistant County Attorney, a job which had added importance when the 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office issued a memo alleging former County Attorney Mike Mullin broke public records laws.

Mullin formerly worked for Rayonier and was key in its strategy regarding what has become the Wildlight development. Rayonier and its subsidiary Raydient sued Mullin and Nassau County, accusing him of working for the county specifically to take advantage of his inside knowledge of the project. The fight over public records related to the suit resulted in another lawsuit.

The State Attorney’s Office initiated its investigation because of issues that came to light in the civil suit.

While Commissioners earlier named May as Mullin’s permanent replacement, she needed to work out a contract with the county’s human resources staff, a contract that required Commissioner review and approval at Monday night’s meeting.

“I’m not a big fan of supermajorities for termination,” Commissioner John Martin said of one contract specification. “I get the people who have these contracts, they want that in there to protect them from an election that may turn over the Board. Two or three new people may come in and through the county manager or the county attorney out. I understand that. I don’t think that’ll happen here, but I’m just not a big fan of supermajorities to terminate.”

Commissioner Klynt Farmer agreed with Martin on the supermajority issue, but Commissioner Jeff Gray, sitting in the Chairman’s seat for an absent Commission Chairman Aaron Bell, said it’s really about protecting the county.

“We all, all four of us, we reviewed it and read it many times and it’s easy to be confused,” Gray said. “I agree with you, however, I view it as protecting the county instead of actually protecting the attorney. That’s the way I viewed it. I think she’ll do a fantastic job and I don’t think it would ever get to that.”

Martin’s concerns weren’t about May in particular, he said, but the policy in general, noting that he believes she’ll “be an outstanding county attorney for many, many years.”

It wasn’t a deal breaker for Martin, though, who joined the other Commissioners present in voting 4-0 to approve the contract.

“I do understand and I did have a great philosophical debate with Commissioner Martin and explained my reasoning and understood his,” May said. “I want to thank you for your vote of confidence, and I look forward to moving Nassau County into the future and into a better position.”

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


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