In wake of Gov. DeSantis Jax Sheriff endorsement, City Council sets Special Election
Image via AP.

DeSantis endorsed a candidate for election Monday, just before the meeting.

Roughly an hour after Gov. Ron DeSantis outlined his proposed future of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the City Council held a suddenly anticlimactic meeting setting a Special Election for the pending opening.

DeSantis, in eastern Duval County for a budget highlight event, said he will elevate Undersheriff Pat Ivey for now, and that he endorses T.K. Waters for Chief in the upcoming election.

The Special Election will see all six candidates for the office — Ivey is not one of them — square off on the August ballot, with a seemingly inevitable runoff of the top two finishers on the November ballot. Qualifying begins June 10 and runs through June 17.

While the timing of the Special Election ultimately was no surprise, the meeting also saw Jacksonville City Council members probe the question of outgoing Sheriff Mike Williams, forced to retire after it was revealed he was violating the city charter by living in Nassau County.

Williams’ retirement takes effect Friday. However, a draft copy of a memo from the General Counsel rejected by Council President Sam Newby showed that the city’s lawyer would have declared the office vacant last week.

The charter, which was established by the Legislature, requires the Sheriff to live in Duval County, and General Counsel Jason Teal said the office effectively was vacant now, because Williams’ move was self-executing in terms of the office. Interim Sheriff Ivey does live in the county, Teal noted.

Members of the Council probed for answers to process questions, and found Council has a limited role in the process of filling the opening in the Sheriff’s Office beyond setting the election itself.

Democrat Brenda Priestly Jackson, chair of the Rules Committee, asked Teal for a “legally binding opinion on the record” codifying the opinions in the draft memo.

Priestly Jackson also urged Teal to define when the vacancy took place based on the residency violation. Teal said a binding legal opinion would be contingent on a decision of the full Council, and both parties settled on an advisory opinion as a compromise.

Teal noted the Council had no role in determining the acting Sheriff, a decision of the Governor, and he didn’t expect Council to have a role going forward beyond setting the Special Election.

Teal also contextualized Williams as being “in the role but not technically qualified to act,” a “de facto” officer whose actions are valid despite the charter not being satisfied by Williams’ “defects in title of the office.”

“You stop the clock when the vacancy occurs and it comes to light,” Teal said. This move allows officials to avoid “chaos” in decision-making in the Sheriff’s Office.

Consistent with the de facto officer doctrine, there should be no attempt to claw back salary or benefits.

“If you do work, you should get paid,” Teal said. “It just makes more sense to say you were in office as a de facto officer.”

The doctrine is “not situational,” Teal added, meaning that it applies even though Williams lived outside the county for over a year.

Members of the public were not pleased. Carnell Oliver invoked the film classic “New Jack City” in condemning the move as the latest manifestation of the good ol’ boy system.

“It’s bigger than Nino Brown,” Oliver said, condemning the smooth legal path for Williams’ exit from office.

A.G. Gancarski

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


  • Good choice

    June 6, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    Bet he crashes his car at least 3 times a month lol

  • DeSantis wrong on his endorsement of Waters

    June 6, 2022 at 2:28 pm

    DeSantis is wrong on this one. We want Mat Nemeth as Sheriff. We know he will be tough on criminals and BLM and the likes. Not sure that Waters will be?????

  • Frankie M.

    June 6, 2022 at 3:11 pm

    Can the city council choose not to hold a special election for sheriff (kinda like when they went on that power trip & held the school board hostage over the sales tax referendum)??

Comments are closed.


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