Jacksonville City Council probes controversial removal of Confederate statue
Image via Drew Dixon

'Removing it was City Council's decision to make.'

Jacksonville’s legislative branch is scrutinizing a mayoral decision to move the city’s last remaining Jim Crow era Confederate monument.

While it doesn’t appear legislation will emerge to restore the structure, new General Counsel Michael Fackler took questions and absorbed attacks from City Council members during a Rules Committee meeting.

Fackler, appointed by Mayor Donna Deegan and unanimously confirmed by the Council last year, heard questions about the Democratic chief executive’s choice to remove the city’s tribute to the “Women of the Southland.”

Jacksonville’s General Counsel tailored his argument for monument removal around questioning whether the structure was even “historical” or a “contributing structure” to the Springfield historical district, a position based in local ordinance not making that designation clear.

However, he noted that he didn’t actually present the draft memo to the Mayor during comments Tuesday, though he promised a finalized opinion was pending.

The memo also notes that Gov. Ron DeSantis “cannot implement an unconstitutional statute retroactively to penalize the Mayor from exercising her exclusive executive powers over parks under the consolidated City’s unique Charter,” a reference to newly filed legislation that would allow him to remove lawmakers who took down statues.

The committee delved into the “process” of monument removal, per Republican Council President Ron Salem, who said Council’s “powers were infringed upon” by the mayoral movement.

Salem noted the opinion was “unsigned” and “undated,” presented as a “draft” to the media.

“It was an internal document that we used to advise the Mayor’s Office if they could achieve the goal,” Fackler said, noting that the Mayor’s Office requested the draft on Boxing Day, followed by the press and members of Council.

This didn’t mollify Salem, who objected to a “draft being used to conduct business in the city just as that.”

Fackler said it was an “effort to get (his) thoughts on paper,” and that his office “could have” formalized the opinion. He says he stands behind the opinion “for the most part,” suggesting that saying the Mayor’s Office had “exclusive authority” over the parks was a misstatement that he would “step back from in a final draft.” However, Fackler had “no intent” to actually sign the document.

“Make whatever changes you need to make and sign the document,” Salem said. “I don’t think it should have ever been circulated as a draft.”

Salem was also incredulous that the General Counsel did not reach out to the Planning Department, saying it was “astounding” that outreach didn’t happen.

Regarding the “executive action” of the Mayor, Salem noted alumni of previous Mayors’ Offices were “appalled” by the removal, wondering if precedent had been set to remove other statues “without consent” of the City Council.

Fackler noted the Council could put restrictions on “the authority of the Mayor” and said the City Council could work with his office for that. Salem noted he is introducing legislation to that effect, and that ordinance already barred the executive branch from commissioning work valued at more than $100,000 without Council approval.

“I do not want this to happen again,” the President said.

Salem noted Fackler was in the job for just three weeks before making the “flawed” process, and noted that he was a believer that the General Counsel “should be representing the whole city fairly.”

“I have doubts about that right now,” Salem said.

Finance Chair Nick Howland said the administration abandoned “caution” by not consulting the legislative branch, as he questioned which parts of the draft opinion the General Counsel still backed.

“Removing it was City Council’s decision to make,” the Republican said, wondering what the rush was.

Howland took issue with the donated “gift” money for monument removal, saying those dollars were really “revenue” that should have been appropriated by the legislators.

“I think we basically just had a blatant disregard for transparency in the process,” he said.

Republican Councilman Kevin Carrico took issue with the claim that the monument wasn’t a contributing “historical structure,” with Fackler saying that it was “excluded” from a list of such structures despite being mentioned in ordinance.

“You found your way to getting to an answer that the administration wanted,” Carrico said.

Fackler said no one asked for the OGC opinion, which he volunteered given the Deegan administration’s interest in removing the structure. His office began working on the document last month, he noted.

“It’s a little rushed,” Carrico said, noting that some members of the Council knew the monument was coming down while others did not. A representative of the Mayor’s Office said that lack of information was due to a “security concern.”

The debate even split a Republican father and son on Council. Matt Carlucci defended the removal of the monument as being on the “right side of history,” while his son Joe Carlucci took issue with taking an action based on a draft, which he argued wasn’t sufficient in and of itself to serve as a formal justification of the momentous decision.

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


  • Don't Say FLA

    January 2, 2024 at 3:13 pm

    Erasing history leads to MAGA / populist movements. I say leave ’em but change what the historical markers say.

    Rather than honoring the folks, the historical markers should read more like “This old white dude on a horse is a loser from our country’s past mistakes. Everybody please take care not to repeat his mistakes. He’s on a horse here to make you think he was a big deal when, in fact, he was a big, fat, sore loooooooooser that still hasn’t stopped whining about his team’s epic loss.”

    • Frankie M.

      January 2, 2024 at 6:35 pm

      You’d a thought they took down the Liberty Bell. I haven’t seen this many white people upset since Friends went off the air.

  • MK

    January 2, 2024 at 5:21 pm

    It is about time. Glad to see this mayor actually take a stand on this issue before city home base power is removed by the state.

  • Seber Newsome III

    January 2, 2024 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you Mr. Salem, Mr. Howland, Mr. Carlucci and Mr. Carrico for asking about the illegal removal of the statues. We need legislation to put them back, now. Have to stop the black lives matter groups and those who hate history.

    • Frankie M.

      January 2, 2024 at 6:35 pm

      Put them back up for Seber. He misses them.

      • Seber Newsome III

        January 2, 2024 at 8:35 pm

        Yes Frankie, I miss them dearly. The South will rise again, when the bill passes in the Florida Legislature next year, either Deegan will put them back up, or the city will lose millions of dollars, because they will not get any money from the state for culture or arts

        • Herve V.

          January 3, 2024 at 8:59 am

          She doesn’t care about the money, she’ll take as much as she wants from all of us for her “wokie” projects. Thank
          the renters in the city for all this.
          I hope they enjoy their increase, after being conned into sticking it to “the wo/man” .

          • MH/Duuuval

            January 3, 2024 at 12:18 pm

            Paying the rent is increasingly difficult; buying a house moreso as the Great Shuffle is bringing in folks with lots of $$$ who come here for the weather and low taxes. It’s not the Woke who threaten us, it’s the Asleep at the Wheel who imagine they are entitled due to their wealth and connections.

    • MH/Duuuval

      January 2, 2024 at 9:50 pm

      Comments by Howland and Carrico don’t have the same heft without the AWOL Diamond to act as a Greek chorus — even with the addition of frosh Lil’ Carlucci.

      • Seber Newsome III

        January 4, 2024 at 5:10 am

        Mr. Diamond will be home soon from serving the county in the Middle East, hooorahhh

        • MH/Duuuval

          January 4, 2024 at 8:59 am

          Diamond always serves himself first though initially he may have misunderstood his standing in the military: flunky, not boss man.

          Let’s see if he has learned anything, or remains the same callow MAGA follower.

  • MH/Duuuval

    January 2, 2024 at 9:42 pm

    “Salem noted alumni of previous Mayors’ Offices were “appalled” by the removal, wondering if precedent had been set to remove other statues “without consent” of the City Council.”

    Not to worry, laddies: The bust of poet Bobby Burns in Springfield Park is safe.

  • Phil Morton

    January 3, 2024 at 5:37 am

    Republicans are just angry that the Mayor had the statues removed for $187,000 of non-taxpayer money instead of the $1.5 million of taxpayer money they told everyone it would cost. Keep up the good work Mayor Deegan.

  • Pack E. Derm

    January 3, 2024 at 8:32 am

    The great irony of this whole mess is that had she been appointed, Randy DeFoor never would have come to the conclusion that Fackler did regarding the monument removal.

    Salem and Howland were at the forefront of spiking her appointment to that office therefore they only have themselves to blame for the monument removal.

    Once again, Timmy’s Boys go ad hominin and it bites them in the butt.

    • MH/Duuuval

      January 4, 2024 at 9:01 am

      Good point — Nate Monroe reiterated this point today in his T-U column.

  • Seber Newsome III

    January 3, 2024 at 9:31 pm

    Please read HB395 & SB1122, the monument in Hemming Park and the Women of the Southland statues will be gong back up, if the city does not have the money, then the State will put them back, and the city will not get any money for Arts and Culture,, until they pay the state back,,,,,,,,
    and the city gets millions from the state for arts and culture, so when those bills pass with the super majority in both the house and senate nd the governor on board, Deegan will look little, she just removed them to please her base, she has to have enough sense to know they will be going back up, I hope lol

  • Seber Newsome III

    January 3, 2024 at 10:42 pm

    Read the two bills, HB395 and SB1122, the hemming monument and the two statues will be going back up when the bill passes

  • MH/Duuuval

    January 4, 2024 at 11:59 am

    Neo-confederates never said a word when Lenny Curry took down Pvt. Hemming’s statue — with the public paying the bill.

  • KathrynA

    January 12, 2024 at 10:10 am

    So proud of Jacksonville for being brave enough to remove this monument to slavery and the terrible reputation Jacksonville and St. Augustine have during the Civil Rights era. Let’s move forward and honor people, who have moral fortitude to stand up to wrong and evil.

Comments are closed.


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