Donna Deegan staffer fights default charge with ‘excusable neglect’ defense
Garrett Dennis endorses Donna Deegan. Image via Deegan campaign for Mayor.

Garrett Dennis Donna Deegan via Deegan campaign
The former City Councilman lacked 'understanding of the legal deadlines of litigation.'

Jacksonville’s Director of Boards and Commissions Garrett Dennis wants a court to vacate a looming default judgment against his contracting business, seeking an evidentiary hearing and explaining his delay in filing motions.

“Defendant’s delay to file responses with the Court in this action amounts to excusable neglect,” reads the 4th Judicial Circuit filing from the defendant’s lawyer.

“As established by the Affidavit of Averrell Thompson, Esq. in support of Defendant’s Motion to Vacate Default, the failure to file any paper in this action was due to the length of time needed for Defendant to acquire the appropriate legal representation and due to not understanding the legal deadlines of litigation.”

Dennis was a two-term City Council member who chaired the Finance Committee for one year, seemingly contradicting the claim that he didn’t understand law.

The evidentiary hearing is slated for March 1, per a source connected with this legal action.

At issue: an alleged failure to pay at least one subcontractor via his Shifting Gears construction company, which owes McCurdy-Walden, Inc. $80,000 for a reroof of the BCBS building at 532 Riverside Ave.

Here’s language from the plaintiff’s lawyer’s demand letter in the ongoing legal action that alleges the sub has been stiffed for months:

“To date and despite repeated demand. Shifting Gears has failed and refused to pay McCurdy-Walden for the work it performed. To make matters worse, we also understand that Florida Blue has paid Shifting Gears in full for McCurdy-Walden’s work. Please allow this letter to serve as McCurdy-Walden’s demand that the total of $77,624.00 be paid to it within five business days of the date of this letter.”

These aren’t the only financial issues connected with Dennis currently. The current senior staffer to Mayor Donna Deegan has outstanding IRS liens from 2016 through 2021 that total more than $125,000.

These span his years in elected office on the Jacksonville City Council. The 2016, 2017 and 2020 lien notices, totaling $60,135, were prepared and signed in June 2023. The notices for the remaining years were signed a few days before the end of last year.

Dennis — a live quote throughout his time on City Council — has refused to comment on any of this despite multiple efforts to get his take.

Meanwhile, the Deegan administration is standing by him, saying these issues aren’t relevant to his work for the city.

“It has no impact on his ability to perform the duties of his role with the Mayor’s Office. We won’t be commenting further,” spokesperson Phil Perry said.

Perry went on to tell us Dennis would not be commenting personally either, raising questions as to why the Mayor’s Office is running interference for the political appointee’s personal business.

Dennis endorsed Deegan for Mayor weeks after losing a Primary for a state House seat opened up by 2022’s redistricting.

“From sounding the alarm over the corrupt sale of JEA to his recent call for more scrutiny of taxpayer dollars sent to the JAX Chamber, Council Member Garrett Dennis has been a leading voice fighting for more accountability and transparency in City Hall,” the campaign announced.

Clearly, the fight for accountability and transparency only goes so far.

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


  • MH/Duuuval

    February 8, 2024 at 10:30 am

    The Mayor didn’t vet her appointees with the minimal standards of elected officials?

    • Nope

      February 8, 2024 at 5:50 pm

      You can’t work at a bank with those issues and would be subject to disciplinary measures as a private in the military with those issues, both scenarios because it compromises your integrity and puts you at ethical risk. But this? The mayor’s office is really developing an optics problem. Just wow.

  • C’mon!

    February 8, 2024 at 11:16 am

    This guy could have notified the court with a mere letter that he was having trouble (sure) obtaining counsel but failed to do so. He needs to get over it, pay the default judgment and stop making the mayor look bad.

  • scammer

    February 10, 2024 at 4:29 pm

    another example of Deegan’s administration is terrible, KARMA, looks like Dennis is a scammer, my opinion of course, first amendment

Comments are closed.


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