‘Confusing and dispiriting’: Rory Diamond questions controversial Donna Deegan consultant
Jacksonville City Hall.

Jax City Hall
Drama continues in Jacksonville's City Hall.

A Jacksonville City Council member who just returned from military service in the Middle East is raising concerns about an ongoing consulting contract of the Donna Deegan administration.

At issue for Rory Diamond: the employment of Stephen Dare by Langton Consulting.

“Paying through a single-source contract and the way Mayor Deegan fought for it makes this confusing and dispiriting,” Diamond contended.

Dare, whose legal name is William Stephen Griffin, backed Deegan in the 2023 campaign, before working as part of her transition team and ending up with Langton.

Langton also backed Deegan during the campaign and got a $300,000 single-source contract for federal grant writing, lobbying, and policy development from the new administration last year.

The City Council has since passed legislation, called the Transparency for Taxpayers Act, intended to stop future mayors from such deals.

Despite the fact that Griffin is not directly employed by the city, Diamond questions the ethics of the arrangement, which has found Griffin in meetings with senior staff for months.

He specifically takes issue with “why Mayor Deegan would bring someone with this criminal background into City Hall, provide them a badge, a cube, and taxpayer money.”

By that description, Diamond referred to a number of Griffin run-ins with the law and legal system over the course of decades starting in the 1980s, including financial and comportment issues and other troubles under his real name, his Stephen Dare alt, and under another alias: “Spiff.”

Asked whether the passage of time ameliorates these historic transgressions, Diamond raises concerns about the lack of a background check that a city employee would have gotten.

“People grow and change,” he acknowledged, but they should be “run through the same process” other employees are.

“Anybody who’s got a badge ought to go through a background check,” the Beaches Republican added.

Diane Moser, the city’s director of Employee Services, noted in correspondence with Diamond that the city doesn’t “conduct background checks on non-employees except for our volunteers who work with children and the elderly.”

Moser also told Diamond that “Stephen does not have an office” and that he “shares a cubicle.” She defended extending him “non-employee” badge access as routine, given that “like some of our other non-employees, he’s providing services to the city.”

Asked if this was a partisan move designed to distract from the trial of two former JEA executives, Diamond was blunt, saying he was the “biggest hawk” when it came to stopping that sale push, but promising to be the “biggest hawk” regarding the current administration.

The Council member noted that his interest in this issue started during his “first week back and the Langton and sole-source contracts were up for a vote. So I started to ask questions of council auditors, and this is what they shared with me.”

City Council Auditors told Diamond of their own concerns with the unique arrangement between Langton and the administration, including questions as to when the deal was finalized, the paperwork, and the accounting thereof.

“On a side note, we had raised an issue back when the contract was executed as to the effective date of the contract (they made it retroactive a couple weeks prior to the official award date, which as we understand from confirmation with [Lawsikia Hodges of the Office of General Counsel] this would not be allowable given that it is a new contract).  In pulling these documents for you, we found this was never corrected,” wrote Council Auditor Kim Taylor.

Taylor confirmed that roughly $4,000 was paid out to Griffin as a member of the Deegan transition team after her election in May of last year. Griffin also collected $8,000 from the “Donna for Duval” political committee, with $3,000 dispersed in April 2023 for “research services” and $5,000 more dispersed in one July installment and one August payment for “policy consulting.”

The Langton deal was official in late September, with the firm replacing Ballard Partners, which employs former Mayor Lenny Curry and his senior staffer, Jordan Elsbury, in a move that raised eyebrows at the time.

While there is limited transparency into that arrangement, there are fewer answers from the Mayor’s Office about what Griffin is paid now and what he does specifically, though one senior staffer said he had been invaluable in many policy discussions in his consultant role.

The Mayor offered a statement condemning the story as “punishment politics,” meanwhile.

“It’s unfortunate the same forces that trade in punishment politics are once again engaging in a bad faith attempt to gin up non-existent controversies to distract from the substantial accomplishments of this administration. Furthermore, it’s absurd to suggest that Langton was brought on as consultants to provide employment for one individual,” Deegan said.

“Stephen is one of the most brilliant policy minds we have in Jacksonville and provided valuable insight during the campaign and in transition. Again, he is not an employee of the city. He works for Langton Consulting, and thus a background check was never needed. We have no idea what his salary is nor is it any of our business what a private company is paying one of its employees,” Deegan added.

(Invoices suggest the city is paying $5,833.33 for “policy creation” monthly from Langton.)

“This seems to be an attempt to needlessly drag someone’s name through the mud with decades old issues that have long been in the public domain. Perhaps the people who peddle this poison should remove the plank from their own eye before looking for the speck in their brother’s,” Deegan concluded.

Followup questions were rebuffed, with a spokesperson for the Mayor saying the administration is “moving on from this distraction.”

Griffin did not answer phone calls from Florida Politics, reply to text messages to the last known number we had for him, or reply to a message sent on the X platform, meanwhile, so we were frustrated in attempts to get his narrative perspective on this matter.

For now, the issue seems to be a dead letter, with the Mayor standing by her non-employee. It remains to be seen if Diamond is a lone ranger on this one, or if others on the supermajority Republican City Council will join him.

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


  • Dont Say FLA

    February 21, 2024 at 7:38 am

    It’s a trap! And Rory Diamond , perhaps not privy to knowledge of today’s G0P due to his extended honorable service overseas, fell for it.

    She got him to describe political behavior as “Confusing and dispiriting.”

    She got him to complain about someone with a “criminal background” having access to governmental functions. And what sort of crimes? Wellololol, “financial and comportment issues and other troubles”

    Welcome back from service, Councilperson Diamond, but you may want to observe quietly for a spell and get your bearings before you spring another trap on your own foot.

  • the Truth

    February 21, 2024 at 9:32 am

    Get em Rory, I support your efforts.

    • MH/Duuuval

      February 21, 2024 at 11:07 am

      Some people do grow and change, but not Diamond, who just returned from military deployment.

      Debriefed by Nick Howlin’, Diamond still proffers the same juvenile approach to governance.

      As for the sale of JEA, Diamond was for it before he was against it. And, he has been a consistent foe of public education.

      Let’s see which public office he goes for next.

      • the Truth

        February 21, 2024 at 4:31 pm

        whatever office Rory Diamond runs for, I will support him!!! Great Conservative

        • MH/Duuuval

          February 21, 2024 at 5:40 pm

          Diamond’s not a conservative — he’s a wind sock. Moreover, he keeps bad company and was so unwise as to meet with them in a restaurant after a Council meeting and get photographed.

Comments are closed.


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