Nick Howland seeks ‘transparency’ amid questions about Donna Deegan consultant, lobbyist contract

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'I have a concern about how taxpayer money is being used.'

The chair of the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee wants answers from the Donna Deegan administration about a city contract for a politically connected lobbying firm leading to an unvetted role for a former campaign worker turned policy analyst.

The latest flashpoint between the Democratic Mayor and the supermajority Republican legislative branch: the ongoing contract the city has with Langton Consulting, and what consultant Stephen “Dare” Griffin is doing for the company and for the administration in City Hall.

“My concern is misuse of taxpayer dollars. The Administration all along has maintained that this no-bid contract to Langton was for grant writing, lobbying and public policy, but we learned in November that Langton had to outsource the lobbying part. Now we’re hearing that this no-bid contract is also being used to pay a Deegan campaign adviser,” said Nick Howland.

“Now we know why the Mayor approved this contract behind closed doors, resisted my request to re-bid it, and nearly vetoed my Transparency for Taxpayers Act,” added Howland, who said he wants a meeting with the administration and Griffin privately, and that he expects Griffin to appear in front of the Finance Committee March 5.

Howland’s bill was intended to stop future deals like the one Deegan struck with Langton, but the City Council was powerless to stop the initial hiring of the company in the wake of the administration’s unilateral and premature termination of its deal with Ballard Partners amid acrimony with employees like former Mayor Lenny Curry and former Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury.

Asked about Langton’s work product, or that of Griffin, Howland said he hadn’t seen any evidence of what the city is paying $25,000 a month for.

Howland is specifically concerned about Griffin’s “trail of employment” that led him from the campaign to the transition team while still being paid by the “Donna for Duval” political committee before Langton’s agreement started in September.

Council Auditor Kim 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.”

“Transparency is lacking,” Howland said. “I have a concern about how taxpayer money is being used.”

Howland questions Langton outsourcing the lobbying piece, then choosing to “pay a consultant with a checkered past.”

“Are taxpayers getting value out of the contract?”

Howland’s concern comes after his colleague, Rory Diamond, lamented the “confusing and dispiriting” hire of Griffin given the consultant’s documented legal issues from the 1980s through 2017 that both men believe should have been grounds for a background check.

Both suggested that the reason for the unorthodox arrangement may have been, in part, to give a campaign worker a city gig without customary vetting. This read is rooted in a statement from Diane Moser, the city’s Director of Employee Services, who said the city doesn’t “conduct background checks on non-employees except for our volunteers who work with children and the elderly.”

The Deegan administration defends the arrangement, saying as part of a three-paragraph statement Florida Politics ran in full Wednesday that it’s “absurd” to suggest that Langton was hired to give a campaign supporter a gig and describing Griffin as “one of the most brilliant policy minds we have in Jacksonville.”

We reached out for a response to Howland’s asks and claims but did not receive a response Wednesday, with the administration clearly intent on closing the book on this matter.

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


12 comments

  • Pack E. Derm

    February 22, 2024 at 8:30 am

    A few questions for Howland to ask “Dare”:

    1) Where did you graduate from High School? College? Graduate School?
    2) Please give a brief summary of your policy background prior to joining the Deegan campaign.
    3) Please give a brief background of your arrest record.
    4) Please give a list of any lawsuits that you have been a party to.

    • MH/Duuuval

      February 22, 2024 at 9:35 am

      Howlin’, Diamond, and Carrico (and sometimes Freeman) are a reliable MAGA partisan troika on the Council. They had no qualms about anything much as long as Lenny sat in the Big Chair. Before DD took office they began to seek ways to subvert her, confident that the supermajority of spineless Council MAGAs would follow their lead.
      People at the Beaches know Howlin’ from his failed School Board run. It’s telling that Howlin’ should get elected at-large, which is the primary instrument of MAGA gerrymandering via vote dilution.
      Nothing Howln’ has said so far indicates he has any other concern than seeking power.

  • the Truth

    February 22, 2024 at 2:37 pm

    I support Mayor Howland and Rory Diamond and Kevin Carrico and Terrance Freeman… Love the Conservatives, we need accountability from the Deegan Administration, now

  • MH/Duuuval

    February 22, 2024 at 4:06 pm

    And they love you right back — but they won’t be able to restore the Confederate monuments at which you wish to worship.

    • the Truth

      February 22, 2024 at 6:20 pm

      there is more to life than confederate monuments, that seems to be your life, get over it. taking down monuments has not stopped blacks killing blacks, has it, lol

      • MH/Duuuval

        February 22, 2024 at 6:55 pm

        I can’t imagine any circumstance in which the public will pay to have these racist anachronisms re-positioned on public property.

        Wise up. Neo-Confederates have the opportunity to take control of the Women of the Southland statue — just like the man in St. Augustine who took the rejected piece there and relocated it on private property.

        • the Truth

          February 22, 2024 at 8:17 pm

          MH/Duuuval,, please answer, what has taking down monuments accomplished? Blacks still kill Blacks every day,,, so, what has it accomplished, nothing

          • MH/Duuuval

            February 23, 2024 at 9:17 am

            You tell us: Why should the public pay for the continuing maintenance of space for monuments to enslavement of our fellow human beings?

  • the Truth

    February 23, 2024 at 11:29 am

    MH/Duuuval,, you tell me: with the monuments gone, why are blacks still killing blacks?????? y’all acted like they caused all of the problems of the black community

    • MH/Duuuval

      February 23, 2024 at 2:48 pm

      Not at all, rebbie boy — we simply wanted to take you all down a notch. Ya’ll been the top dawgs so long you imagine you smell yourself.

  • Rick Whitaker

    February 23, 2024 at 12:04 pm

    Confederate statues are a waste of metal and should be recycled

    • how. you like dem Apples

      February 23, 2024 at 5:24 pm

      they are gone,, get on with your life if you have one,, y’all are obsessed with confederate monuments. their are two Giant Confederate Monuments… Jacksonville, named after Andrew Jackson a slave owner, and Duval County, named after William Pope Duval, whose goal as Governor was to bring plantations and slaves from. neighboring states to Florida, he succeeded lol

Comments are closed.


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