A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski

Ethics Commission dings Matt Shirk for pushing ‘Sober 101’

Former 4th Circuit Public Defender Matt Shirk took a hit from the Florida Ethics Commission last week in a closed session.

But despite the finding of probable cause, it won’t matter much.

“The Commission accepted the recommendation of its Advocate, finding probable cause,” read a news release, which added that the commission “also decided to take no further action on the matter, unless he requests a hearing, due to the circumstances including Mr. Shirk losing his bid for reelection.”

“The allegations were that he violated the unauthorized compensation law when his wife accepted a job from a company when he knew or should have known that the position was given to her in order to influence his official action and that he misused his position to contact judges and others in the criminal justice system to promote the company.”

The complaint, filed by Jacksonville’s Thomas Duffy, asserted that Shirk contacted judges and court administrators on behalf of “Sober 101,” a company offering “substance abuse services.”

Mrs. Shirk was also allowed to address assistant public defenders on behalf of the company, which marketed a $299 “online education” course on addiction.

However, she claimed not to have gotten paid for her work for the company. And she claimed to have been “targeted” by the company, both because of her marriage to Shirk, and due to the highly-publicized personal drama in the Shirks’ marriage, related to workplace liaisons between Shirk and certain female employees.

Sober 101 reps also attempted a pitch — in a parking garage, at Shirk’s behest — to current PD Charles Cofer, who was a judge at the time.

Ethics concerns dogged Shirk in his second term, ahead of a crushing loss in the GOP primary to current Public Defender Charlie Cofer.

A grand jury judged Shirk as having indulged in “reckless behavior” in office, including asking female employees to shower with him (the aforementioned liaisons).

That same grand jury recommended Shirk’s resignation.

AG race drama: Jay Fant wants Ashley Moody barred from state GOP meeting

One Attorney General candidate is asserting that a rival for the Republican nomination should be barred from the party’s annual January meeting in Orlando.

In a letter to Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant wants it known that he believes retired Hillsborough County Judge and Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody is a “Clinton liberal” and has no business in a Republican Party meeting — or using GOP resources: “Our Party is being deceived into allowing a Clinton liberal access to our leaders, staff and financial resources … Ashley Moody is not a candidate we can trust but instead a true liberal and proud of it.”

The tripartite j’accuse cites “press accounts which demonstrate the Moody family’s long relationship with the Clinton family and their allies, including Moody’s father who received a lifetime appointment to the federal bench from Bill Clinton.”

As well, Fant notes that “Moody was as an assistant and speechwriter to left wing American Bar Association President Martha Barnett, a close ally to Hillary Clinton. She proudly represents this on her website.”

Fant also notes that “Moody sued Donald Trump for fraud.”

“I believe that it is in the party’s best interest that Ashley Moody, a closet liberal and Clinton ally who has sued Trump, be denied access to our meeting. The 2018 election ballot is absolutely critical from top to bottom and we simply cannot waste time with candidates who have to hide their past involvement with the Clintons in order to win,” Fant asserted.

Moody, via a spokesperson, finds this laughable.

“It is laughable that a candidate running to be Florida’s Chief Legal Officer would offer up such erroneous and egregious attacks on the proven record of a former and well respected federal prosecutor and circuit court judge. Ashley Moody is pro-Second Amendment and the only candidate who has supported Second Amendment priorities like Stand Your Ground in the courtroom,” said Christina Johnson on behalf of Moody.

“These are real world distinctions that matter to voters, and issues which Ashley Moody has shared with Republican activists across the state these last months and throughout her career. Not only is Ashley Moody a staunch supporter of our President, but she has secured the endorsements of those who worked tirelessly on behalf of the President’s campaign, including law enforcement officials and elected leaders across the state. We look forward to highlighting these conservative values at the January RPOF meeting,” Johnson added.

Fant has staked out the Trump lane in the primary, a crowded field of well-financed candidates.

Fant has nearly $1 million on hand between his political committee and campaign account.

Moody, between her political committee and campaign account, has over $1.2 million on hand.

However, both of them are chasing Pensacola Rep. Frank White, who has $1.95 million on hand between campaign and committee accounts.

Rep. Ross Spano, new to the race, has just $50,000 in his campaign account.

Reggie Brown considering primary challenge to Audrey Gibson

Sen. Audrey Gibson is Leader-Designate of the Senate Democrats. And incredibly, she may face a primary challenge in 2018.

As first floated by Chris Hong of the Florida Times-Union via Twitter, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown is mulling a run for Senate.

Hong added that was contingent on Gibson running for Congress — though a challenge to Rep. Al Lawson would seem to directly conflict with Gibson leading the Democratic Caucus this year.

Florida Politics asked Brown about “possibly running against Sen. Gibson.”

He didn’t shoot down that possibility.

“All options are being considered,” Brown texted. “I’m reviewing the possibilities and will make a decision early January.”

“If I decide to file,” Brown said, “it is my understanding that I will have to resign according to the policy.”

The last Jacksonville City Councilman to resign to run: Democrat Johnny Gaffney, who was drubbed in a state House primary by Reggie Fullwood.

Gaffney now works for Mayor Lenny Curry.

Brown also told Florida Politics what the case would be for running against a caucus leader, assuming Gibson doesn’t run against Lawson. And how he would match her fundraising and endorsements.

“All actions will be taken under consideration,” Brown said.

Brown is termed out in 2019, and a torpid campaign to succeed him has begun.

Randolph HallCelestine Mills and Kevin Monroe have filed.

Hall and Mills have not raised any funds at all; Monroe has raised $455.

Gibson, meanwhile, is traveling raising funds for the Democratic caucus.

“I’m excited about our possibilities,” she told us Tuesday morning via text.

Doesn’t sound like she’s too worried about a primary challenge.

Omarosa Manigault, wife of Jacksonville pastor, to leave White House

Back in June, one of President Donald Trump‘s chief aides — Omarosa Manigault — received a Jacksonville delegation at the White House.

Manigault has a Jacksonville connection. She recently married Jacksonville Pastor John Newman, and she is spending many weekends here in Duval County.

After Wednesday, Manigault will have more weekends in Duval County — but likely won’t be receiving Jacksonville delegations at the White House ever again.

The White House issued a terse statement: “Omarosa Manigault Newman resigned yesterday to pursue other opportunities. Her departure will not be effective until January 20, 2018. We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service.”

However, reports are that she got run.

White House reporter April Ryan tweeted that “Sources say General [John] Kelly did the firing and Omarosa is alleged to have acted very vulgar and cursed a lot and said she helped elect President Trump. The word is a General Kelly had it and got rid of her.”

Constitution Revision Commission logo

CRC panel moves Session dates proposal through

The Legislative Committee of the Constitutional Revision Commission approved a proposal Wednesday to fix Legislative Session dates going forward.

Sessions would start in January in even-numbered years. They would start in March in odd-numbered years.

Rep. Jeannette Nunez, House Speaker Pro Tempore, noted that the proposal would give “consistency” going forward and would accord with current practice.

“This is the cleanest way to do it,” Nunez said.

The proposal cleared the committee quickly, and full CRC approval is likely to follow.

Amendments must be approved by 60 percent of voters on the 2018 ballot.

Six ‘Kids Hope’ board picks clear Jacksonville City Council

Six of the seven board members of Jacksonville’s nascent Kids Hope Alliance cleared City Council Tuesday evening.

Five of them made the cut via the consent agenda: Rebekah Davis, a former member of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission board of directors; Kevin Gay, a previous Jacksonville Journey board member; former Jacksonville Sheriff and current Edward Waters College President Nat Glover; Iraq War Bronze Star recipient Joe Peppers; and Tyra Tutor, an senior vice president at The Adecco Group North America.

The sixth was not on the consent agenda.

Dr. Marvin Wells lives in St. Johns County.  And even though he cleared the Rules Committee a week before without a no vote, the waiver of residency requirement required a full hearing.

Ultimately, it was for naught.

Councilman Garrett Dennis noted in Rules that he worried that Wells was a “test case” for another nominee from outside the county, one who could have been more controversial.

In the Council meeting, there was some resistance to Wells.

Council President Anna Brosche, meanwhile, was less bullish on waiving the residency requirement for Wells.

“I’m not willing to out of the gate support someone who doesn’t live in Duval County,” Brosche said.

Dennis concurred.

“We are waiving the code. We are waiving the law,” Dennis said. “I ask the mayor to select a nominee that lives in Jacksonville.”

“The mayor couldn’t find one person in Jacksonville who could serve on this board?” Dennis asked.

Allies of the Mayor’s Office — such as Reggie GaffneyTommy Hazouri, Katrina Brown and Al Ferraro — backed the appointment.

In the end, Brosche and Dennis stood alone, with the rest of the Council going with the mayor’s pick.

Jax City Council defends tree canopy against ‘sledgehammer gov’t’ in Tallahassee

The Jacksonville City Council approved legislation this week that opposes a state bill (HB 521/SB 574) that would cut the heart out of the city’s tree canopy protections.

The state bill, filed by Republican Greg Steube in the Senate and Democrat Katie Edwards in the House, would prohibit cities such as Jacksonville from stopping landowners from removing trees located on their own private property.

The Jacksonville City Council bill (2017-822) contends that the legislation is “harmful to the environment and contrary to the overwhelming wishes of Jacksonville citizens,” and the bills are an “assault on home rule.”

The city passed a referendum in 2000 to protect the city’s tree canopy, with an overwhelming majority (76 percent) voting for the measure.

“The [state] bill does what Tallahassee does best; preempt local government,” per John Crescimbeni, who introduced the Council bill, a salvo against Tallahassee’s “sledgehammer government.”

“I don’t know what happens to them when they get into the hall of government over there,” Crescimbeni said, “but they forget where they came from.”

The bill was moved as an emergency with multiple sponsors. The entire Council agreed to sponsor the bill, which passed unanimously.

Gator Boosters warned to prepay to avoid future tax hit

Looking for “priority seating” and other Florida Gators booster perks? You’d be advised to pre-pay to avoid 2018 tax penalties, per the Gator Boosters.

Executive director Phil Pharr noted in a letter to members that boosters may get jobbed out by wrinkles in the federal tax reform bill; “pending legislation that could impact the tax deduction for future contributions toward priority seating.”

“As you are likely aware,” Pharr writes, “Internal Revenue Service Code section 170(l) currently allows for 80% of a donation paid for seating at an athletic event in an athletic stadium of an institution of higher learning to be considered a charitable contribution. Under the current proposed federal tax bill that appears close to reaching final approval, the deductibility of these donations for priority seating (i.e. ticket-related giving) would no longer be allowed.”

Advised: prepay for 2018 seating by Dec. 31, or — better still — make a “lump-sum prepayment” that would serve as credit for future years.

That money would be left in one’s “Gator Booster” account.

Whether it’s the IRS or U.F., the “chomp” will come out of Gator supporters’ wallets soon enough — as well as those at every university.

Jacksonville Civic Council wants input on school superintendent search

The Duval County School District is searching for a new superintendent — and the Jacksonville Civic Council wants to be dealt in.

“The quality of Duval County’s K-12 public education system is absolutely fundamental to our region’s economic vitality, directly impacting our workforce and business recruitment as well as local colleges and universities. It is also crucial to our quality of life, which depends upon a thriving economic engine to provide jobs and opportunity for local residents,” said a Tuesday letter to School Board Chairwoman Paula Wright from Civic Council Chairman Ed Burr.

“That means the choice of an executive to lead the system should be undertaken with the utmost care and stakeholder involvement,” Burr added.

“Our members are keenly interested in the well-being of our city; and all concur that the hiring of a new Superintendent is one of the most important decisions to be made here in the near future,” said Burr. “We offer our service with no agenda other than to support the School Board in identifying and hiring the most highly-qualified candidate possible and continuing the progress we have seen in recent years.”

The Civic Council press release notes that they would be fine with deferring a decision until after the 2018 elections, which would remove certain long-sitting members from the board by dint of term limits.

Duval has had an acting superintendent, Dr. Patricia Willis, for months. Nikolai Vitti, a darling of Jacksonville’s political establishment, went to Detroit in the spring.

House bill would ban Governor, Cabinet from in-Session fundraising

A loophole in state law that allows the governor and cabinet to fundraise during the Legislative Session could close if a House bill passes.

Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne filed HB 707 Tuesday, which would put the kibosh on executive branch members soliciting or accepting contributions during Session, either for one’s own campaign, one’s own political party, a political committee, or an aligned candidate.

Violations would come with penalties, as they do in the Legislature. The first offense would be a misdemeanor; repeated offenses would be felonies.

The goal, asserted Jenne, is to remove special interest money from having impacts on the process.

“The Governor and members of the cabinet all have their own legislative agendas each session and it’s time they abide by the same rules as legislators,” Jenne said

“It’s in complete conflict with commonsense and fairness that those with influence on the legislative process can raise money from special interests and pad their campaign war chests during session while being bills are being vetted, voted on, and making their way toward becoming law,” Jenne added.

Two members of the Florida Cabinet — Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam and CFO Jimmy Patronis — are running active campaigns. Putnam is the leading fundraiser in the Governor’s race; Patronis, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, is the only serious Republican candidate for the position in 2018.

Scott is all-but-certain to run for Senate, but he has no need to launch a campaign until Session ends.

Public Integrity & Ethics and the Oversight, Transparency, & Administration will mull the bill, which doesn’t have a Senate equivalent yet.

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