City lawyers issue conflicting opinions, which then disappear

The reporter, Jake Stofan, said he had tried for weeks to get public records and was told they didn’t exist. He found them anyway.

Ten minutes after he sent copies to the city’s public records gatekeeper, the gatekeeper said the records had just been found and he was about to send them.

If you think that sounds like a flimsy story, you’re right.

The records at issue were previous pronouncements by the city’s general counsel on the mayor’s authority to take down public monuments.

Mayor Donna Deegan recently went through an exercise where she got a “draft” legal opinion that she has considerable power. Later, after questions were raised, she got a revised opinion declaring her to have lesser authority, but still enough to take down a monument in Springfield Park – which she had already done.

The earlier opinions were issued during the administration of Deegan’s predecessor Lenny Curry. Action News said one memo “concluded the mayor did not have the unilateral authority to remove or relocate the monument.”

The memo clearly said the City Council must approve such action.

The gist of Deegan’s claim is that taking down the monument was legal because she found a private source of funding and did not require council approval.

If that is the case, maybe Deegan can find someone who will pay $1 billion for the new stadium to be used by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the City Council won’t have to approve the deal.

As for the series of legal opinions, the general counsel is supposed to represent the entire government, not be the mayor’s personal lawyer. What Action News uncovered appears to be a case of tailoring legal opinions to fit whatever the mayor wants to do or already has done.

In any case, the Action News reporter deserves credit for bulldogging the story.

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.


One response to “City lawyers issue conflicting opinions, which then disappear”

  1. Yesterday, January 25th, the President of the City Council, Ron Salem, finally had the attorney for the General Counsel’s Office said that he basically “screwed it up” and was wrong. counsel said he basically screwed it up” and he was wrong. The attorney was chastised for this opinion publicly by President Ron Salem. The Mayor didn’t want legal opinion, she just wanted to do something however she could do it, even if it was illegal. I love the statue of the Women of the South in Springfield, and I hope that they could reinstate that statue. But even more important is the mayor’s dictatorial attitude and to me obviously she hates everything about Jacksonville, even 20 years ago. The Mayor is in essence neo-Marxist in the classic sense: the dialectical duality of victims and victors, oppressed and oppressiveness. I personally will do everything I can to destroy the Mayor,
    at any opportunity I can, and get the Mayor out of the City of Jacksonville henceforth forever.

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