Daniel Davis will keep his position as head of the Chamber of Commerce – and his half-million-dollar salary – while running for mayor. The founder of Eye on Jacksonville thinks that is wrong and is taking legal action to stop it from happening.
In our view, the situation is a violation of the 501(C) rules for tax-exempt organizations.
Davis is getting a free ride in his run for mayor. He will get his full salary of $536,000 from the chamber during his campaign, contributions to his campaign from the chamber and a guarantee that if he loses he can continue in his lucrative job with the chamber.
To date, Davis is leading the money race among the three Republicans and two Democrats seeking the office.
Davis also is heir apparent to Lenny Curry, the lame duck who has been mayor for eight years.
Curiously, the city began making a big donation of taxpayer money to the Chamber when Curry became mayor. The amount is approximately the salary of the head of the Chamber. It was increased last year by the amount the salary was increased.
In effect, Jacksonville taxpayers have been paying Davis’s salary and would continue to do so while he runs for mayor under the agreement with the chamber.
The chamber has supported almost every action taken by Curry.
It is believed that Davis asked the then incoming chairman of the chamber for the salary arrangement and was refused. Subsequently, Davis told other members of the executive committee that he might not run for mayor if he did not have the agreement.
After that, the committee met and agreed to the plan – on a date when a committee member opposed to the plan did not attend.
Davis is the former head of the homebuilder’s association and served two terms in the Florida House and two terms on the City Council, including a stint as council president.
The lawsuit is alleging that the Chamber violated the tax-exemption rules by allowing staff to work on the Davis campaign and by contributing through its political committee to his campaign.
Further it is alleged that those agreements consist of unreasonable compensation in violation of the chamber’s articles of incorporation and may constitute private inurement, excess benefits or both under federal tax law.
The complaint asks that the agreements between the chamber and Davis be set aside.
Billie Tucker Volpe, founder of Eye on My City, said the salary paid to Davis is not reasonable for someone now doing a part-time job while he campaigns for the role of mayor. “… it appears the chamber is using its income and assets to partly subsidize Davis’ political ambitions,” she said.