It was clear until he explained it

Jacksonville citizens might have been better served in the city’s general counsel had not opined on the issue of Sheriff Mike Williams residency.

The opinion from Jason Teal makes no sense.

(Technically, he hasn’t issued an opinion but there is a draft of one, obtained by the media, which is another puzzle.)

The draft states, correctly, that the charter is clear and unambiguous when it says that the sheriff vacated his position when he moved to Nassau County last year.

Sec. 8.03 of the city charter says, “If the sheriff should die, resign, or remove his residence from Duval County during his term of office, or be removed from office, the office of sheriff shall become vacant.”

Then, Teal says, Williams ceased to become sheriff at 2 p.m. June 2, the time when he issued his opinion.

Say what?

If Williams ceased to become sheriff last year, who was sheriff between then and Thursday?

To add to the confusion, Williams has announced he will retire June 10.

So: Williams either ended his career with the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office a year ago, or last Thursday or next week. Or, maybe when he first retired, after 22 years of service and before he was elected sheriff.

There’s nothing clear and unambiguous about that.

The pension system should have a ball trying to figure out when to start sending out pension checks and how much they should be.

Jacksonville’s pension systems always have been malleable. They allow people to drop out or buy in or whatever they want to do in most cases.

Many years ago, Chief Administrative Officer Lex Hester died, just a few weeks short of his retirement date. The mayor ruled that Hester’s accumulated leave could be used to keep him on the payroll until he “retired.”

Hester was a great administrator, one of the architects of consolidation and friend of mine. But a short time before his own death he was on the pension board when a similar case arose. Hester ruled against extending the deceased employee’s time, saying, “We don’t pay dead people.”

Clear rules and clear legal opinions are needed to make sure both employees and employers – the taxpayers – get a fair shake.

Monday the City Council will hold a special meeting to set a date for a special election in August to replace Williams.

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.

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