UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE AS OF JUNE 2ND AT 10:30 A.M. – SHERIFF MIKE WILLIAMS HAS RESIGNED AS OF JUNE 10TH TO KEEP THE COMMUNITY FROM UNDERGOING LEGAL CHALLENGES ABOUT HIS MOVE TO NASSAU COUNTY.
Sheriff Mike Williams better hope he got good legal advice.
If he didn’t, he could be tossed out of office. That would not be a big deal to him because he was going to retire next year anyway. But if it led to the loss of his pay and/or pension, it might matter a lot.
Williams moved from Duval County to Nassau County last year, in anticipation of his retirement.
The city charter says that when a sheriff moves out of the county the office becomes vacant.
Williams is contending that a change in the state law removed that requirement, but others say it didn’t overrule the city charter.
Jacksonville’s general counsel is set to weigh in with an opinion Thursday. That opinion would be binding unless the issue goes to court.
As a practical matter his residence is irrelevant at this point, with his retirement looming.
The idea behind the law is that a sheriff should live in and know the area where he is the top law enforcement officer. Williams has lived here all his life and was a policeman for 22 years before becoming sheriff. He didn’t forget everything he knew overnight.
But, it is the law and the top cop should follow the law. The issue is whether it is the prevailing law.
Every lawyer has an opinion, and they differ. The ones Eye on Jacksonville consulted say Williams may be in big trouble.
Could it be cured by renting a residence in Jacksonville, at this point? Doubtful.
If Williams is removed, it would call for a special election in a few months and several people who planned to run next spring would be expected to get in the race.
Speculation is that he could appoint T.K. Waters, who is his choice as a replacement.
But if he has vacated his office by moving, he might not have the authority.
Others are saying that Governor DeSantis will make the choice for his temporary replacement.
Veteran officer and Democrat Lakesha Burton is expected to run also. One would expect that she is the favorite of the liberal Democrat – thus, anti-police — organization called the Northside Coalition, which is demanding that Williams be ousted.
If he got bad legal advice, or none at all, Williams could not only lose his pension but perhaps his pay from the date he moved. It could be a huge can of worms, calling into question promotions, disciplinary actions and even cases.
Years ago, a previous sheriff stirred up a bit of a fuss when he was appointed, then twice elected, then tried to retire and collect his pension while working as sheriff. The general counsel ruled against him, and so did a court. He had to pay back what he had collected and did not run for a third term.