Florida Times-Union by Christopher Hong
September 6, 2018
Investigators with the State Attorney’s office are interviewing Jacksonville City Council members and requesting phone records and emails as they investigate potential violations of Florida’s Sunshine Law.
Two council members, Tommy Hazouri and Matt Schellenberg, on Thursday confirmed speaking with investigators, who they said asked questions about the Sunshine Law and whether they knew anyone who violated it.
The State Attorney’s Office declined to comment, and the target of their investigation is unknown.
Both Hazouri and Schellenberg said investigators visited City Hall throughout the last week to speak with other council members, and neither said they believed they were targets of the probe.
“They said they were going to visit all the council members,” Hazouri said. “It’s a little disconcerting when you have to do that, but they’re welcome.”
Schellenberg also provided the Times-Union a letter he received from the State Attorney’s Office informing him they were investigating a complaint of “potential non-compliance” with the Sunshine Law, which prohibits council members from privately discussing government business.
“I don’t remember all the questions [they asked]. Do you understand the law? Do you know anyone who violates it?” Schellenberg said. “I don’t know who they’re going after, or if they’re going after anyone.”
A spokesman for State Attorney Melissa Nelson said the office “doesn’t comment on investigations, and it does not identify the target of any investigation.”
Earlier this year, Nelson’s office raised eyebrows in City Hall after her two chief assistant state attorneys and an investigator attended an unusual public meeting related to a squabble between Council President Aaron Bowman and Councilman Garrett Dennis, who accused each other of violating the Sunshine Law.
Bowman declined to discuss whether he’s met with investigators, and Dennis couldn’t be reached for comment.
In addition to speaking with council members, investigators are also interested in reviewing phone and electronic records.