November 22, 2015
The Concerned Taxpayers and Joseph Strasser announced today that many of the objectives of their October 8th open government lawsuit have now been achieved through negotiation and settlement of the case with the City of Jacksonville and four of the other ten defendants.
Four of the nine city councilmembers who were being sued over texting about city business during the September 21st council meeting have agreed to entry of a permanent injunction against them engaging in such activity. They also agreed to an injunction requiring them to preserve any text messages or other electronic records which qualify as public records. These measures, together with the current Council President’s ban on cell phone use during meetings and extensive additional ethics training for all council members, will help ensure future understanding by our elected officials of the importance of transparency in their actions, as mandated by the Sunshine and public record laws.
In addition, the City Council is scheduled to vote on December 9th as to whether the city’s proposed budget should have been amended to take $330,000 from drainage and sewer repair in order to preserve approximately sixteen of former Mayor Brown’s fire department promotions. This third vote is required in order to correct and cure any Sunshine law violation which occurred on September 21st between the first and second votes on that matter when the flurry of texts took place in City Hall council chambers.
The Plaintiffs suggest a compromise for the City which will allow the promotions to stand while restoring the drainage funds. By “redlining” the new positions so that only the current occupant retains the rank now associated with that job, the position will revert back to the old rank once the current holder moves on up or retires. This approach would also prevent these one-time promotions from having a permanent future fiscal impact of City finances and taxpayer funds.
Originally filed against the City of Jacksonville, eight named city councilmembers, and Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters President Randy Wyse, the case will remain active only against Mr. Wyse and the five councilmembers who chose not to participate in the settlement.
A copy of the settlement as agreed to by the plaintiffs with the City and certain council members is available upon request. Additional information is available from John Winkler at (904) 384-9918 (office) or (904) 418-2043 (cell).