After learning that the outgoing Duval County Clerk of Courts plans to hand out $126,000 in bonuses to 35 of his staff, Channel 4 uncovers that 23 employees -- some of the same ones -- already got bonuses last month.
That this is coming at a time the city is laying off employees and cutting back services angers City Councilman John Crescimbeni, chairman of the Finance Committee.
"I am not going to stand for that, and I don't think the taxpayers should stand for this," Crescimbeni told Channel's Jim Piggott on Monday. "I have every intention of moving a floor amendment (Tuesday) night that would recover all this bonus money and put it back in the general fund."
Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller, who is leaving office due to term limits at the end of the year, is out of town and has not returned calls. His wife, however, fired back at Crescimbeni in an email:
"Maybe, if you didn't have your head in the clouds and actually knew what you were talking about, you would know what planet Jim fuller is on," Barbara Fuller wrote, referring to Crescimbeni as Mr. Arrogant Crescimbeni. "There are no taxpayer dollars used in any of the clerk's budget!!! If you and your cronies ran the city as well as Jim has run the courthouse, you might have some surplus funds, too!"
Crescimbeni responded by sending her documentation from the city budget book showing a $500,000 transfer to the clerk of courts' budget.
Sharen Stevens, a member of Fuller's appointed staff scheduled to receive an $8,000 bonus, justified the extra payments.
"We did not feel it was right to ask the people to come in on a Saturday or Sunday, 10 or 12 hours a day, and work and not compensate them," Stevens said. "So what we did is a three- of four-month plan, this is what we expect and this is the compensation we are giving for them."
Piggott asked if she was one who worked all those extra days and hours.
"Absolutely. During the courthouse move itself I worked three months straight. I did not get compensated for it," Stevens said. "That's OK, because we are here to serve the people, and that is what we are doing."
The remaining bonuses are scheduled to be paid on Friday.
Crescimbeni says this issue will be addressed during the final budget vote at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.