Mayor's office accused of pressuring JEA board member

Jacksonville GOP chair expresses concern about mayor's office actions

Author: Scott Johnson, General assignment reporter, sjohnson@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Berry, Evening assignment manager, beth@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 19 2014 09:55:55 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 20 2014 12:08:37 AM EST
Mayor Alvin Brown
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The chairman of the Republican Party of Duval County sent Gov. Rick Scott a letter Wednesday evening, making him aware about accusations against Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

In the letter, Chairman Rick Hartley explained accusations that Brown's administration pressured local JEA board member Peter Bower to "guarantee a yes vote to support Mayor Brown's Pension Plan."

According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the mayor's office allegedly pressured Bower because they need JEA's help to get funding for the pension plan.

The accusation is that the city's chief financial officer used a threat to make that happen.

Hartley asked Scott to launch an investigation into Brown, specifically for the latest around of allegations involving Bower.

Channel 4 spoke with Hartley about his letter to the governor over the phone Wednesday night.

"We expect a professional, open, honest administration and we should all be working toward the best solutions to our problems. The mayor should not be out twisting arms behind closed doors, it's not becoming to the mayor or the city of Jacksonville," said Hartley.

Bower declined to comment on the Times Union article. The letter Hartley wrote to the governor goes further into claims against the mayor, saying there have been other "ethical challenges" in Brown's administration.

Hartley told Channel 4 that Brown admitted to requesting campaign contributions from city employees through the city's email system.

"He paid a fine to the FL elections commission over the -- his election reporting, that he didn't list off his income on his financial report when he ran for mayor. He had problems with accepting gifts, and not listing them and having to pay money back. So the mayor plays fast and loose with the rules and this has to stop," said Hartley.

The allegations that the chief financial officer may have put pressure on a JEA board member is also unsettling to the president of the city council, Bill Gulliford.

"I'm very disturbed. I think it's absolute pure politics and bullying," said Gulliford.

The mayor's office also responded to the allegations Wednesday night.

"It's disappointing that some people choose to play politics instead of working toward solutions. Ridiculous partisan attacks won't solve Jacksonville's pension challenges. At no point was there any request to guarantee a vote. Period," said David DeCamp, with Brown's office.