GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – Clay County Sheriff-elect Darryl Daniels is under fire from critics for appointing outgoing State Attorney Angela Corey as general counsel on his staff -- a short-term position that News4Jax has learned will help boost Corey's state retirement payout.
Daniels announced this month that Corey would be filling the role with the Sheriff’s Office through April.
Those four months working for a state agency are the difference between Corey receiving a $448,200.48 retirement payout or her earning a $483.272.40 -- an increase of $35,071.92.
According to state documents, Corey’s 60 months in the state's Deferred Retirement Option Program, which she joined in May 2012, runs out in April. By working in the new role in Clay County for four months, she reaches her 60-month max working for a state agency, increasing her retirement payout.
Because of that, many are questioning whether the role, which will also pay Corey $34,333 in salary, is more favor than function.
Daniels denied that he hired Corey as a favor. He said it was a thought-out decision he felt was best for the agency he will lead.
“Knowing what my operational gaps are, I make those decisions based on that and what's best for the Clay County Sheriff's Office and the constituency of Clay County,” Daniels said.
But some of that constituency isn't happy with Daniels' decision. A change.org petition was started to convince Daniels to reconsider, saying the people of Clay County voted Corey out of office and don’t want her to have a role in the agency.
The men who started the petition said they hope Daniels will reconsider.
“We feel betrayed,” petition organizer Steve Johnson said. “I believe that he is making a bad political move here.”
Johnson pointed to primary night, when voters in Clay County overwhelmingly voted against another term for Corey as state attorney. Had she earned a third term, her benefits would have been frozen after she reached the 60 months of the DROP program in April.
But Daniels said the appointment wasn't political at all. He said it’s one that will benefit the agency long term as Corey trains agency employees.
“I didn't hire her as a state attorney to try cases,” Daniels said. “I'm hiring her to perform a certain function, to perform the duties of general counsel, which is to protect, overall to protect the office of sheriff.”
Daniels said the decision was based on his judgment, experience and expertise. All of those characteristics are what the people of Clay County voted for when they elected him, Daniels said.
“Trust me as your incoming sheriff. I will always make my decisions and base decisions on your interests,” Daniels said. “Not necessarily what you like or dislike, but what's best for Clay County and keep in Clay County safe and secure and out of litigation.”
Daniels said that once her role is complete at the end of April, he will then hire someone he feels is most qualified to fill the role permanently.
But he said as sheriff, he knows not all of his decisions will be popular with everyone.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the online petition had 165 supporters.
Corey declined to comment and directed all questions back to Daniels.