JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Within hours of Gov. Rick Scott choosing two people to temporarily fill the Jacksonville City Council seats of two members suspended after federal fraud indictments, one of those appointed signed a lease to move into the district he will now represent.
Tuesday morning, Scott named Ju'Coby Pittman to temporarily replace Katrina Brown in District 8, which covers part of the Northside, and a large area outside I-295 in Northwest Jacksonville, and Terrance Freeman to temporarily replace Reginald Brown in District 10, who represented part of Northwest Jacksonville and the Westside.
Jacksonville's city charter requires that district council members live within the boundaries to the district they represent. Pittman, who ran for an at-Large council seat in 2015, was living in District 8.
Property tax records show Freeman, who ran unsuccessfully for State House District 12 in 2016, lives in Mandarin, which is in District 6 and across the river and miles from the district he was appointed to represent.
News4Jax has asked the governor’s office to find out if they knew Freeman didn't live in District 10 or were unaware of the residency qualification requirement.
Some council members said Freeman is not qualified because he's not a resident of the district and the governor doesn't have the authority to override the city's charter. Others believe that if he moves into the district before being sworn in, he could serve.
"I don't know if the governor had all of the facts and understood the requirements of our city charter before he made the appointment, but those are the issues that have to be addressed -- whether he moves or not," Councilman Warren Jones said. "If he moves then he's compliant with the city charter. If he does not, I guess someone could file suit against the city and he would not be seated."
Within hours of the issue being raised, City Council President Aaron Bowman told News4Jax that Freeman signed a lease on property in District 10 and terminated his homestead exemption on the Mandarin home.
"I think the governor took a couple of weeks, two or three weeks, to vet people out to find out who would not necessarily agree with the mayor or agree with him on all issues, but would take their time to think about the issues and what would benefit their districts as well as Jacksonville as a whole," Councilman Matt Schellenberg said.
"I know that both of them work very hard, so they've got to give them a chance," Councilman Jim Love said. "They will do the best job they can."
The interim council members will be sworn in Thursday and serve the rest of the term -- through June 2019 -- unless Scott lifts the suspensions on Brown and Brown.