JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sheriff Mike Williams is facing a lot of questions about why he’s been living in Nassau County for the past year while serving as Jacksonville’s sheriff.
City Council President Sam Newby told News4JAX reporter Jim Piggott, he’s giving the city’s Office of General Counsel until Thursday at 2 p.m. for a legal opinion. Newby originally asked for it to be given on Wednesday, but city lawyers said they needed more time.
When Piggott asked Newby what he is expecting, Newby replied, “I really don’t know. I have been talking to Jason all week and he hasn’t given me a clue, he’s holding it close to his vest. So, I don’t know what the opinion is going to be, but once I get it I’m sending it to City Council then to the media.”
On Monday, Piggott asked Sheriff Williams, ““A lot of people, and you’ve read the comments, they believe this just isn’t right, to be the sheriff and move out of town. They say it shows Jacksonville isn’t safe, what do you tell them?”
Sheriff Williams answered, “I completely disagree. We are a big metropolitan area, so there’s a lot of people that work and live in Jacksonville without residing in Jacksonville. JSO, me included, we are working everyday to keep people safe, and I think there’s example after example of that, so I disagree.”
Records show Williams and his wife sold their Jacksonville home a year ago, listing a new address in Nassau County on the deed selling their home.
According to the city’s charter: “If the sheriff should die, resign, or remove his residence from Duval County during his term of office, or be removed from office, the office of sheriff shall become vacant.”
However, Williams points to state law, which does not require a sheriff to live in a county where they serve, and Williams said the state law would overrule the city charter in this case.
On Monday, Williams said he has no intention of resigning as sheriff. We were told that he met with city attorneys at the sheriff’s office on Tuesday.
News4JAX political analyst and former General Counsel for the city, Rick Mullaney, said there are two separate issues that could affect the outcome.
“The first issue is if the residency requirement applies and the second issue is there a cure. For example, the Sheriff has expressed to you possibly moving back into Duval County not because he thinks he’s required to but out of an abundance of caution.” Mullaney went on to say, “Is there a solution here, short of litigation, or is there one that would solve this? If not, the typical response or approach under the charter is that the governor would appoint an acting Sheriff and there would be a special election no longer than six months out and no shorter than one month away and most likely you would see it in August.”
Today, city council member, Ju’Coby Pittman weighed in, saying if the ruling from city lawyers says the move is okay, she would find that unacceptable. “I would not agree to that and we listen to people when they entrust one of the top leaders of the community.” Pittman said, “We need him to live here in town to always continue to be abreast especially with all the crime we are having across the community. I feel our community wants our Sheriff to live here in town.”
Republican city council member, LeAnna Cumber, who is also running for mayor issued a statement that said she respects Sheriff Williams and looks forward to hearing more about the residency issue, she also said she strongly supports the charter requirements that the sheriff live in Duval County.
Neither Sheriff Williams nor Mayor Lenny Curry were available on Tuesday for comment.