JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams was originally scheduled to be at a news conference Wednesday that spotlighted ways to be safe during a hurricane, but instead, JSO’s undersheriff attended the meeting alongside the mayor.
Williams has been faced with questions about his residency in Nassau County, where he moved. The charter for the consolidated city of Jacksonville has come under scrutiny — specifically the section about the sheriff. Williams doesn’t believe the move disqualifies him from continuing to serve, and the city’s attorney will weigh in on the matter.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was at the news conference, and I asked him about the issue of Williams’ residency. It’s the first time hearing from the mayor since we learned of the issue.
“I learned last week, actually I believe as you guys were getting ready to ask the questions that same day, I think you guys had asked the question of the sheriff, he called me and told me he’d just got the question, told me he had moved, I would say, look, the legal opinion, the legal answer on this — the lawyers will figure that out. I’m not weighing in on that,” Curry said. “I would say look the legal opinion for legal answer on that the lawyers will figure that out. I am not weighing in on that. Mike Williams was elected by the people of Jacksonville and wherever the legal opinion falls that’s where we work through.”
The mayor continued, “I can say that I work closely with this sheriff for years, for seven years now. Through many crisis, mass shootings, hurricanes, working to drive our murder rate down, invest in our kids. He’s always engaged and he’s always involved. One thing that I don’t want this narrative to happen is — people can debate the residency thing. Don’t start saying the guy has been absent and hasn’t been sheriff. That’s just not true.”
I asked the mayor, should the sheriff be paid?
“Again the lawyers are going to have to, that’s between the lawyers and where that ends,” Curry said.
Those lawyers from the city’s Office of General Counsel are still conducting an investigation, with a deadline of 2 p.m. Thursday.
Meanwhile, Undersheriff Pat Ivey stepped in for the sheriff at the hurricane preparedness event, and afterward, I was able to ask him about the sheriff and what he knew.
“I knew that he had moved for a little bit of time, but I didn’t know that it was a year ago,” Ivey said. “But I can tell you this: I knew he was attempting to sell his residence. And I believe that probably happened at a faster pace than what he initially anticipated.”
I asked Ivey whether he would be concerned if the governor had to appoint a new sheriff.
“Listen, I said it in there. We have a guy with three decades of exceptional service. I don’t think anybody can dispute that,” Ivey said. “This agency will continue to serve this community and that’s all I got to say.”
A request for comment from the Fraternal Order of Police was not returned by publication of this article. I requested comment from the Fourth District State Attorney’s Office, and we’ve been told State Attorney Melissa Nelson does not wish to weigh in at this point.
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