General counsel won’t answer residency issue after Sheriff Mike Williams announces retirement

Jacksonville sheriff moved to Nassau County a year ago

News4JAX speaks with Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams on Thursday. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city’s Office of General Counsel had been expected to weigh in Thursday on the question of whether the sheriff of Jacksonville can remain in that position while living in another county.

The question arose when information came to light that Mike Williams has been serving as Jacksonville’s sheriff for a year while living in Nassau County.

But City Council President Sam Newby, who had requested the opinion from the general counsel’s office, withdrew his request after Williams announced Thursday that he will retire June 10.

READ: Sheriff Williams’ letter announcing retirement

Newby said that he believes Williams’ retirement resolves the issue — for now.

“If the sheriff wouldn’t have (retired), then we would have gotten (the opinion), and then we would have made him vacate,” Newby said. “At this point, I don’t need it because we got what we needed.”

News4JAX obtained a draft copy of the general counsel’s opinion, which is not binding because it was not officially issued. The draft indicates the general counsel was going to say that Williams vacated the office by moving out of the county.

READ: Draft opinion from general counsel on sheriff residency question

The general counsel’s draft opinion would have deemed the office of the sheriff to be vacant as of 2 p.m. June 2, 2022, but said Williams would not have to pay back any compensation he received from the time he moved out of Duval County until that date.

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 pointed 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.

The city’s general counsel disagreed, according to the draft opinion.

On Monday, Williams said he had no intention of resigning as sheriff, but he changed his mind some time after meeting with city attorneys at the sheriff’s office on Tuesday.

In a letter released Thursday announcing his decision to retire, Williams said he didn’t want to drag the residency issue through the courts.

“After some consideration, I have decided that a court battle over my residency would not be good for our community,” Williams wrote. “I’m proud of my 31 years of service to this City and am excited about a new chapter and new challenges.”

The Jacksonville City Council will now hold a special meeting Monday to set a date in August for a special election to fill Williams’ unexpired term in the wake of his retirement announcement.

Williams has not yet responded to requests for comment.

About the Author:

Corley Peel is a Texas native and Texas Tech graduate who covered big stories in Joplin, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacksonville, Florida before returning to the Lone Star State. When not reporting, Corley enjoys hot yoga, Tech Football, and finding the best tacos in town.