I-TEAM: High-profile political donor, who was found dead Thursday, had access card to JSO headquarters

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4JAX I-TEAM is digging deeper into the death of a high-profile political donor connected to top local and state GOP politicians like Gov. Ron DeSantis and Mayor Lenny Curry.

Kent Stermon, 50, was found dead in the parking lot of the Mayport Post Office Thursday night. Foul play is not suspected in his death, police said.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office confirmed Stermon was the subject of an “active investigation” that started a few weeks before his death, and News4JAX learned from several sources that the investigation involved sexual misconduct allegations.

The I-TEAM has since confirmed that Stermon, who was not employed by the Sheriff’s Office, was given an access card to JSO headquarters for the past five years -- at the same time, he was donating thousands to GOP candidates, including former Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.

Among his donations to GOP candidates:

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis received $6,000 from Stermon, $3,000 from his wife and $53,000 from his political action committee
  • Lenny Curry’s 2019 campaign received $1,000 from Stermon and $1,000 from his wife
  • Williams received $12,500 for his election campaign committee
  • Sheriff T.K. Waters received $12,500 for his election campaign committee
  • Rep. John Rutherford received $16,800 from Stermon’s Total Military Management company

According to a log from JSO obtained by the I-TEAM, Stermon’s access card stopped being used just a few weeks before his death.

The log revealed Stermon swiped his JSO access card hundreds of times from 2017 until Nov. 15, 2022 -- five days before Waters was sworn in, which means these actions took place during the tenure of former Sheriff Mike Williams and interim Sheriff Pat Ivey. Stermon had swiped the card 87 times since the beginning of 2022.

Attorney John Phillips, who is representing a former JSO officer in litigation, put in a public records request to find out why Stermon was granted so much access.

News4JAX has asked JSO about Stermon’s access. Here are some of the questions we posed to the agency:

  • Why did Stermon have a key card to JSO?
  • How many other private citizens have a key card to JSO and why?
  • What was Stermon’s involvement in JSO that brought him there all these times?
  • What was the nature of his last visit on Nov. 15?

Due to it being the weekend, News4JAX didn’t expect immediate answers from JSO but will push for them once the work week begins.

Days before Stermon’s death, Phillips was in a social media battle with Curry over his concerns of key card use.

In a since-deleted tweet, Phillips said: “Rumor has it there has been some changes to Stermon’s unfettered badge access at JSO.”

“You aren’t worth a reply as you are a media (expletive) with no compass. But you mention my friend, Kent, and I am compelled to reply. Pound sand, chump,” Curry replied in a now-deleted tweet.

Screenshot of deleted tweets of the Twitter exchange between Attorney John Phillips and Mayor Lenny Curry (WJXT)

About the Author:

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.