JFRD Mobile Incident Management Unit arrives in South Florida to help with rescue efforts at collapsed condo
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department’s Mobile Incident Management Unit arrived early Saturday in South Florida to help with rescue efforts at the Surfside condominium building that collapsed Thursday.
Jacksonville’s beaches launch sexual assault awareness campaign
Last year, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville performed more than 300 sexual assault exams and the tip line got more than 2,000 reports. Leaders say only about 1 in 4 victims of sexual assault actually come forward. With Sexual Assault Awareness Month about to kick off in April and crowds growing at Jacksonville’s busiest beach businesses, city leaders and advocates say the message about preventing sexual assault is more important now than ever -- particularly when you mix the dangers of parties, people and alcohol. Diamond joined the mayors of Jacksonville, Atlantic and Neptune beaches on Tuesday to launch a sexual assault campaign in conjunction with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville. The campaign includes the slogan, “3 beaches... 1 mission: Wipe out sexual assault” along with the Women’s Center’s 24-hour Rape Crisis Hotline: 904-721-7273.
City Council passes amended version of bill addressing automatic pay raises
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a debate that turned heated and slightly personal at times, Jacksonville city leaders approved an amended version of a bill to adjust how city council raises are handled. The original plan would have done away with automatic pay raises for council members and forced them to vote each year on whether to take salary increases. The NOPE bill stands for “No Obligatory Pay Enlargement,” but after a debate centered around a cost of living increase, the city council passed an amended version of the bill that removed the original language. City council salaries make up only a small part of the city’s $1.3 billion budget. Last fall, council members approved a 4.6% increase, bringing salaries for most council members to over $52,000 a year.
Bill to end automatic pay raises for city council members hits hurdle
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A bill that would get rid of built-in pay raises for Jacksonville City Council members hit a hurdle in committee Tuesday with an amendment that Councilman Rory Diamond called an attempt to “gut” the legislation. Diamond, who introduced the bill earlier this year, wants to require council members to pass standalone legislation to increase their salaries each year. “But we can still pass the original bill, stop automatic pay increases and have a public vote. Finance Committee voted to PROTECT automatic pay raises for Jax Council. Thank you, Council Members Cumber and Salem for voting for TRANSPARENCY and an up or down public vote on a raise.
Political infighting: Councilmembers call for head of Duval Democrats to resign
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County went blue in the most recent elections for president and governor but local Democrats are seeing red as infighting in the party had led to calls for the resignation of the chairman of the Duval County Democratic Party. Dennis, along with five other Democratic members of city council, called for Henry to resign during a Friday news conference. AdCouncilman Garrett Dennis calls for the resignation of Duval Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Henry. As chair of the Duval County Democratic Party, I am united with all Democrats in demanding non-gerrymandered seats on the City Council, and together we will make this happen. Duval County Democratic Chairman Daniel HenryDiamond also did not want to talk on camera but issued a statement.
New report on JEA investigation; Sen. Rick Scott on upcoming impeachment trial; toxic political conversations
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On this edition of “This Week in Jacksonville,” Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond discusses the recent report on the JEA investigation. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, talks about the upcoming impeachment trial and holding people accountable for the Capitol siege. And Writer CEO May Habib explains how the ugliness in political conversations online has gotten toxic.
Jacksonville City Council members say ‘NOPE,’ call for salary freeze
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Several Jacksonville City Council members are calling for a freeze on council salaries. Councilman Rory Diamond introduced a bill Wednesday that would get rid of built-in pay raises for council members and instead require them to pass standalone legislation to increase their salaries. This is not the time for an automatic pay increase.”DOCUMENT: View a copy of the proposed legislationThe City Council OK’d a $2,302 raise programmed into the 2020-21 city budget, bringing salaries for most council members to over $52,000. According to figures provided by Diamond, the city spends more than $1 million a year on council salaries and $595,000 more in benefits. Under his legislation, the City Council would fix annual salaries for council members at a rate equivalent to half the salary for a county commissioner in a county roughly the same size as Duval.
K9s For Warriors donates dogs to beaches police departments
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – K9s For Warriors donated three dogs to beaches police. Jamie is going to Jacksonville Beach police, Duke is going to Neptune Beach police and C4 is going to Atlantic Beach police. The three police departments’ new additions will be referred to as station dogs. Duke is going to the Neptune Beach Police Department. “We have a skyrocketing problem with first responder suicide, and K9s For Warriors has been watching this and we couldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer,” Diamond said.
K9s for Warriors stays on mission through the pandemic
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – When veterans come home from deployment, transitioning back into civilian life can be a daunting task. The program has been able to continue its work through the pandemic, training 90 dogs and pairing them with veterans. You can’t Zoom train a warrior,” said K9s for Warriors CEO Rory Diamond who is also a member of the Jacksonville City Council. K9s for Warriors is 100% free to veterans and while the Florida Legislature approved $600,000 for the program this year, private donations provide most of the funding. K9s for Warriors has a 10-year history of helping veterans and currently operates in 47 states.
President diagnosed with coronavirus; Second Lady Karen Pence visits Jacksonville
Duval County Medical Society Foundation President Dr. Sunil Joshi breaks down the treatments President Trump is receiving after being diagnosed with COVID-19. News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney of JU’s Public Policy Institute describes how the president’s diagnosis could impact the campaign. Also, City Councilman Rory Diamond on launching a new program brought forward by Second Lady Karen Pence for military spouses.
Diamond: Decision to step down from JEA investigative committee not political
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Monday, News4Jax heard from the former head of the Jacksonville City Council committee looking into the JEA scandal. The council president has extended the deadline for the committee to wrap up and its members are meeting Monday evening. “I loved being part of this JEA committee,” Diamond said. “Well, the council president removed me as chair so I really didn’t have much influence anymore and I was kind of a bit player. The JEA committee was planning to discuss those issues and how their report will be presented, but that’s not it.
City Council passes $1.3B budget after councilman drops plan to withhold half of JSO’s budget
Councilman Garrett Dennis moved to withdraw the amendment during a meeting of City Council. “And the only commitment that I ask, council president, is that we have a committee in the near future to address these issues.”City Council President Tommy Hazouri then withdrew the amendment. The amendment Dennis offered would have changed how the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office received its $484 million in funding allocated by the city. It would have allocated $234 million to the Sheriff’s Office off the bat and then release the rest in increments as the agency reports back periodically. “We’re disappointed that the City Council chose to go with the status quo," Sampson said.
FP&L parent would have paid $11 billion for JEA
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The parent of Florida Power & Light would have paid more than $11 billion for JEA had the city-owned utilitys leadership gone through with a scuttled effort to put the utility up for sale. The bonuses executives were going to get were based on false information provided to the board, Diamond said. I dont think the JEA board knew at the time what they were voting on. Instead, the City Council, Civic Council and Unions hijacked the conversation for their own personal benefit. The disparaging and defamatory political rhetoric towards me by JEA, OGC, JEAs counsel and City Council is transparent scapegoating to everyone.
Councilman wants to pump the brakes on renaming Jacksonvilles buildings, parks
City Councilman Rory Diamond introduced legislation that would institute a two-year moratorium on future renaming, and now that bill is facing opposition and questions about the legislations motive. Even though that bill was withdrawn, Diamond wants to slow down the renaming process. Diamond is proposing a two-year moratorium on renaming Jacksonville parks, schools and public facilities, arguing the city should focus on the pandemic and rebuilding the local economy. Dennis said he wants to fully understand Diamonds motive before the city agrees to pump the brakes on renaming projects for the next two years. The issue is expected to be discussed during the next City Council meeting.
Councilmember accuses former JEA CIO of destryoing senstive documents
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. A City Council investigative committee looking into the failed bid to sell JEA revealed new information on Monday about an interview with a former member of the leadership team at the city-owned utility. According to its investigation, crucial information may have been intentionally destroyed on the personal device of the former JEA Chief Operating Officer. Some council members like Rory Diamond said that is criminal. Former JEA Chief Information Officer admits to intentionally putting the wrong password into then-Chief Operating Officer Melissa Dykes tablet destroying all documents there on. The JEA investigative committee plans to issue subpoenas Baker, Mousa, former JEA board member Alan Howard and Michael Munz, an executive at the Dalton Agency, to testify in the investigation.
Mayors budget includes $100 million for Northwest Jacksonville community
Of the budget, $250 million is for capital improvements -- city projects like a new library in Oceanway. Of that, $100 million is targeted to go to Northwest Jacksonville, where promises made during consolidation more than 50 years ago were never kept. With this budget, I maintain the top spending priority for public safety, Curry said during his budget presentation. This budget also includes prevention and intervention programs like Cure Violence with the Kids Hope Alliance, he said. One hundred million dollars can cover about three to four blocks inside of a city when we talk about infrastructure.
JEA interim CEO places 8 executives on leave
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In his first major move since taking charge of JEA, interim Chief Executive Officer Paul McElroy has placed the majority of the utility’s leadership team on paid administrative leave. “Individually or collectively, real or perceived, you have been complicit or implicitly involved with or simply a direct beneficiary of the (Invitation to Negotiate) or Performance Unit Plan,” McElroy said in part. The shakeup comes as JEA faces intense scrutiny from the Department of Justice and a City Council special committee. In April, the board’s replacements voted unanimously to remove interim CEO Melissa Dykes, a longtime executive who served as chief operating officer during Zahn’s stint running JEA. As part of the same move, seven individuals will join the utility’s senior leadership team on a temporary basis:Stephen Datz, Interim Chief Information OfficerBruce Dugan, Interim Chief Communication OfficerRicky Erixton, Interim General Manager, Electric SystemsAngie Hiers, Interim Chief Human Resource OfficerAlan McElroy (no relation), Interim Chief Supply Chain OfficerHai Vu, Interim General Manager, Water/Wastewater SystemsWayne Young, Chief Environmental OfficerMcElroy announced last month that Hiers, along with two others, would be temporary additions to his leadership staff.
Protesting, race relations in Jacksonville; Where JEA probe stands; Possible hurdles for prosecutors in George Floyds death
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. On this edition of This Week in Jacksonville, Ben Frazier, of the Northside Coalition, talks about dealing with race-related issues. Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond explains where the JEA investigation stands. And former prosecutor and Jacksonville Universitys Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney breaks down the case against the former officers charged in the death of George Floyd.
Food drive at Mayport Elementary helping families impacted by COVID-19
Hundreds of boxes of food were distributed Saturday at Mayport Elementary with help from Farm Share, members of the Duval County Public Schools District and Jacksonville City Council. The drive was to help families impacted by COVID-19. Within 90 minutes, hundreds of boxes of food were gone. Elizabeth Anderson, a member of the Duval County School Board, said shes thankful for the communitys helping hand. I think people think about the beaches being a more affluent area, Anderson said.
Why has construction on the Jacksonville Beach pier stopped?
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – With eyes around the world on Jacksonville’s beaches, some of the first to open amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many are noticing the pier rebuilding project is on pause. The Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier, which was damaged by Hurricanes Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017, respectively, is part of a nearly $10 million project to repair and rebuild the last 300 feet of the pier that was ripped off by the powerful storms. It’s the focal point of Jacksonville Beach, but construction crews haven’t made progress on the pier in more than a month. The Sky4 helicopter flew over the pier Tuesday showing cranes and construction equipment sitting idle, a temporary structure half-built next to the pier. It’s completely closed for the remainder of the construction project.
Federal subpoena issued for records linked to attempted sale of JEA
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A federal grand jury has issued a subpoena to JEA, seeking records related to the scuttled attempt to sell the city-owned utility. DOCUMENT: Read a copy of the federal subpoena issued to JEAThe performance unit plan, or PUP, would have acted like a stock purchase plan. Curry said he learned of the subpoena Wednesday evening from the city’s Office of General Counsel. Diamond told News4Jax on Thursday that it’s clear the federal subpoena is zeroing in on JEA’s senior leadership team. City attorneys said they found 24 causes to fire Zahn, including evidence he altered a PowerPoint from a consultant.
City Council approves school sales tax referendum for November ballot
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday night voted 18-1 to add a referendum on a half-cent sales tax for Duval County schools to the ballot in November. Upset by the slow-moving process, and ultimately, the withdrawal of the bill last August, Duval County Public Schools sued the city the following month about the failure to bring the measure to voters. The half-cent sales tax would be in effect for 15 years and could net $1.2 billion. The Finance committee voted 7-0 in favor, while the Rules committee voted 6-1 in favor. We have a great opportunity to take care of kids, teachers, and Public schools while creating jobs!
22 subpeonas issued in City Council probe of JEA
Committee Chairman Diamond said from the beginning of the probe earlier this year he planned to subpoena the bidders and find out who their lobbyists were. Meeting via a Zoom video conference on Tuesday, The Rules Committee unanimously approved issuing 22 subpoenas. The Rules Committee UNANIMOUSLY approved 22 subpoenas to the JEA bidders and investment banks. “Honest to God, this is embarrassing to you and JEA,” DeFoor said last month. The committee plan to look through documents to see if JEA leadership started looking into the potential privatization of the city-owned utility before it was approved by the JEA Board of Directors.
’This is nuts’: Investigative committee accuses JEA of dragging its feet on public records requests
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville City Council members leading an investigation into JEA’s failed bid to sell the city-owned utility kicked off the special investigating committee meeting on Monday by calling out delays in public records requests sent to JEA. Councilmembers Rory Diamond, Randy DeFoor and Brenda Priestly Jackson all expressed their frustration to JEA lawyers that their public records requests from more than a month ago have produced zero documents so far. The committee plan to look through documents to see if JEA leadership started looking into the potential privatization of the city-owned utility before it was approved by the JEA Board of Directors. The committee also heard from former JEA executive Mike Brost and current Vice President Steven McInall. The committee wants to know more.
Political consultant unfazed by JEA investigation
Standing in the background of Monday’s news conference was Tim Baker, a political consultant who worked on Mayor Lenny Curry’s campaigns and whose name was recently attached to the JEA saga. JEA has said that former CEO Aaron Zahn considered hiring Baker to help with a potential sale, that did not happen. Hughes, a political consultant before joining Curry’s staff, said he’s not concerned about the council investigation. “I have no concerns about the investigation because the investigation is to get information to inform public policy,” Hughes said in a statement to News4Jax. Her office has handed over its investigation of JEA to federal investigators.
JEA: Zahn floated hiring Curry adviser for potential sale of utility
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn floated the idea of hiring one of Mayor Lenny Curry’s top advisers to consult on the since-scuttled plan to sell the city-owned utility, News4Jax learned Friday. “Aaron spoke of hiring Tim Baker as a consultant," Vinyard said. “He wanted to hire Mr. Baker through one of the law firms associated with the ITN process. “I have never worked for JEA,” Baker said Friday. “Tim Baker is a private business owner and does not discuss his private business interests with Mayor Curry,” the spokesperson said.
State attorney refers JEA investigation to feds
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Federal investigators will take over the investigation of issues connected to the privatization of JEA, State Attorney Melissa Nelson announced Monday. “After thorough review, the State Attorney’s Office has determined that the appropriate venue to continue this investigation is the federal justice system. We have referred our investigation to our federal partners, who will take the lead moving forward and have the full support of this office," Nelson wrote. Diamond said he feels there should be a City Council-led investigation so that the public can see what’s happening every step of the way. “I think we need to have a thorough City Council-led investigation out in the sunshine.
How much will former JEA CEO Zahn get in contract settlement? No answer yet
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As of Monday, Jacksonville City attorneys and the JEA Board of Directors had not yet reached an agreement on what former CEO Aaron Zahn will walk away with as a settlement from his contract with the city-owned utility. City Council President Scott Wilson is looking to impanel a special City Council committee to investigate exactly what happened and what went wrong with JEA while it explored a possible sale. City Councilmember Rory Diamond, a former federal prosecutor, said he would be interested in heading up that special committee. As for the committee, Diamond said they need to know for sure what happened. But, he said, if the City Council were to investigate it would be out in the public.
Councilmember: JEA has violated the public’s trust
The move came just moments after a City Council meeting ended with JEA’s Chief Executive on the hot-seat. “It’s definitely not illegal laws we followed all laws and ethics code,” JEA CEO Aaron Zahn told News4Jax following the meeting. Just recently people became aware that a million dollars in purchases of those “units” would pay 300-times that amount if JEA was sold. And if there’s a breach of trust you shouldn’t be running JEA,” said councilmember Rory Diamond. Mullaney said the perceived violation of public trust is an appropriate topic for a grand jury to investigate.
Fire Watch program combats veteran suicide epidemic
CNN, POOLJACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Five counties in Northeast Florida are teaming up to end the growing crisis of veteran suicides across the nation. The city of Jacksonville has joined Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties to save lives through a program called "The Fire Watch." The program is designed to help veterans like Christopher Dempsey, who has battled suicidal thoughts. More than 20 veterans die by suicide every day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the right relationships, proper tools and resources, Dempsey turned his life around.
5 counties team up to battle veteran suicide through The Fire Watch
CNN, POOLJACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Five counties in Northeast Florida are teaming up to end the growing crisis of veteran suicides across the nation. The city of Jacksonville has joined Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. John's counties to save lives through a program called "The Fire Watch." More than 20 veterans die by suicide every day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. "The truth of the matter is veteran suicide is actually getting worse every day, not better... we decided to step up, get off the sidelines and get into the battle." Jacksonville will serve as the legal home of "The Fire Watch" and coordinate with the surrounding counties via inter-local agreements.
Residents shocked by heavy flooding from torrential rain
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The flooding that hit neighborhoods at the beaches and along the St. Johns River shocked many homeowners and drivers on Monday, and residents have different opinions on what's causing the issue. "It was torrential rain for hours," Martha Troeger said. George Troeger said he hadn't seen rain like Monday's downpour in decades. Residents told News4Jax they believe multiple things contribute to the flooding, like some neighborhoods being built too low and other new neighborhoods push water in the wrong direction. "We need better and more pipes going underneath our streets and homes out at the beaches to move water out," Diamond said.
Neptune Beach approves ordinance to crack down on fake service dogs
NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Neptune Beach City Council on Monday night voted to approve an ordinance to crack down on fake service dogs. Last month, Councilman Rory Diamond drafted the ordinance, which will now become law, because he said too many people are abusing the designation of "service pets" for their own personal gain, hurting those who really need service animals. RELATED: Neptune Beach councilman aims to stop people abusing 'service pet' designationDiamond told News4Jax last month that too many people are claiming their pets are service animals just so they can take them into restricted places like restaurants and doctors' offices. "All over America, people who don't have disabilities are going online, buying service dog vests and putting them on their pet. And they don't have a disability, but they go out in public with their pet with that service dog vest on and they're essentially cheating the system."