Investigates

‘It was a mess:’ IG reveals $138k in questionable purchases at Duval Supervisor of Elections Office

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office protects the integrity of elections, but there are new questions about the accounting integrity of the office.

In a new report, the City of Jacksonville’s Office of Inspector General concluded an employee “amassed over $138,000 of questionable purchasing card transactions with no corresponding receipts” from March 2020 through December 2023.

>>> STREAM ACTION NEWS JAX LIVE <<<

“Do you feel like you inherited a mess?” Action News Jax’s Ben Becker asked new Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland.

“Yes, it was a mess,” Holland said.

“Who do you blame?” asked Becker.

“You start at the top,” Holland said.

Read: Restaurant Report: Inspectors find more than salt at Jacksonville Beach restaurant

He’s referring to former Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan and the City Treasurer before he took over last July.

The Inspector General report says some transactions included PayPal and Venmo payments to vendors and all $138,000 should have been approved with receipts, but never were.

“What’s it like to be dragged into an inspector general investigation?” Becker asked Robert Phillips, the employee in question.

“It’s not comfortable,” Phillips told Becker.

INVESTIGATES: Town of Welaka addresses sexting mayor accusations, Action News Jax coverage

Phillips retired in June 2023 following 32 years with the office including since 2015 as the Chief Elections Assistant – he was even honored with a resolution by City Council after he retired.

He says the purchases were for COVID-related items, plus office hardware and software.

“I wasn’t worried about them finding me guilty of anything,” Phillips said. " I knew it was all honest work.”

Read: 2021 emails show FDOT concerns over Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s autonomous vehicle plan

According to the Inspector General, Phillips eventually submitted notarized affidavits, attesting the transactions were paid after being rehired by Holland, who said Phillips was brought back as a part-time special assistant because of his expertise and partly to straighten things out.

“[We’ve] got to get them [receipts] fixed, and the only way to get them fixed is for someone who knew what was going on,” Holland said.

Phillips said the city moved to a new system to upload receipts and he didn’t know how to use it and maintains all the money is accounted for, except for $138 of personal purchases that he accidentally made on the county card.

INVESTIGATES: Can Florida legally sell your DMV information to third party companies?

Phillips: “I have a check in my pocket ready to send them the money.”

Becker: “Let me see the check.”

Phillips: “Right there, that’s the check.”

Becker: “So, you are ready to write that check to the City right now?”

Phillips: “I’m ready to write that check to the City today yes.”

Becker made numerous attempts to reach Hogan by phone and text but never received a response.

“It goes back to just good accounting practices, don’t get behind,” Holland said. “We have a responsibility of conducting elections, but we have to do other things, we have to maintain the building, we have to pay our bills, we have to take care of our employees it’s not just a one-function office of elections, there’s a lot of things that go on at the same time.”

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

Mayor’s Office Response to Inspector General Investigation:

On March 6, 2024, COJ Chief Administrative Officer, Office of Mayor Donna Deegan was provided the opportunity to submit a written explanation or rebuttal to the findings as stated in this draft Report of Investigation, due on or before March 22, 2024. On March 22, 2024, the Mayor’s Office responded to the draft report stating, “The Mayor’s Office would like to thank you for the opportunity to respond to Case Number 2024-0004 regarding the Supervisor of Elections Office. We are aware of the findings contained in your investigation and take these matters very seriously. The Finance and Administration Department is still in the process of auditing the items brought forth in your report. Until we have a clear picture of the reconciliation being performed, we will reserve our final recommendations related to this matter.”

The OIG recommends Supervisor of Elections:

1. Seek recovery from Phillips for the prohibited and personal use of the purchasing card.

2. The SOE takes any corrective action(s) deemed appropriate.

3. Upon public release, SOE places a copy of the OIG report in Phillips’ personnel file.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

The OIG recommends the COJ Office of the Mayor:

1. Update the COJ Finance & Administration Department Treasury Division, Standard Operating Procedure, Procedure Title: Purchasing Card Program (P-Card), effective November 23, 2023, to address that notarized Affidavits should be a rare exception, excessive use of Affidavits (e.g., three or more) is considered non-compliance, and notarized Affidavits should reflect separate transactions rather than a collective group of transactions.

2. Ensure the COJ Finance & Administration Department Treasury Division, Standard Operating Procedure, Procedure Title: Purchasing Card Program (P-Card), effective November 23, 2023, or updated procedures are acknowledged, signed, and dated by all purchasing cardholders and program administrators.

3. Determine if the COJ Finance Department should electronically submit reports (e.g., monthly, or quarterly) to the purchasing cardholders, the purchasing cardholders’ supervisors, and the department leaders related to outstanding purchasing card expenses that have not been submitted promptly. Please ensure the OIG is courteously copied in these electronic communications.

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.


”Draft Draft Night in Duval: Thursday at 7PM on FOX30

Most Read