Investigates

Sources: Top Deegan official wrote ‘derogatory’ memo aimed at Jacksonville City Council President

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax’s Ben Becker has learned that a top city official in Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan’s administration wrote a highly critical talking points memo that was leaked to City Council President Ron Salem regarding his response to the removal of Confederate statutes in Springfield Park.

Multiple sources in the administration tell Becker that Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Karen Bowling was the author and it’s raising new questions on how well the Mayor’s Office and Council can work together.

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Action News Jax first reported on Dec. 27 that the Confederate monument in Springfield Park was removed and while it was welcomed by many citizens, members of the Jacksonville City Council, including Salem, believe Deegan didn’t have the authority to direct the removal of two statues, even with private funds.

Council members have also expressed concerns if Office of General Counsel Michael Fackler was pressured by Deegan into signing off on it, which he denied at a Council meeting on Jan. 25.

As for the notes attributed to Bowling and written for Deegan, they call out Salem for having an agenda, wanting to build his name recognition, downplaying his effectiveness by comparing the remaining terms for Salem and Deegan, and that the administration has lost trust in Salem.

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Deegan Administration talking points on Salem

Bowling previously served as the Chief Administrative Officer during the Alvin Brown administration.

Becker emailed the Mayor’s Office for comment about the talking points, and it would neither confirm nor deny that Bowling wrote them only conceding:

“It’s unfortunate that staff notes were drafted and shared inappropriately with Council President Salem. We look forward to the opportunity to continue working with him over the course of his presidency and throughout his term. We won’t be commenting on this matter further.”

Salem issued the following statement:

The Confederate monument issue is the latest challenge for the new administration:

  • Failed appointments of Al Ferraro to lead the Neighborhoods Department and Randy DeFoor as General Counsel.
  • Resignation of former Chief of Staff Pat McCollough in December only to be reassigned to a newly created special assistant position that pays $175,000.
  • Former Jacksonville Housing Authority CEO Dwayne Alexander accused the administration of pushing him out when he resigned on Jan. 29.

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