$500K+ in city funds go to nonprofits Jacksonville council members work for

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Councilmember Rory Diamond is introducing a new piece of legislation to require a competitive bidding process for city funds going towards nonprofits employing a member of city council.

“I don’t have an issue with councilmembers asking for money, but the law is not great,” Diamond told Action News Jax.

During a city council meeting Sept. 28, seven different council members recused themselves from voting for city funds to go towards different organizations and nonprofits they work for. You can watch those votes here.

“[We] need to fix the law so what happened last week doesn’t happen again,” he added.

This legislation proposes a separate public hearing to happen before funds are distributed, as opposed to going directly to these nonprofits. He says he wants other nonprofits to feel included in the process.”If it goes to a city council member’s nonprofit, fine, but it would’ve been done correctly,” Diamond said.

Plus, he understands what it takes to run a nonprofit. He’s behind K9s for Warriors, which provides canines to wounded warriors.

In a Tweet he sent last month, he said he’s avoided conflict of interest by avoiding city funds.

“People were starting to ask questions and I said, ‘The organization I run, we don’t take any city money, we’ve never asked for it,’” he said when explaining why he posted the Tweet.

One of the nonprofits receiving city funds was the nonprofit council member Reggie Gaffney runs which is called the Community Rehabilitation Center. It received $500,000 in COVID relief money. You can read where other city funds were distributed here.

The organization helps people struggling with mental health issues or addiction, and Gaffney has been running it for around 30 years. Gaffney said in that council meeting he needed the funds to offset economic struggles related to COVID 19.

During a news conference on Monday morning, Gaffney weighed in on Diamond’s proposal.

“It’s easy to introduce legislation when you don’t understand our community that’s [in] desperate need,” he said. “Regardless of what anybody says, I don’t think it’s an attack on me, it’s an attack on the people that are homeless down there that have nobody to turn to but an agency like [mine],” Gaffney added.

Gaffney explained why city funds matter. “I respect Mr. Diamond a lot if you look at most of his funding, it’s coming from the federal government or it comes from the state.”

But Diamond says less than 10% of his funding comes from the government, and most come from private donors.

“You have to work really hard for private money, you have to ask donors. You have to get them excited about your mission,” Diamond pointed out.

The legislation will go to a standing committee within three weeks, and could be put up for a final vote in another week. So, we could see council vote on it within a month.