Action News Jax Investigates: Ethics questions surround mayor's office

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax is investigating ethics questions swirling around the office of Mayor Lenny Curry.

The Jacksonville Ethics Commission recently voted to recommend stripping the mayor's office of the power to grant a special waiver that had never been granted  before.

It follows a controversial decision involving a former high ranking member of the mayor's inner circle.

"There was certainly a lack of transparency here," said Joe Rogan, chairman of the Jacksonville Ethics Commission.


Proposed City Ordinance 2019-805 would eliminate the mayor's office authority to grant post-employment waivers and instead have that power rest with the 19-member Jacksonville City Council.

The rule is to prevent former employees from using their time with the city to get jobs in the private sector with companies with whom they conducted city business.

Action News Jax Ben Becker first told you in August that former Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa had been given a waiver by the mayor's office to help the Jaguars redevelop Lot J in addition to also being paid $120,000 as a consultant by the city.

A letter written on July 1 by new City Administrative Officer Brian Hughes just three days after Mousa retired said:

"Mousa would bring a unique and valuable perspective and experience to the needs of the above referenced development."

The city announced in August a proposed deal to invest a total of $233 million in public money to the Lot J development.

"How many times has this happened in the past?" Becker asked Rogan.

"To my knowledge, never," said Rogan.

Becker emailed the city for comment from Mayor Curry and Hughes regarding the recommendation of the ethics commission.

"We have no comment from either until City Council makes the decision," a spokesperson responded.

Becker wanted answers from Hughes and Mayor Curry and approached the two  Monday as they were entering a meeting.

"You can catch me after this," Curry told Becker as he brushed by.

"Your office has been telling me you have no comment Mr. Mayor," said Becker.

Five minutes later Hughes came out of the meeting and said the mayor's office followed the law regarding conflicts of interest, but is open to change.

"The  administration is prepared to work with the City Council to add whatever layer of transparency is needed," said Hughes.

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Becker has also learned Mousa registered as a Jacksonville  lobbyist on Sept. 5.

That means he is being paid by the city at the same time he is representing others with business in front of the city.

Becker  called and texted Mousa to ask him if this is a conflict of interest and is  still waiting to hear back.

Rogan  believes exemptions should be made in the public and not behind closed doors in City Hall

"I hope the council passes it," said Rogan.

Mousa is not currently listed as a lobbyist for the Jaguars.