JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The leader of Jacksonville’s ethics watchdog says candidates should not have off-duty, uniformed JSO officers in political ads.
The Jacksonville Ethics Commission discussed the ads at a public meeting Thursday. It’s clear this debate has two city institutions at odds.
“You'd hope that just the ethics of public service would be such that people would know that that's a line that shouldn't be crossed,” said George Candler of the Ethics Commission. “People shouldn't be asked to cross that line, and that line shouldn't be crossed.”
Action News Jax told you when the Ethics Commission sent Sheriff Mike Williams a letter, saying the ads "erode the public's trust." They also asked him to change his policies.
It came after the city's Office of General Counsel issued a binding opinion that the ads are legal.
Curry campaign: "The General Counsel and Sheriff have made clear this was always legal first amendment activity. Their opinion is all that legally matters." MORE ⬇️ @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/O5GBTrpNDU— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) March 8, 2019
“Should political candidates have JSO officers in uniform in political ads?” Action News Jax reporter Russell Colburn asked Ethics Commission Chair Joseph Rogan.
“No,” Rogan said. “It’s not good form. It’s not a good thing to do. It doesn’t meet best practices. Across the country this is prohibited. State police officers can’t do it, federal police officers can’t do it, the military can’t do it, only local law enforcement can do it. It’s just not the right thing to do. People shouldn’t put the officers in that position and the officers shouldn’t put themselves in that position.”
“So, we have candidates here breaking the law, in your opinion?” Colburn asked.
.@ActionNewsJax is at the Ethics Commission meeting. They’re expecting to discuss the Office of General Counsel’s opinion on uniformed officers in political ads. https://t.co/fGZVAryr7R pic.twitter.com/fs1bL9ZovV— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) March 7, 2019
“I don't know that the law applies to directly to the candidates, so that's a difficult question and that's something I wish we could've explored in the complaints committee, but unfortunately, two or three hours before we were going try to explore that we received an opinion saying it doesn't break the law,” Rogan said.
Rogan plans to meet with Jason Gabriel of the OGC in two weeks.
Action News Jax reached out to the campaigns
Tommy Hazouri deferred to the General Counsel opinion.
Mayor Lenny Curry’s campaign sent this statement: “The General Counsel and Sheriff have made clear this was always legal first amendment activity. Their opinion is all that legally matters. The Ethics Commission member who keeps taking his personal opinion to the press should go back and review his law school materials to understand what it means that he has no jurisdiction.”
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