• Jacksonville pastor files complaint over political ads featuring uniformed officers

    By: Russell Colburn , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    A Jacksonville pastor has filed a complaint over political ads appearing to show JSO officers campaigning for Sheriff Mike Williams and Mayor Lenny Curry.

    In the ads, the off-duty officers appear to use city property including cars, motorcycles and facilities.

    That complaint from the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition and Pastor R.L. Gundy alleges the ads violated the Hatch Act, a federal law, by having "uniformed law enforcement officers, who work for the taxpayers, appear in political ads."

    “When I saw it, I said, ‘Well they’re allowed to have their own opinion.’ We all are, (but) since they’re in uniform, it was kind of uncomfortable,” said voter Dale Collins.

    Action News Jax uncovered a new city ethics provision, just enacted by City Council in December.  

    It states, in part, "It is a violation for an officer to use any city resources, including property for any political campaigning."

    JSO responded that the ad "was already reviewed.  An officer appearing in uniform in a political campaign ad is not violating any state or federal law as long as the ad is filmed while the officer is off-duty.”

    The city’s Office of General Counsel told Action News Jax, "No ethics rules have been violated. The provisions cited do not prohibit off-duty uniformed officers from participating in political ads."

    They added that they’re in the process of drafting an opinion.

    Curry’s campaign would not comment on the complaint.

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