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Jax councilmembers question whether Florida’s lobbying ban could inhibit two Deegan-appointees

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Questions are being raised about two appointees recently announced by Mayor Donna Deegan.

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Specifically, whether Florida’s lobbying ban might prevent them from doing their jobs.

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Former city councilmember Al Ferraro and Randy DeFoor have been tapped to head the Neighborhoods Department and serve as the city’s next General Counsel.

Both appointees just left their positions on council last month.

In a recent Rules Committee meeting, Democratic and Republican councilmembers questioned whether the state constitution’s lobbying ban could create issues.

“There have been nominees to the administration and others that were members of this body. That’s something that’s gonna come to us,” Councilmember Rahman Johnson (D-District 14) said during the Monday meeting.

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“We want to make sure we’re super clear and in the clear on this one,” Councilmember Joe Carlucci (R-District 5) added.

The Florida constitution prohibits elected officials from lobbying the body they served on for six years after leaving office.

Lobbying as it relates to local governments is defined by state statute as “influencing legislative actions or other discretionary decisions”.

Rules Chair Councilmember Terrance Freeman (R-Group 1 At-Large) explained both the General Counsel and the Director of the Neighborhoods Department work closely with city council.

“Would they be allowed then to advise us or influence us or slash lobby? However, the term is you want to use,” Freeman said.

Freeman said he and other Rules Committee members plan to propose a resolution which will ask the Florida Commission on Ethics to weigh in.

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“To really protect our city to make sure that several months down the road or several weeks down the road, we’re now not faced with the scenario of, hey you are in violation of the state constitution and now you’re going to have to rescind,” Freeman said. “Not only the person’s gonna have to resign potentially, but then rescind any actions that that person might have taken.”

Freeman suggested that last part is of particular concern with DeFoor’s appointment, as she’d have a key role working on high-profile city initiatives.

“You have the Jaguar deal. You have pension deal potentially on the horizon. We have so many so many important issues that are coming before us, that we really just need to keep our eyes on the ball,” Freeman said.

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Mayor Deegan defended DeFoor’s appointment in an emailed statement.

“The Qualifications Review Committee, which includes past general counsels and legal experts, unanimously approved Randy DeFoor’s qualifications for the job. They believe she will not be subject to any limitations in her role as General Counsel, and that is why I selected her. I would hope that this does not become a political process,” Deegan said.

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Council will ultimately have to confirm both appointments.

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