Attorneys for the city, the governor and recently appointed District 10 councilman Terrance Freeman sparred in court Friday with attorneys representing Brenda Priestly Jackson.
At issue is Freeman's heavily contested residency.
Priestly Jackson was one of the many people who applied to fill the vacancy created with the suspension of Reggie Brown.
The appointment of Freeman by Gov. Rick Scott has been controversial from the start.
Freeman is a Republican who was appointed to serve a mostly Democratic district that he didn't reside in prior to his appointment.
Priestly Jackson is a Democrat and formerly a member of the school board.
Jeri Covington, who lives in District 10, said she was hoping to see Priestly Jackson be appointed, and was disappointed to learn that wasn’t the case.
“Mr. Freeman doesn’t even live in our district so how did he qualify? We overlooked a lot people that did have the credentials that did live in the district that could have qualified,” said Covington.
Action News Jax has previously reported that Freeman now rents a house in District 10, but on the day, he was sworn in he leased two rooms in a private home.
The plaintiff alleges he circumvented the residency requirements and isn’t eligible for the position.
Freeman’s attorney, Lindsey Brock, showed the judge two charts demonstrating the timeline of events. Brock said Freeman was sworn-in on July 12 and became a city councilman as of that date not prior.
However, the plaintiff alleges July 10 is the relevant date.
Brock said there’s no requirement to live in the district prior to taking the oath of office.
He also said the judiciary branch has no jurisdiction over this case and that it should be the legislative body that decides.
Brock called the lawsuit a "political challenge disguised as a legal challenge"
Leslie Jean-Bart, who represents Priestly Jackson, said “we’re just trying to convey the will of the people” and questioned why this is happening in District 10 “a minority-access district”.
Covington said she feels like she and her fellow citizens don't have voice.
“We’re taxpayers. We should have a voice,” said Covington. “We’re not going to lay down anymore we’ve laid down long enough.”
The city’s Office of General Counsel filed a motion to intervene in the case to which the plaintiff’s attorneys did not object.
Judge Waddell A. Wallace III said he would issue a ruling “soon” and has asked his office to expedite the case, given its importance to the community.
Freeman’s appointment is temporary. If Brown is convicted, there would be a permanent vacancy and a special election would have to be held.
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