JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mayor Lenny Curry is declining to weigh in on whether or not he believes Sheriff Mike Williams vacated his office by moving out of the county roughly a year ago.
The controversy comes as the state officially enters hurricane season, a concern for city council member Ron Salem.
“We’re about ready to go into hurricane season and I think it’s just critical that we know who the sheriff is,” said Salem.
JSO Undersheriff Pat Ivey addressed those concerns Wednesday.
He told us despite the uncertainty around leadership, the department is prepared.
“This agency will continue to serve this community and that’s all I have to say,” said Ivey.
Mayor Lenny Curry also spoke on the residency controversy publicly for the first time Wednesday but declined to weigh in on whether he believes the sheriff vacated his office by moving to Nassau County.
“I’m not gonna express an opinion. That’s up to the lawyers and they’re working with the sheriff and his team as to the way forward,” said Curry.
Williams told us Monday he believed the residency requirement in the city charter conflicted with state law.
He said he sought legal advice prior to moving.
“I have some legal advisors that we discussed it with, but no, no city officials,” said Williams.
We asked Mayor Curry if he felt Williams should have first consulted with the city’s General Counsel.
“Look, people make their own personal decisions with their families. I mean, I don’t expect anyone to tell me and the government if and when they’re moving,” said Curry.
While Curry has declined to weigh in on the legal question surrounding this residency controversy he offered a full-throated defense of Williams.
He argued despite the residency issue, you can’t ‘rewrite history.’.
Since Sheriff Williams first spoke publicly about leaving the county Monday, he rejected the idea his move made him an absentee sheriff.
“You know, I’ve been you know, working for JSO for 30 years and have spent you know, the majority of that time you know, working with the community. So, I’m gonna continue to do that. Nothing changed there,” said Williams.
Mayor Curry backed up Williams’s defense, arguing Sheriff Williams has always been there in times of crisis.
“Mass shootings, hurricanes, working to drive our murder rate down, invest in our kids and he’s always engaged, and he’s always involved,” said Curry.
Based on JSO stats, homicides are up 17% this year compared to the same timeframe last year.
“The sheriff has been missing in action for more than a year,” said Ben Frazier, head of the Northside Coalition.
Frazier blamed the rise in violent crime, in part, on Williams.
“We would all agree that it is better for the police officers involved to live where they police. Unfortunately, the sheriff, a public figure, is not leading by example,” said Frazier.
Undersheriff Ivey pushed back on that argument.
“You can’t dispute a guy who’s done three decades serving this community and his track record. Period,” said Ivey.
Track record aside, if the general counsel determines Williams vacated his position, there is likely only one path forward for Williams to remain in office: Moving back and then being reappointed by Governor Ron DeSantis.
“Wherever the law and the legal process takes us is where we’ll end, where they will end, but I’m gonna reiterate and I hope you guys play this tonight, we can’t rewrite history,” said Curry.
That determination from the general counsel is expected by 2 P.M. Thursday.
Williams has already suggested a court battle could be on the horizon if that opinion doesn’t go his way.
He’s stated he doesn’t see any scenario in which he resigns.
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