Four days after the city posted a digital announcement seeking letter of intent from residents interested in filling the city council vacancy left by the resignation of 1st Ward councilman Anthony Davis, two men have submitted letters wishing to be considered for a potential appointment.
Michael Jackson, owner of bankrupt Jacksonville Restaurant on Grand Street, and James Staton, pastor and president of 1st Ward Community Development Corporation, have submitted applications seeking to represent the city’s 1st Ward until a special election can be held in November 2015.
Minutes before the four 4:30 p.m. deadline on Friday Jackson submitted a letter of intent to the city clerk’s office.
Staton was first to urge the council to appoint him to the seat. Staton promised he had no intention of running for the special election, but is seeking the seat to represent the ward’s residents in the interim.
The council is scheduled to consider appointing one of the two men during its special meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening.
A number of council members said they would loath to give an unfair advantage to anyone wishing to vie for the seat next year by giving that person incumbent status. In order to avoid handing out an advantage, council members voiced a stipulation that any person wishing to be appointed ought to relinquish hopes of running for the seat during the upcoming special election.
“People would like to know how fair that is with four days posting,” said David Gilmore, open government activist. Gilmore noted that the announcement was posted only on the city’s website. He noted there wasn’t any advertisement on the newspaper. With the holidays it was not even four days, said Gilmore.
Gilmore criticized council president Julio Tavarez for not making the announcement for letters quick enough. “He was in charge, he could have done that when Davis submitted the resignation, and the positon became vacant,” said Gilmore. He said the short-notice announcement did not do justice to the process.
The council did not seek to fill the post immediately following Davis’ resignation. In fact, a majority of council members cited precedents that the council always kept vacancies vacant differing to voters on the decision.
Tavarez expressed consternation at the idea of appointing someone to fill Davis’ vacancy. On December 16th, 2014, when Staton submitted his letter for consideration to council members, Tavarez said he wanted nothing to do with the appointment, wishing other council members good luck.
The vacancy came about after Davis pled guilty to taking bribes from a federal investigator posing as a real estate developer.
After Staton made is intention known, council members, with a deadline of January 3rd, 2014 hanging over their heads, rushed to potentially fill the seat.
Gilmore said how can the city even do background checks in such a short period, adding the process is “insufficient.” He also added that the announcement says nothing about the do-not for special election stipulation. Gilmore said the do-not-run condition served to exclude a number of potential nominees.
“Four days was not a fair opportunity for anyone else to apply,” said Gilmore.
Tavarez could not immediately be reached for comments on Friday afternoon.