JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The City Council’s Special Investigatory Committee looking into the failed sale of JEA are now concerned over key witnesses claiming executive privilege as a way to not reveal conversations that took place regarding JEA.
The testimony of Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes revealed that he invoked executive privilege whenever he was asked about conversations with Mayor Lenny Curry. He was backed by a legal memo from the General Counsel’s Office that was given to the committee during the interview. The memo goes into what defines executive privilege and what is protected by executive privilege.
According to the memo:
- Executive privilege applies to all communications between the Mayor’s staff and the Mayor
- Executive privilege applies to all communications among the Mayor’s staff
- Executive privilege applies to all communications between the Mayor’s staff and any other person with regard to decisions within the Mayor’s discretion, including but not limited, to advice on policy that the Mayor may or may not want to advance.
- Executive privilege applies to all communications between the Mayor and any other person with regard to decisions within the Mayor’s discretion, including but not limited to advice on policy that the Mayor may or may not want to advance.
These terms of executive privilege caused concern for many of the City Council members on the committee.
“I am very concerned about the depositions that are coming before us where they might try to now state executive privilege, because, as you said, it was always represented to us that this mayor and his administration were not making a decision about privatizing the JEA. That was coming from the JEA independently of the administration. And now it appears that may not be the case,” Council Member Randy DeFoor said.
Jason Gabriel, the General Counsel, told the committee that executive privilege would not be covered by Florida Sunshine State laws. This means that any emails, papers, messages, and other written or recorded records made by public officials can be public record. The problem does arise when speaking about oral and in-person conversations that are not recorded.
The Committee Chair, Brenda Priestly Jackson, told Gabriel to clarify what exactly is privileged information and send that out to council members by noon on Friday.
Gabriel did say that ways to waive the Executive Privilege is to ask the Mayor.
“The way I would look at that is it would probably be appropriate for the committee to take a vote, just like you have been on other propositions, to respectfully request, you know, from the Mayor’s office that the executive privilege be waived. I suppose you’re saying, you know, across the board, which is one request you can make to the Mayor, and then that could be done in a very quick grief letter of request by virtue of your vote and then the Mayor’s office would consider it and go from there,” Gabriel said.
The next scheduled meeting is September 20, however there is a possibility for an emergency meeting in case the committee wants to vote on the request for the waiver.
Cox Media Group