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    Millions of dollars could soon be invested in to improvements at Jacksonville parks. As part of the City of Jacksonville’s annual budget process, Mayor Lenny Curry has put forward his proposed Capital Improvement Program, which lists the infrastructure investments he wants the City to make. WOKV has found nearly a dozen projects across Jacksonville which focus on the infrastructure at local parks, with a proposed investment of close to $13 million, mostly in borrowed funds. This is above and beyond standard park maintenance that’s budgeted for every year. FULL COVERAGE: Jacksonville Mayor’s nearly $1.4 billion budget proposal On the Southside, a $2.225 million expansion is planned for the Fort Family Regional Park off Baymeadows, near I-295. This project would add four baseball fields, a parking lot, and a concession stand to the site, with construction starting this fall and continuing through next fall. The City says the park would be able to remain open during this work, which is aimed at creating a more substantial sports complex for the densely populated area. The park currently has a tennis complex, soccer fields, a playground, pavilions, and restrooms. The majority of this project would be funded through borrowing. $600,000 in available funding is earmarked for lighting upgrades for the baseball complex at Baker Skinner Park, off Powers Avenue in the San Jose area of the Southside. The City of Jacksonville says lighting at four of the six fields will be addressed, with the two smaller t-ball fields excluded since they are not as affected because of earlier games. Replacing the lighting means demolishing the old system and installing new LED sports field lighting, poles, and controllers, but the City says the park will remain open during the work. Construction will begin this fall and wrap by Spring 2020, if the proposal is approved.  One of the biggest investments is near the Main Street Bridge on the Southbank of Downtown, in the St. Johns River Park and Friendship Fountain, which is on the park site. For the park itself, $950,000 was previously committed, and an additional $1.6 million is proposed for the upcoming fiscal year, with most of the funding coming through borrowing. This would fund improvements to walkways, picnic areas, landscaping, adaptive signage, a concession area, and restroom facilities. There is also a concept for a Ribault Landing-themed playground and a splashpark.  The City says this park will have to be closed during the construction, which is slated to start late this year or early 2020, and wrap in the end of 2020. The City says they’re working to identify any events and activities that would be affected by this closure, to provide alternate locations. In the park, Friendship Fountain itself is poised for a huge overhaul. The City has previously invested $1.3 million, and is proposing another $4.2 million now- mostly through borrowing- for some significant repairs. The project includes repairs to the concrete structure, speakers, lighting, pumps, wiring, and electronic and software equipment. Renderings from the City show two different perspectives, but the same concept, of what that work could look like. For William F. Sheffield Regional Park, off New Berlin Road on the Northside, this is poised to be the first year of a multi-year investment. The CIP proposes $1 million for the upcoming fiscal year and $3 million the following year, largely funded through borrowing. The money this year is for new multi-use fields, which would be able to accommodate soccer, football, and other sports, according to the City. This project would also involve an increase in the parking capacity, and while the exact number of spots is not clear, the City says capacity should double around the football fields. Construction here would begin this fall and conclude next fall, with no need to close the park. Another multi-year investment is proposed for a Winton Drive Recreation Facility, across from Ribault High School in Northwest Jacksonville. $500,000 was previously committed to this project, and now the CIP proposes $2.05 million in borrowing each of the next two years to round out the investment. A Boys & Girls Club facility is being built adjacent to this property, so this rec facility would be aimed at supporting that. The facility would consist of a range of fields and parking, as conceptualized in this rendering. The 103rd Street Sports Complex on the Westside could see $707,000 in renovations, funded through available cash. The proposal is to renovate the grandstand building where scoring is done and restrooms are housed, as well as the bleachers, lighting, and sidewalks. This project is expected to span from this fall through next summer, with the park staying open through that time. This park centers on a half-mile lighted Go-Kart track. Hanna Park in the Mayport area stands to see $14,093 in proposed improvements including fencing replacement, playground repairs, safety lighting, trail repairs, drainage improvements, and minor renovations to amenities. In addition to that, $240,000 is proposed to repair one of the beach access boardwalks, which the City says has deteriorated because of the harsh environment. The CIP notes Hanna Park has not seen any major capital improvements in recent years, so work like this will help it continue to generate revenue and stay competitive. All of this funding would come from available cash on hand. Another relatively small investment is for Carvill Park in the Norwood area of Northwest Jacksonville. Most of the proposed $150,000, which comes from available funding, would be used for the pool and pump house, although some of the money is also earmarked for security lighting around the park. These proposals are all included in the CIP, which is still pending vetting and approval by the Jacksonville City Council, as part of the annual budget process. A final vote will take place ahead of the start of the next fiscal year October 1st.
  • With the imminent demolition of the Jacksonville Landing and ongoing negotiations for a new contract to keep the Florida/Georgia game in Jacksonville, City leaders are looking to up the stakes for the fan experience around the annual event. The Jacksonville Landing has historically brought in thousands of fans through the weekend for daytime events, like school pep rallies, as well as the nightlife experience. By the time we reach this year’s game on November 2nd, that building will be completely vacant, with demolition in progress. While the City was not involved in programming the Landing in prior years since it was privately owned and operated, they’re now looking to address the entertainment hole that’s created by the demolition, to ensure fans still have a place to go to celebrate through the extended weekend. So they’re proposing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more than prior years, to create a destination in the heart of the Sports Complex. “All the way from RV City, through the [Daily’s Place] Flex Field, in to the parking lots next to the stadium, out to APR [A. Philip Randolph Blvd.], and incorporating the Baseball Grounds and some of the different things on APR, including private businesses that are in the food and entertainment business, to try to connect them all together in a way that offers that whole area of the Sports and Entertainment District as a location for multiple events,” says Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes. Hughes says the intention is to activate this area for several days leading up to the game for both family-friendly activities and nightlife, with everything from live music to street vendors. “We want to turn that area down there in to a place that has some of the same offerings that the Landing did, except we’re trying to do it in a way with sponsorship that we don’t have to block it off and charge people admission to get in to the space. That if they’re here for the weekend, that’s where they go and that’s where they entertain,” Hughes says. WOKV started asking about this enhanced fan experience, after seeing a boost in a special events subfund in Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s proposed $1.4 billion budget. While the City plans to do the same annual events it hosts every year, like the Hall of Fame luncheon, they’re proposing budgeting several hundred thousand dollars more than last year in order to execute this vision. The budget proposal includes an addition over last year of more than $440,000 for miscellaneous Florida/Georgia expenses relating to event services and $75,000 in equipment rentals corresponding with the increase in services, among other areas. The exact price tag for this is not yet available, as negotiations and planning on the details of this fan experience continue. Hughes would not provide many more specifics about what they’re planning, except to say it will use facilities like Daily’s Place and the Baseball Grounds in creative ways. They’re also planning for some transportation options between the Complex and some hotels. More details on these plans will be released in the coming months, he says. “We really want the whole area down there to be activated for the entire visit that these folks have,” Hughes says. There is also $121,000 in additional funding requested for advertising and promotions for this event. Hughes says it’s important to ensure that University of Florida and University of Georgia fans who do not follow Jacksonville news know about the changes with the Landing and this new experience they will make available, so the funding will be to both work with the schools and have information available once fans arrive. While the fan experience is the purpose of these plans, Hughes acknowledges it comes while the City is in a window to negotiate a new contract to keep the annual game in Jacksonville. “These types of extra events are also a demonstration to the schools that the City is committed to the tradition,” Hughes says. Per the game contract, all parties are currently in the first negotiation window, which goes up until a few days prior to this year’s game. The final game under this current contract is in 2021, but Hughes says all parties are having productive talks, and he hopes to be able to work out a deal that extends the game in Jacksonville for many years to come. “We anticipate getting to the finish line,” he says. The last contract extension was for five years and gave the teams a combined $2.75 million in payments and incentives over the course of the contract, including annual guaranteed payments, travel expenses, and more. There are limited direct revenue opportunities for the City, like through the operation of concessions and Daily’s Place. The direct costs to the City, meanwhile, have continued to climb over the years, with this new enhanced fan experience being the latest element- since Hughes says it is intended that this be an annual event. In addition to the price of running the stadium operations, the cost of tickets for the game has increased, and the City is obligated under the contract to buy 1,000 each year. The City is reimbursing the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair $80,000 this year relating to costs they will incur because they agreed to delay the opening of the Fair by a week to avoid a conflict with the game. Additionally, the City is paying the Jags nearly $380,000 to acknowledge revenue the team is losing because of the impact of the temporary seating construction on their available tickets to sell for their game the weekend prior to FL/GA. The cost of constructing temporary bleachers at TIAA Bank Field to meet the contractual seating obligation for the game is a little more than $2.4 million this year, with the Jaguars reimbursing about $310,000 relating to the construction in the Club Levels. That number varies some year to year, and could see an increase soon, as the contract with the current vendor expires and negotiations are ongoing in relation to an extension. Hughes says the cost of the event is well worth it, considering the impact on the city. “Jacksonville gets a lot of benefit from it. The economic impacts are real, we fill hotel rooms, we have people going to dinner for multiple nights while they’re here, we have people going out to the beach, we have people enjoying our public spaces around Jacksonville, in addition to having game day,” he says. And it’s also about the tradition. “Both UGA and the University of Florida have deep alumni networks here. It’s become a great tradition for a neutral site game, it’s one of the most famous neutral site games and rivalries in college football, and has been for decades,” he says. Now is the time the City wants to build on that tradition, not only through the enhanced fan experience, but the possible permanent changes for the Sports Complex. The Administration is in the process of putting the finishing touches on an economic development agreement that will reflect around $233.3 million in City incentives for the $450 million development of Lot J at the stadium in to a mixed-use site with entertainment, office, hotel, and residential space. While that deal is still pending approval by the Downtown Investment Authority and the City Council, another project that is moving forward is the removal of the Hart Bridge ramps by the stadium. All of this will mean construction likely affecting the next couple of games after the 2019 one, but Hughes says it will be worth the hassle. “Ultimately, a couple of years on the other side of it, I think people will be amazed at how well both Jaguars games and other events in that area and the Florida/Georgia tradition will kind of fit together down there very well,” he says. The Mayor’s budget proposal- and the included funding for this enhanced fan experience complex- is still pending the vetting and approval of the Jacksonville City Council. A final vote will take place ahead of the start of the Fiscal Year October 1st.
  • As a phased demolition of the Jacksonville Landing gets underway, the Mayor’s Administration is looking at what the next steps for the site will be. WOKV has confirmed they’re proposing a “starter fund” to get moving on a market study and early design and engineering, for what happens once the building is down. In March, the Jacksonville City Council approved an $18 million package to settle long-running disputes dealing with the Riverfront property. $15 million was used to bring an end to a lease dispute between the City, which owns the land, and Jacksonville Landing Investments on behalf of Sleiman Enterprises, which owned and operated the building itself- with the City buying out JLI and taking over ownership of the building. $1.5 million was for dealing with settling the leases and potentially aiding the relocation of the remaining tenants, and the remaining $1.5 million was set toward demolishing the building. The Capital Improvement Program put forward by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, as part of his annual budget proposal, earmarks $2.25 million for a “Riverfront Plaza”, which has the address of the Jacksonville Landing property. Seeing this, WOKV went to the Mayor’s Office to get more information on what this funding is for. GALLERY: Jacksonville Landing awaits demolition Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes confirms the money deals with the Landing site. The CIP shows $250,000 in proposed borrowing in the upcoming fiscal year for “design and engineering”. Hughes says this is for a market study for the property, which will involve receiving public feedback as well. While he says they still intend to have two land pads for private development along with public green space, the market study is intended to show the best use within those parameters, including the best balance of residential, office, entertainment, and retail space in the private developments. “How much green, how much hardscape? Is it nodal, in that we have little areas that are grassy for dogs and little areas that are splash pads for kids, or do we have a more integrated, flowing piece that rolls next to the Performing Arts Center and really connects one way versus the other to the Riverwalk,” Hughes says. The CIP shows an additional $2 million split between Fiscal Year 20-21 and 21-22, to use for land acquisition and site prep. The City already owns the land, and part of the contract for the demolition of the building involves sodding the property. The $2 million, according to Hughes, is for the City to design and engineer those public, green spaces, as the developers are also putting their plans together for the private pads. “We expect a process that has development experts, our Parks and Rec folks, and Council members, and community stakeholders all to be weighing in together, so that the development feels like a single space, even though components of it will be privately owned and other components public,” Hughes says. He says the City will look at the possibility of food trucks, kiosks, splash pads, and other features in the public access space. The developers will also be expected to include ground-level dining and entertainment options to complement the St. Johns River and green space activation, although the market study will influence what exactly that ratio looks like. Hughes says setting aside the $2 million now will allow for a collaborative design and engineering process, and if there is any additional funding, they can use that to actually start some of the work relating to what the City’s obligation with the green space will be.  FULL COVERAGE: Inside the Mayor’s nearly $1.4 billion budget proposal We asked Hughes why this market study and engineering funding wasn’t included in the initial $18 million deal put in front of the City Council, which did include some non-settlement elements, like the demolition funding. He says the timeline was built to start rolling this out now, since they have now settled everything with tenants and are getting underway with that demolition. The final tenant is set to move out in October, and Hughes says they should have the market study going out at that point. If all goes according to plan, he hopes to see movement in terms of the development bids and design early next year. This proposed $2.25 million over three years is still subject to approval as part of the annual budget review process. The City Council will vet the proposal and vote ahead of the start of the next fiscal year, October 1st.
  • While three Clay County detention deputies were fired as a result of an internal investigation of alleged sexual misconduct at the jail, no criminal charges are being pursued at this time. Now, WOKV is learning more about that decision. For a year, we’ve been following this investigation, which first started with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office confirming some personnel had been reassigned pending an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct between inmates and detention deputies. Almost two weeks ago, CCSO announced three deputies had been terminated as a result of that investigation, and on Monday, WOKV brought you an in depth look at the allegations that were sustained by Internal Affairs, which included that three deputies would instruct female inmates to expose themselves, would have sexually explicit conversations with them, and more. With CCSO noting that no criminal charges are being pursued, WOKV asked the State Attorney’s Office why. An email we obtained from Assistant State Attorney Joseph Licandro to investigators earlier this year shows that he regarded the allegations as “very serious” and detailing “myriad administrative violations”, but he questioned if criminal charges could be supported. “Proving criminal charges stemming from these administrative violations- beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt- will be problematic due to witness concerns, insufficient proof that a crime occurred, and a lack of corroborating evidence,” the email says. Licandro says the decision not to pursue criminal charges could be reconsidered in the future, if new evidence is brought forward. In the meantime, he made it clear that action is expected of CCSO. “The State Attorney’s Office anticipates that any definitive conclusions reached from the internal investigation will result in appropriate administrative action against any potential offending parties and that critical corrective measures will be taken at the Clay County Detention Center to reduce the possibility of administrative misconduct from occurring again,” he said in the email. Three deputies were terminated as a result of this investigation- Marcus Beard, Kory Clarida, and Austin Hatcher- with all three found to have instructed or encouraged female inmates to display their breasts and genitalia, engaged in sexually explicit conversations with female inmates, brought personal cell phones in to the detention facility, used a personal cell phone to play music and games while on duty, and failed to log and/or report adverse inmate behavior. In addition to those five common charges, each had at least one additional allegation sustained against them. Ten of the 13 allegations against Clarida were sustained, which also included that he displayed genitalia to a female inmate, instructed or encouraged female inmates to masturbate, instructed or encouraged female inmates to write sexually explicit notes, provided miscellaneous items to a female inmate assigned to confinement and suicide watch, and slept while on duty. Six of ten allegations against Beard were sustained, which also included that he observed female inmates in the shower. Six of eight complaints against Hatcher were sustained, including that he instructed or encouraged female inmates to masturbate. In addition to the three terminations, we’ve now confirmed there were two other detention deputies that were disciplined. One deputy was found to have brought a personal cell phone in to the detention facility, used a personal cell phone to play music for inmates while on duty, and failed to log and/or report adverse inmate behavior. CCSO says that deputy was suspended for three days. The other deputy got a level one written reprimand for bringing a personal cell phone in to the detention facility. In regard to the jail itself, a CCSO spokesperson says they made immediate changes with male deputy operations in female housing areas. WOKV has asked for more information on those specific changes. CCSO also says male deputies are no longer allowed to escort female inmates. The Internal Affairs report on this matter says there have been two policy changes, although we are waiting for CCSO to confirm if those changes were in direct response to this investigation. Previously, two male detention deputies were allowed to escort a female inmate to the shower if no female deputy was available, but that is no longer the case, according to the report. Additionally, the report says it is now prohibited for male, female, and juvenile inmates to be housed in the same area, like in confinement. WOKV has again asked the Clay County Sheriff’s Office for an interview to discuss their response to this investigation and what specific changes have taken place to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. CCSO has not indicated if they will make anyone available.
  • 28 years after an elderly man was killed while apparently interrupting a burglary at his home in Jacksonville, a suspect has been arrested. JSO says 84-year-old Joseph Back was found dead, after a welfare check on his home. Police believe he was killed the evening of July 12th, 1991, and while police are not confirming the manner of death, they say it was a violent attack. Investigators believe Back’s home was randomly targeted in the burglary, and Back did not know the suspect. Occasionally, JSO says they re-run latent prints from cold cases. That was done in Back’s case late last year, and the results led them to 69-year-old Eddie Rhiles. JSO says technology advancements led to results in this case that they hadn’t been able to get before. “Computer is a little faster, little smarter. So, those images, you can get more of the detail as we progress. And with the technology, it’s only going to get better. And there are more and more people who’s prints and whose DNA are in the system, so it’s only positive from here on out,” says JSO Assistant Chief Brian Kee. Rhiles’ listed address was a homeless shelter in Tallahassee. JSO partnered with Tallahassee Police to apprehend him there on August 2nd. Police say he was interviewed and arrested for the murder. He is still in Tallahassee, pending extradition to Jacksonville. Rhiles has served time in state prison and has an extensive criminal history that includes kidnapping, robbery, and battery on an elderly person, according to JSO. His prints did not immediately connect to any other cases, but JSO says they continue to investigate if he may have been involved in any other crimes over the years. “He’s obviously a very violent individual, I mean he’s got a history of incidents,” says Kee. JSO says Back’s family is pleased that an arrest has been made. Kee is vowing to continue working cold cases like this, in an effort to get results. “There’s always hope. We have dedicated detectives in Cold Case who do nothing but those kind of investigations,” he says. Kee says they even added a Detective to the unit about a month ago, and they consider these cases a high priority.
  • A company with around 1,200 existing jobs in Jacksonville is looking at adding 500 more and building a new headquarters and parking garage. A $29.9 million incentives package is now being considered by the City, in order to seal the deal. The package will go in front of the Downtown Investment Authority on Wednesday, and if it’s approved, it then needs final approval by the Jacksonville City Council before taking effect. The terms filed with the DIA show “Project Sharp” is proposing to add 500 new jobs and retain the existing 1,216 jobs in the City. It is also looking at building a new 300,000 square foot office building- which would serve as its corporate headquarters- and a parking garage, with that capital investment expected to be around $145 million. The building would go up in Downtown Jacksonville. To achieve this plan, the term sheet outlines $29.9 million in City and State incentives, with the majority of that carried by the City. The State’s portion would be through the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program, which would pay $1,200 per job created for this project, for a total of $3 million. The City’s total share of that would be $600,000 and the State has the $2.4 million balance.  The City is also offering a City Closing Fund Grant of $3.5 million, which would be paid upon substantial completion of the construction portion of the project. The brunt of the funding is through Recapture Enhanced Value Grant funding, which is essentially a property tax break based on the growth generated by the project. This project would be eligible for a 75% grant over 20 years, totaling up to $23.4 million. The company behind “Project Sharp” is not named in the project documents filed with the DIA. Florida law allows confidentiality in these types of economic development agreements.
  • We’re gathering more information about a crash that caused big problems for your Tuesday morning commute. All lanes of Airport Road at Duval Road were closed for several hours, as the Florida Highway Patrol investigated a fatal crash. FHP now confirms the crash involved a pedestrian. Investigators say a 60-year-old man was crossing Airport Road outside of the designated crosswalk. A vehicle traveling east on that road was not able to avoid the pedestrian, according to FHP. The car hit the man while he was in a travel lane, and that pedestrian died. The crash report says alcohol is not believed to be a factor on the part of either the driver or pedestrian. FHP says their investigation of this crash continues.
  • A man has been arrested for allegedly shooting a man he knew in the back in a park in the Lincolnville area of St. Augustine. St. Augustine Police say the victim identified 64-year-old Derick Eubanks as the suspect in this shooting, which happened at Vickers Park on Riberia Street. What led up to the shooting is still unclear, but police say the two men know each other. The victim in this case was taken to the hospital and is in stable condition. Eubanks has been detained, with charges pending, according to police. 
  • Instructing and encouraging female inmates to expose themselves, engaging in sexually explicit conversations with female inmates, and failing to write up poor inmate behavior- they’re just some of the allegations which have led to the firing of three Clay County detention deputies. WOKV reported a year ago about allegations of sexual misconduct between inmates and deputies, which sparked an investigation. A little over a week ago, we confirmed three deputies had been fired as a result of the administrative investigation that took place, although no criminal charges are being filed. Now, we’ve obtained that full Internal Affairs report which, for the first time, details the nature of the allegations involved. The three deputies who were fired as as result of this investigation are Marcus Beard, Kory Clarida, and Austin Hatcher. The report sustained five allegations for all of them: instructing or encouraging female inmates to display their breasts and genitalia, engaging in sexually explicit conversation with female inmates, bringing a personal cellphone in to the detention facility, using a personal cellphone to play music and games while on duty, and failing to log and/or report adverse inmate behavior. Each deputy faced additional sustained complaints as well. The report sustained ten of the 13 allegations against Clarida. Beyond the five charges shared with the other deputies, he was also found to have displayed genitalia to a female inmate, instructed or encouraged female inmates to masturbate, instructing or encouraging female inmates to write sexually explicit notes, provide miscellaneous items to a female inmate assigned to confinement and suicide watch, and sleeping while on duty. Against Beard, six of ten complaints were sustained, which included observing female inmates while they showered, in addition to the above listed charges. Hatcher had six of eight complaints sustained, including the five shared allegations, as well as instructing or encouraging female inmates to masturbate. According to the Internal Affairs report, all three deny any wrongdoing on the charges that relate to sexual conduct. They admit to bringing their phones in, playing music and games, and not properly writing up some inmate conduct, although the report notes that many deputies described similar conduct across other personnel. In fact, multiple interviews with deputies showed that they described it as common for inmates to be partially clothed or nude, or to masturbate in their cells. The report says the deputies would correct the inmates in the moment and the inmates would comply, so there was generally no further action taken, including logging that behavior. The report shows several inmates gave investigators similar stories in regard to the more serious alleged misconduct, which happened between January and August 2018. One example is the use of a “pipe alley”, or maintenance corridor, for deputies to speak to inmates through the air vents and grates. Several inmates also said that if they engaged in the sexual behavior that the deputies instructed, they would be rewarded by extra food, coffee, or similar things. That allegedly came both at the direct request of the deputies, as well as if they danced and exposed themselves when the deputies played music over the intercom. Several inmates said the deputies would also use a flashlight or laser pointer to highlight parts of their body while they undressed, or indicate where the inmate should strip. At least one inmate told the investigator that she initially declined the advances of the deputies, but ultimately “felt forced” to comply because they wouldn’t leave her alone, according to the report. Some of the witness statements came from other detention deputies and Clay County Jail employees as well, including one deputy who told the IA investigator that she saw Clarida, Hatcher, and Beard playing games on their phones while on duty, but when she confronted them, an unnamed supervisor allegedly told her it wasn’t her place to tell them what to do. Another deputy witness statement claims the overall way rules are enforced with bad behavior by inmates has become “lackadaisical”. Another deputy testified admitting that she questioned a couple of inmates about the ongoing investigation and told them something to the effect of they shouldn’t involve “her boys” in this. Multiple points in this report reference apparent policy changes that have taken place at the Clay County Jail, and WOKV has asked the Clay County Sheriff’s Office if those changes are at all a result of the investigation. At the time of these alleged incidents, two male deputies were allowed to escort a female inmate to the shower, if a female deputy was not available. The report says current policy prohibits that. It is also currently prohibited to have male, female, and juvenile inmates housed in the same area- like in confinement- although that was not the case at the time of these allegations, according to the report. In all, seven detention deputies, one detention sergeant, and one then-maintenance technician were investigated as part of this probe. CCSO terminated Beard, Clarida, and Hatcher as a result of the administrative investigation. Two other deputies has sustained complaints dealing with their personal cell phones, with one of them also found to have failed to report or log adverse inmate behavior. WOKV is working to confirm what disciplinary action CCSO took in regard to these findings. The other people involved in the investigation had the allegations conclude as unfounded or not sustained. We have also asked the Sheriff’s Office what other changes have been made at the Jail to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. We are waiting for a response.
  • The former owner of Riverside Chevrolet will not be able to sell cars again, under an agreement reached with the State to bring a close to a fraud investigation. “This was an example of motor fraud at its worst, where a car dealership was selling cars that still had liens and were not paying off the liens on those cars. And so, unwittingly, buyers were purchasing or trading in vehicles, getting new ones, and then were on the hook for two cars,” says Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. Moody says they were able to recover more than $1.2 million in restitution in this case, to resolve the liens. Court filings claim there were more than 71 vehicles involved in this fraud. “Often times this happened to our seniors, and in instances of military personnel, where it affected their security clearance,” Moody says. The dealership is now under new ownership, Beaver Chevrolet, and Moody says they have cooperated through the investigation and worked to make the affected customers whole. Between August 2017 and April 2018, Riverside Chevrolet allegedly took trade-in vehicles that had outstanding liens, but didn’t resolve them. That would mean the person who traded in the vehicle was still on the hook for the debt and could have their credit negatively affected if they didn’t pay those bills. Court records show there were also some cases where the lien-holder tried to repossess the vehicle, without knowing it had been traded in, because Riverside Chevrolet hadn’t settled everything. The State also alleged that Riverside Chevrolet failed to pay more than $400,000 in sales taxes, failed to pay employee salaries and withholding taxes, and failed to transfer vehicle titles on trade-ins in a proper and timely manner. Not transferring a title in the required 30-day period could make it difficult for the prior owner of the vehicle to get financing and insurance on their vehicles. Under the settlement, Riverside Chevrolet- as the entity that ran the dealership under Andrew Ferguson- and Ferguson himself cannot own, operate, or manage an auto or truck dealership in Florida again. The agreement also includes various fines and attorney fees.
  • Stephanie Brown

    Assistant News Director

    Stephanie Brown is the WOKV Assistant Director of News and Afternoon Reporter. She guides the direction of WOKV’s news content, frequently contributes to social and digital platforms, and is a leading voice on-air. Stephanie has been with the team full-time since May 2012, which is when she graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in telecommunication and political science. When she’s not enterprising story ideas or digging in to an investigation, she’s likely cooking or enjoying downtime with her dog.

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  • Ahead of the holiday season, UPS has announced it plans to hire more than 1,200 people in the Jacksonville-area. We're told the positions are a combination of seasonal and permanent jobs and include the following:  670 package handlers  235 delivery and tractor-trailer drivers  325 driver helpers UPS says oftentimes these seasonal roles can led to a career with the company, with about 35% of people hired for seasonal package handler jobs in the past four years staying on with the company after the holidays.  Nationwide, UPS is looking to hire 100,000 seasonal jobs to help with the busy holiday shipping season. “We expect another record peak season this year, with daily package deliveries nearly doubling compared to our average of 20 million per day. In order to make that happen, once again we’re recruiting more than 100,000 people for some of the country’s best seasonal jobs,” says Jim Barber, COO, in a statement. Locally, UPS is hiring at the following two locations: 4420 Imeson Road, Jacksonville, FL 32220 12400 Presidents Court, Jacksonville FL, 32219 Tractor-trailer and package car driver jobs start at $21.00 per hour, while pay for package handlers and driver helpers starts at $14.00 per hour. If you’re interested in applying, UPS says you have to apply online at UPSjobs.com.
  • Get ready for higher local gas prices over the next few weeks after an attack on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend. Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy says the good news is it won’t be a quick spike in prices. He says you can expect the prices to go up gradually until they get 15 to 30 cents a gallon higher than they are now. “This is going to feel very much like what we see every spring with gas prices start to go higher every spring and it could last a few weeks,” DeHaan says. He says it won’t be any worse than some higher prices we’ve seen in the past due to hurricanes or other natural disasters. DaHaan says it’s also not a good idea to run to the pump to fill up your tank as soon as you can, because if everyone does that it could cause a bigger issue.
  • Following an article posted by The New York Times this weekend, several Democratic presidential candidates are calling for the impeachment of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on allegations of sexual misconduct from his time as a student at Yale University. On Sunday, the Times reported that Kavanaugh faced a separate allegation of sexual assault from his undergraduate days and that the FBI did not investigate the claim. However, the story has come under some scrutiny. The Times tweeted a promotion for the story, which they later deleted and apologized for, then added an editor's note to the online story explaining that the female student mentioned in the new claim declined to be interviewed about the allegations and that friends say she does not recall the incident. The Times' article was an excerpt from a book about Kavanaugh that is to come out in a couple of weeks. Kavanaugh fought sexual assault allegations prior to his confirmation by the Senate last October, facing many in Congress who said he was unfit for the position. Amid the renewed call from Democratic candidates and others in Congress, many are asking if and how a Supreme Court justice, who is appointed to the position for life, can be removed from the bench. Here's a look at the impeachment process for sitting federal judges and others. >> Read more trending news  Can a Supreme Court justice be impeached? Yes, a Supreme Court justice can be impeached. Article II Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to impeach federal judges and gives to the U.S. Senate the right to vote to remove judges who have been impeached. The section reads: 'The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.' Judges are considered part of the 'all civil Officers of the United States' portion of the section. What can a Supreme Court justice be impeached for? The Constitution lays out two specific actions and one vague description of something that could lead to impeachment and removal of a justice from the bench. The Constitution says a person may be removed from office for convictions of 'Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.' While treason and bribery are spelled out, high crimes and misdemeanors are a little vaguer. High crimes and misdemeanors are generally seen as a violation of the public's trust. Sexual assault would fall under that category. How does impeachment work? Impeachment for justices works the same way as impeachment for a president or vice president would work. Here are the steps in the process for impeaching a federal justice: In the House First, an impeachment resolution must be introduced by a member of the House of Representatives. The speaker of the House must then direct the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary (or a special committee) to hold a hearing on the resolution to decide whether to put the measure to a vote by the full chamber and when to hold such a vote. A simple majority of the Judiciary Committee must approve the resolution. If the Judiciary Committee approves the resolution, it moves to a full vote on the House floor. If a simple majority of the those present and voting in the House approve an article of impeachment, then the justice is impeached. In the Senate The procedure then moves to the Senate where a 'trial' is held to determine if the justice committed a crime. There is no set procedure for the trial. Details outlining how the trial is conducted would be set by the Senate leadership. Members of the House serve as 'managers' in the Senate trial. Managers serve a similar role as prosecutors do in a criminal trial, they present evidence during the procedure. The justice can have counsel to represent him during the Senate process. Unlike in the trials of an impeached president or vice president, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court would not preside over the trial of a justice. In an impeachment trial of a Supreme Court justice, the vice president would oversee the proceedings. Senators listen to the evidence presented, including closing arguments from each side and retire to deliberate. Senators then reconvene and vote on whether the justice is guilty or not guilty of the actions he is accused of. It takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict. If the justice is found guilty, he is removed from office immediately. The result of the hearing in the Senate, along with a charge in the House that a justice has committed a crime is not a legal one. No penalty, other than removal from office, is brought against a justice in an impeachment hearing. Has any Supreme Court justice been impeached? Samuel Chase, who was appointed by President George Washington, was impeached in 1804 for 'arbitrary, oppressive, and unjust' decisions on the court. The Senate declined to remove Chase from office on the House's recommendation of impeachment, saying a justice should not be removed from the court because his or her decisions are not popular.
  • A longtime assistant Los Angeles city attorney killed himself last week after gunning down his wife and 19-year-old son, police officials said. Authorities were alerted to the killings when Eric Lertzman’s daughter, 25, fled to a neighbor’s house after escaping through a bathroom window, according to an LAPD news release. The dead include Lertzman, 60; his wife, Sandra Lertzman, also 60; and their 19-year-old son Michael Lertzman. The daughter’s identity was not revealed by police, but Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer identified her as Rachel Lertzman. Sandy Lertzman's sister, Cindy Stern, wrote on Facebook of the shock of the tragedy. “You never think this is going to happen to your immediate family,” Stern wrote. “Still in shock, but completely heartbroken about losing my dear sister Sandy, nephew Michael and brother-in-law Eric to gun violence today. Grateful beyond words that Rachel survived.” A GoFundMe page set up to help Rachel Lertzman in the wake of her family’s deaths had raised more than $122,000 as of Monday morning. >> Read more trending news According to police, dispatchers received a call around 9 a.m. Wednesday for shots fired and an assault with a deadly weapon at the Lertzman home in Northridge. Greg Demos, the neighbor from whom Rachel Lertzman sought help, told KTLA she ran over in her pajamas and said her father had tried to shoot her. She was “upset, confused distraught, somewhat in shock,” as she recounted what happened, Demos told the news station. “‘I don’t know what to tell you, Greg, but this is what just happened in my house, and I don’t know what to do,’” Demos recalled her telling him. “She said, ‘My dad took a shot at me, and my mom and my brother are still inside.’” Demos told ABC7 in Los Angeles that he and Rachel Lertzman ran back to the family’s home. “I went with her to the door and I knocked on the door, yelled. Nothing,” Demos told the news station. “We went to the back. She had locked the doors and left. She said my mom and my brother are still inside. We pummeled on the door, yelled for her dad, yelled her mother’s name and brother’s name. No answer. “And that's when we called the police.” Police officials said the investigation showed Eric Lertzman shot and killed his wife in their bedroom, then attempted to shoot his daughter in her bedroom across the hall. She locked herself in a bathroom for safety. Lertzman then went to his son, Michael, and killed him, authorities said. Watch ABC7's live coverage of the police response to the Lertzman home below. “During this time, (Rachel Lertzman) escaped through the bathroom window and ran to a neighbor’s residence,” the news release said. “Eric returned to the master bedroom, where he turned the weapon on himself, ending his own life.” According to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office, Eric Lertzman died of a gunshot wound to the head. Both Michael and Sandra Lertzman died of multiple gunshot wounds. Their deaths were classified as homicides, while Eric Lertzman's death was labeled a suicide. Two handguns were found in the home, according to police. Feuer said on Twitter that Eric Lertzman had been with the city attorney’s office since 2005. “This is a horrible tragedy,” Feuer said in a statement. “As we search for answers to how this could happen, we mourn the victims and envelop those left behind with our love during this time of unbearable loss. Of course, we will provide members of our city attorney family with needed counseling and support.” Police officials said detectives were still searching for a motive, but “investigators believe the recent loss of a loved one and ongoing health issues played a significant role.” Eric Lertzman’s mother, Phyllis Lertzman, died Aug. 26, according to her obituary. NBC Los Angeles reported that Eric Lertzman had taken leave from work after undergoing a recent colon surgery. The attorney's health had deteriorated over the past year or so, neighbors said. “Just terrible it came to this, that he couldn’t reach out to us or other family members for help,” longtime family friend Russ Beck told the news station. Beck described Eric Lertzman as a “kind soul” who enjoyed riding dirt bikes until his health no longer allowed it. Lertzman’s Facebook page, which had little activity, shows him standing next to a motorcycle and wearing riding gear. Eric and Sandy Lertzman had been married for 33 years, according to social media posts. A post on Sandy Lertzman's Facebook page indicated they celebrated their anniversary Aug. 24, less than three weeks before the homicides. In a 2016 Facebook post, Sandy Lertzman described her husband as a “supreme” husband and father. “I love you forever and can’t wait to share at least the next 30 years with you,” she wrote. In a 2017 anniversary post, which was accompanied by a wedding photo, she described Eric Lertzman as her best friend. Sandy Lertzman also heaped praise on her children on social media. On a birthday post about Rachel Lertzman, the proud mother described her as “amazing, beautiful, charismatic, dedicated, ever-environmental, fabulous, gorgeous, honest, intelligent, journey-driven, kind, loving, multitalented, nondiscriminatory, over-the-top, passionate, quick-witted.” When Michael Lertzman turned 18 in 2017, she wrote: “You are an awesome human being, and we are proud of you and love you! XO, Mom and Dad.” She expressed similar sentiments in October, when her son turned 19. 'From the day you were born, you've brightened our world, and we're very proud of you for the awesome person you are,' she wrote. Family and friends of the Lertzman family expressed shock and sorrow over the killings. Aviva Eagle, who described herself as a cousin, said Sandy Lertzman was “always full of love and always smiling.” Eagle described Michael Lertzman, a student at California State University Northridge, as smart with his whole future ahead of him. Alan Dreiman, president of the university’s chapter of Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, wrote of the teen’s warmth. “Michael was a shining light in our lives, a wound that will never heal,” Dreiman wrote. “A huge thank you to everyone who has offered support. That is the only thing getting everyone through these terrible times. Our condolences are sent out to family, friends, and the community. May we all stay strong.” Chabad at CSUN, the university’s Jewish Student Center, also mourned him on social media. “We are beyond devastated by the horrific news of today,” a post on the group’s Facebook page read. “Chabad at CSUN stands with our AEPI (Alpha Epsilon Pi) brothers, as well as the Northridge community.” Camp Alonim, a program of the American Jewish University-Brandeis Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, said the teen was a longtime camper and staff member. “Mikey’s personal warmth, his gentle spirit, his wide smile and his infectious enthusiasm will never be forgotten,” the group’s Facebook page read. “He will always be a beloved member of our Camp Alonim family. We send our deepest condolences to his sister, Rachel (CIT '10), and the many people whose lives Mikey touched.” A woman named Erica Hartman responded that she had seen Michael Lertzman the Friday before he was killed. “He ALWAYS had a smile on his face and greeted everyone with nothing short of genuine happiness,” Hartman wrote. “We are devastated by this horrible news,” Julie Hertel wrote. “I know there are many current and former campers, my daughter included, that are heartbroken, shocked and numb to hear this news. “Campers should look to their camp family to help them through this difficult time. It helps to be with or talk with others that knew and loved Mikey. Share your stories and memories about him, this will bring comfort to you and your friends. My heart goes out to everyone impacted by this awful situation.”
  • A firefighter died and six other people were wounded Monday morning in a suspected propane gas explosion in Maine. >> Read more trending news  Farmington police Chief Jack Peck said a firefighter died after authorities were called just after 8 am. Monday to investigate a gas smell at a building on Farmington Falls Road. He said the LEAP building at 313 Farmington Falls Road exploded while firefighters were investigating the smell. 'All of us are one big family. We all know each other, especially in a small town,' Peck told reporters Monday at a news conference. 'We all feel for (the slain firefighter's) family. ... It affects us deeply.' Four other firefighters, an employee who works at the building and an ambulance worker were also injured, he said. Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols said the explosion left behind 'total devastation.' Images from the scene showed scattered debris and smoke. 'It looks like a war zone here,' Landry told WMTW. 'The newly constructed building is gone. The adjacent building is half down. (Firefighters) are hosing down what debris is left of the building. Not much.' The explosion took place at the LEAP building, according to the Sun Journal. The nonprofit group works to empower people who have developmental, cognitive and intellectual disabilities, told the Sun Journal that his home shook during the explosion, knocking pictures off his walls. He said when he went outside to investigate, he saw 'complete chaos' and 'complete devastation.' 'It was white insulation, materials everywhere,' he told the Sun Journal. 'I was dumbfounded.' It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, which sent debris and smoke into the sky before 8:30 a.m., though Peck said a preliminary investigation pointed to a possible gas explosion. 'It looks like it may have been a propane or natural gas leak,' Peck said at a news conference. 'That's in the very early stages of investigation.' Police did not immediately identify the firefighter killed in the explosion, citing the need to notify the firefighter's next of kin. Maine Gov. Janet Mills told reporters she knew the slain firefighter. 'Our hearts go out to all the families of the injured and the deceased and all the people in the community,' she said. Peck said Farmington fire Chief Terry Bell was among the people injured. A majority of the victims suffered burn injuries that appeared to be consistent with a building explosion, he said. The explosion took place at the LEAP building, according to the Sun Journal. The nonprofit group works to empower people who have developmental, cognitive and intellectual disabilities, according to the group's website. Mills said the state Fire Marshal's Office would conduct an investigation into the cause of the explosion. 'Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy, especially to the loved ones of the firefighter lost and others injured,' she wrote in a Twitter post. 'I am grateful for the work of first responders who are at the scene and urge Maine people to avoid the area.

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