A Duval County School Board hopeful is upset over proposed city legislation that would prevent him from running this year while keeping his job as a University of North Florida professor.
Currently, city charter prohibits public employees from serving on School Board. UNF Professor Timothy Groulx, who teaches music education, wouldn't be allowed to do both jobs. He said he found it odd and asked his City Council member, Bill Gulliford, last year to try to change the rule.
“I hope it will be done expediently and I hope I will get to run for 2018,” Groulx told WJCT News late last year.
Gulliford introduced a bill last month to that effect. At the time, he said, “I don’t have a problem with a college professor running for the School Board, but we’ll see what my colleagues think about it.”
But this week, Gulliford is asking his colleagues to consider an amendment making it so the rule change wouldn’t take effect until 2019, after the upcoming election.
During a committee meeting Monday, city lawyer Peggy Sidman said Gulliford's amendment was meant to give other would-be candidates more time to prepare.
“There was some concern… that if it were to take place now,” she said, “there were individuals that may have run that didn’t run for the upcoming election, so they wanted to delay it to not take effect until 2019.”
Guilford said an additional reason to hold off on the rule change until next year is Groulx had said he planned to run in 2022.
“He said that he was not going to run this term so I felt like — no surprises — if we pass this thing, let’s just start off fresh, next round, since we’re already into campaigning,” Gulliford said. “This will give people an opportunity to prepare for it.”
Groulx, however, maintains he always planned to run in 2018 against District 2 board member Scott Shine if the bill passes. He filed to run last summer.
“I haven’t removed myself from the candidacy in any way,” he said. “I’ve been maintaining my Facebook account regarding wanting to run.”
Groulx said he’s skeptical about Gulliford’s motivation behind the amendment because, as he points out, Gulliford wrote to him in an August email, “It seems that Scott Shine has been a pretty good school board member. That said and knowing the difficulty in finding good candidates, if this legislation passes I sure would hope you would make yourself available to run in the 2022 race.”
Groulx told WJCT News, “I thought we were working towards changing the laws for democracy and not doing something to necessarily support people we like.”
But Gulliford denied his amendment has anything to do with who Groulx’s opponent is.
“I’ll stand behind what I said,” Gulliford said. “He told me he wasn’t going to run, and I felt like ‘OK, well, why don’t we just start the thing off fresh?’”
Gulliford said he’s considering withdrawing the bill altogether and reintroducing it after the 2018 election.
Groulx said he still hopes to run this year, but if that’s not possible, he’ll wait until the next cycle. In the meantime, he has yet to raise any funds because he said he wants to be certain he can keep both jobs first.
Gulliford’s amendment along with the original bill would have to be approved by the entire City Council.