Northeast Florida Environmentalists Push For Answers About Missing Tree Money

Jul 14, 2015

Members of the Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida hold a printout of Section 25.04 of the City of Jacksonville charter that contains the requirement to plant, replant and maintain trees
Credit Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT News

A Northeast Florida environmental group wants to know what’s happened to millions of dollars in a trust fund earmarked for planting and maintaining trees in Duval County. Voters approved the trust fund 15 years ago.

The Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida filed a lawsuit Monday morning seeking an accounting of how that money has been spent.

Public Trust Executive Director Andy Miller says recent figures haven’t added up.

“In December 2014, there’s $8 million. By April — that’s 4 months later — there’s only $2 million. So that’s a $6 million difference,” Miller said, “and yet there’s no record for where this $6 million should have gone.”

Miller says records prior to December 2014 show the city spent tree fund money on things like grant writing fees, the installation of concrete pavers and on the PBS television series “Tree Stories” which explored trees’ impact on American history and culture.

City Councilman Tommy Hazouri was mayor at the time the city’s original tree-protection ordinance was approved. Unfortunately, he was unavailable for comment. An email request for comment from the city was not yet answered by the time this article was published.

The city has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.