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Republican donor Kent Stermon had JSO access for nearly a decade as part of ‘the sheriff’s circle’

U.S. Representative John Rutherford, right, was the first sheriff to grant Republican donor Kent Stermon badge access to JSO buildings.

Kent Stermon, the influential Republican donor who was under criminal investigation when he died last month, was issued five separate badges giving him access to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office buildings, starting in 2013 under former sheriff and current congressman John Rutherford.

Records obtained by Jacksonville Today show Rutherford was the first of three Republican sheriffs to allow Stermon access to JSO buildings. About 400 people not employed by the city have been granted access to the Sheriff’s Office over the past decade. Most are contractors and interns, but Stermon was one of nine classified as part of the “sheriff’s circle.”

Stermon used his badges to access multiple sheriff’s office substations, JSO aviation facilities and investigative areas. He had access, for example, to one area the Sheriff’s Office has refused to disclose under a Florida law that protects “surveillance techniques or procedures.”

Read the rest of this story at Jacksonville Today, part of WJCT Public Media

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.