A grievance committee of the Duval County Democratic Party is recommending the party remove its chairman after an internal investigation found he violated local and state Democratic Party bylaws.
The allegations center around a January 24 “backroom meeting” between local party Chair Daniel Henry and Republican Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond to discuss the upcoming city council redistricting process. Henry has said that Diamond invited him out for drinks at M Shack Burgers in Town Center, then blindsided him with an offer to work together on redistricting. Henry said he told Diamond no and didn’t take the offer seriously because Diamond is not on the City Council’s redistricting committee.
“I believe that this report was an attempt to try to draw conclusions on what occurred on January 24th between Councilman Diamond and myself,” Henry said in an interview with WJCT News. “I have said from the very beginning, and have continued to say, that I rejected the deal, or the offer to work together, from Councilman Diamond.”
The investigation began in March when City Council Democrat Garrett Dennis, the chair of the redistricting committee, filed the grievance against Henry, alleging Diamond offered a specific deal that would help Henry if he ran for a city council seat and disadvantage moderate city council Republican Randy DeFoor.
Those allegations were not substantiated in the final report.
Instead, the committee found Henry violated party malfeasance and misfeasance bylaws. In other words, he did not intend to cause harm, but harm occurred through his irresponsibility or negligence, mostly for not correctly disclosing meetings he had held.
Diamond previously denied any wrongdoing in the matter. In a response to a request for comment Friday, a staffer on Diamond’s team said, “Councilman Diamond has nothing further to add other than to note that even the Democratic Party of Duval recognizes that Daniel Henry is dishonest.”
The Duval County Republican Party has not said whether it is investigating Diamond’s role in the matter. Republican party chair Dean Black did not respond to our request for an interview by this story’s deadline.
Concerns over the propriety of the city’s redistricting effort speak to what is sure to become a heated fight in the coming months, as a five-person redistricting committee made of three Democrats (Garrett Dennis, Reggie Gaffney and Brenda Priestly Jackson) and two Republicans (Randy DeFoor and Randy White) haggle over individual city blocks.
According to Jacksonville’s municipal code, City Council must have 14 districts, each representing an approximately equal number of residents, and each being as geographically compact as possible. Republicans currently hold nine of those 14 seats, a supermajority, but changes to demographics and voting patterns may threaten that.
The Democratic Party of Duval County will review the findings of the grievance investigation at its next meeting on Monday.
Contact Sydney Boles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.