District 9 Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis called for Mayor Lenny Curry to resign Thursday on WJCT News’ First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.
“Lenny Curry and his administration is probably the most corrupt administration the city has ever seen,” Dennis said on air.
Dennis is among the seven council members who voted against the proposed Lot J development deal, which failed by one vote to get the supermajority it needed to pass Tuesday night.
Curry and his administration led the Lot J negotiations with Jaguar owner Shad Khan’s development company. After the vote, Jaguars President Mark Lamping said plans to transform Lot J are now “dead,” according to WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record.
Dennis accused the mayor of a lack of transparency surrounding the Lot J negotiations and other city business.
“Every deal, every policy, everything’s done behind closed doors, and there’s a culture of cronyism,” Dennis said.
Although Dennis originally voted to move Lot J out of committee, therefore advancing it to a full vote, in the end he said he just couldn’t support it.
“I mean, how can you honestly go to the bond market, to the bank, and borrow $250 million for a bar, and some apartments, when we have drainage issues throughout our city? We have, you know, poverty. We have, you know, we just had issues in our city. But, you know, we put our priorities on a bar, which was the Live! [entertainment venue]. I mean, let's be honest, a bar and some apartments for $250 million? It's just not right,” Dennis said.
The project would have been anchored by the Live! entertainment venue and was envisioned to also include apartments and retail. The mix-use development was pitched as an economic catalyst for the sports complex area.
Dennis also accused the mayor of being behind the failed sale of JEA.
Indeed, a City Council special committee report issued this month found Curry and JEA officials explored the JEA sale with a “purposeful lack of transparency.” It also accused Curry of pushing for now-fired CEO Aaron Zahn to be placed at the helm.
WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union reported the committee also found Zahn used "intentional misrepresentations and omissions" to push the sale, which was coupled with Zahn's creation of an "ill-conceived" bonus plan that could have yielded executives millions of dollars.
“In the report, it says that one man could not have pulled off stealing of a billion dollars, or the attempt to steal half a billion dollars, from JEA without the help of the administration and the mayor, the leader of the city. So I stand behind that,” Dennis said. “I'm looking forward to the final report from the Department of Justice.”
Dennis said it’s time for Curry to “throw in the towel,” saying, “You know, what’s best for Jacksonville is for him to resign.”
He continued, “I truly believe if we were in another time, another city, another governor, Mayor Curry would be suspended while this ongoing investigation is going on. And so I think for, you know, for the healing and moving forward, and, you know, turning a new chapter of the city, I think Mayor Curry needs to resign. I think he needs to throw in the towel and deal with his, you know, legal issues that are mounting.”
Mayor Curry’s administration declined WJCT News’ request to interview him about the councilman’s allegations, but Curry Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury issued the following statement:
“Councilman Garrett continues to place politics over the citizens he represents and that’s unfortunate. It’s clear through his voting record and inaction in District 9 that he would prefer to spread lies for media attention.”
This isn't the first time Councilman Dennis and Mayor Curry have butted heads. There has been a pattern of animosity between them, as documented in these recent tweets: