Author Topic: Nate Monroe & Anna Brosche question Brian Hughes' qualifications as city CAO  (Read 1029 times)

Tacachale

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From Nate Monroe's "It's Easier Here" column in the Florida Times-Union:

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It's Easier Here: Is the mayor's incoming chief administrative officer qualified?
 
Nate Monroe
Apr 15, 2019 at 10:56 AM

From the desk of Nate Monroe

...

JUST HOW QUALIFIED is Brian Hughes, the man set to become Mayor Lenny Curry's chief administrative officer? There is an actual legal question at issue here. To give you the answer right up front, it's — at best — debatable whether Hughes holds the qualifications legally necessary to become Curry's next CAO.

Hughes, who has served as Curry's chief of staff since January 2018, has become quite the super-staffer in his short time in municipal government. He is also the interim director of the Downtown Investment Authority, which on Friday suffered a setback after Biloxi developers who had been in talks on building some kind of family-fun center at the site of the Berkman II pulled out of development talks (more on that below). Hughes has also been one of Curry's closest political advisers and friends for years.

Chief administrative officer, however, is a different story. The city's charter — its foundational governing document — lays out several requirements the mayor's CAO "shall have," and it's hard to get there with Hughes' background without some creative interpretations.

FIRST THINGS FIRST, the CAO is supposed to have a bachelor's degree in "business administration, public administration, or a similar field" as well as seven years experience in "an administrative capacity in municipal government, three of which are in a management capacity, and a thorough understanding of the principles of municipal administration and of applicable provisions of the Laws of the State of Florida."

Hughes has a bachelor of arts degree from the Catholic University of America and a master's of fine arts from Syracuse University. He has been a professor, a "policy adviser" to some members of Congress, and was for a time former Gov. Rick Scott's communications director. He is also a United States Air Force veteran who took part in operations during the Gulf War. If he has any experience in municipal government beyond his time in Curry's administration since January 2018, he doesn't list it in his bio. He has for the most part been known as a political consultant and communications pro.

Nothing against Hughes' background at all, which is varied and legit. But if we were limited to the necessary CAO qualifications listed above, his application would be problematic.

...


https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190415/its-easier-here-is-mayors-incoming-chief-administrative-officer-qualified
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Tacachale

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Anna Brosche has a similar argument in a letter to the city's General Counsel, Jason Gabriel:

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April 16, 2019
Mr. Jason Gabriel, General Counsel
Office of the General Counsel
City of Jacksonville
117 West Duval Street, Suite 480
Jacksonville, Florida 32202
Dear Mr. Gabriel:

Please accept this letter as a request for clarification of Article 6, Section 6.07(b) of the Charter Laws of the City of Jacksonville ("Charter"), which convey the qualifications of the Chief Administrative Officer appointed by the Mayor. The Charter was modified to include such qualifications when the City Council enacted 2015-51, and effected a ballot referendum on May 19, 2015 that passed with a vote of 70 percent.

Article 6, Section 6.07(b) of the Charter reads:

The mayor shall appoint a Chief Administrative Officer {CAO) who shall be responsible for overseeing all operating departments; managing the day-to-day affairs of the City of Jacksonville; and overseeing the implementation of the City's annual operating budget and capital improvement plan. The Chief Administrative Officer shall have a bachelor's degree from an accredited post-secondary institution in business administration, public administration, or a similar field, and seven (7) years' experience in an administrative capacity in municipal government, three of which are in a management capacity, and a thorough understanding of the principles of municipal administration and of applicable provisions of the Laws of the State of Florida; or an equivalent combination of education and experience. The mayor shall fill any vacancy in the position of Chief Administrative Officer within 60 days of such position becoming vacant.

Last week, we learned Mr. Sam Mousa, Chief Administrative Officer, is retiring after decades of public service and that Mayor Curry is appointing Mr. Brian Hughes as his replacement. While Mr. Mousa's satisfaction of the Charter qualifications is crystal clear, the same cannot be said for Mr. Hughes.

In satisfaction of the oath I took to support, protect, defend and honor the Charter laws, and to ensure we clearly communicate to the people of Jacksonville who overwhelmingly supported the strengthening of the Chief Administrative Officer qualifications in the Charter, I am asking the following:

1.   What is Mr. Hughes' biographical history of education and experience?
2.   What are Mr. Hughes' qualifications in satisfaction of Article 6, Section 6.07(b) of the Charter?
3.   What does or an equivalent combination of education and experience mean in the context of the language immediately preceding such phrase in the Charter?
4.   Who has the authority to evaluate or an equivalent combination of education and experience in the Charter?

Mr. Gabriel, thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Sincere regards,

Anna Lopez Brosche


Link here: http://3o15h033zmpwracwx2i00rqx.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Letter-to-General-Counsel-Gabriel-4_16_19.pdf
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Tacachale

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A.G. Gankarski of Florida Politics has more on the story, including a response from Mayor Curry:

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Brian Hughes’ qualifications to be Jacksonville CAO questioned by Anna Brosche
Mayor Curry framed Brosche’s letter as a political stunt.

ByA.G. Gancarski on April 16, 2019

The race for Jacksonville mayor is over, but the political games continue between a defeated candidate and the re-elected incumbent.

On Tuesday, Republican City Councilwoman Anna Brosche sent a letter to Jacksonville’s general counsel questioning the qualifications of a member of Mayor Lenny Curry‘s inner circle.

At issue: Chief of Staff Brian Hughes and his ascension to the Chief Administrative Officer position, with current CAO Sam Mousa retiring.

Brosche invoked a change to the charter, ratified in the May 2015 general election, that said that a CAO must have a bachelor’s degree in business administration or public administration, with seven years experience in municipal administration. Three of those years would be in a management capacity.

An “equivalent combination of education and experience” would also suffice, per the charter.

Hughes came to Jacksonville City Hall after a varied career that included a college professorship, film work, positions with federal and state legislators and Gov. Rick Scott, and his campaign work.

Brosche questioned his qualifications for the position, wanting to know if Hughes was directly qualified, and if not, who would determine his qualifications.

...

Curry said “Hughes is not only qualified and legally eligible to serve as CAO, he is the best choice to help me lead our city forward in the years ahead.


“It is unfortunate that Anna Brosche continues to play politics and lob personal attacks against city employees. Even those employees that have served our nation in uniform and seek to better our city each and every day,” Curry said, alluding to Hughes’ military service.

“I’m thankful the voters rejected Anna Brosche and her constant grandstanding and divisive politics. It gives me comfort to know she and her failed policies will be leaving office in the coming weeks,” Curry added.


...


http://floridapolitics.com/archives/293859-anna-brosche-questions-brian-hughes-qualifications-to-be-jacksonville-cao
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Tacachale

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This is one of a few controversies Hughes has been involved in this week. Last week, council member Matt Schellenberg expressed he was disappointed with the fact that the DIA under Hughes' leadership didn't uncover $11 million in financial judgments against the company they were incentivizing to complete the Berkman 2. Hughes sent Schellenberg a text that Schellenberg interpreted as a threat to withhold funding for his district.

https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190415/jacksonville-city-councilman-mayors-staffer-threatened-retaliation-for-berkman-criticism
https://floridapolitics.com/archives/293736-email-insights-florida-democrats-slam-lenny-curry-culture-of-corruption

The issues led Hughes to delete his formerly prolific Twitter account.
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CityLife

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To play devil's advocate here, would Hughes even be hired as City Manager of St. Augustine or one of the Beaches communities if there were openings there?

jaxnyc79

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The City is God-Forsaken

Tacachale

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Here’s what the General Counsel had to say. Essentially, the decision is up to the mayor.

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The Honorable Anna Lopez Brosche Council Member, At-Large Group 1 117 West Duval Street, Suite 425 Jacksonville, FL 32202
Dear Council Member Brosche:

Thank you for your letter concerning Section 6.07(b) Charter, regarding the Chief Administrative Officer. The Chief Administrative Officer position is one of the most important of the mayoral appointments. The answer to the fourth question cited in your letter obviates the need to answer the other three questions.

Section 6.04, Charter, asserts that the Mayor of Jacksonville is the chief executive and administrative officer of the Consolidated Government. Pursuant to this section, all executive power is exercised by the Mayor and the Mayor’s appointees, as well as the employees of the executive branch.

The power to appoint carries with it the duty to determine that the appointee possesses the requisite qualifications for the office, including the qualifications in Section 6.07(b). For this appointment, the discretion and judgement to exercise that duty resides completely and unequivocally with the Mayor.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Sincerely,

Jason R. Gabriel General Counsel


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acme54321

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If the mayor can do whatever he wants what's the point of even having a criteria?
« Last Edit: April 19, 2019, 11:01:24 AM by acme54321 »

vicupstate

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The criteria is there for a reason. It is there because the governments being replaced by the charter were steeped in corruption. Political consierations were the prior criteria for staff positions. Clearly this was an effort to replace that with professional standards. This intent was respected by the prior mayors, but this one clearly does not. Does the General Counsel serve at the pleasure of the Mayor?   
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Charles Hunter

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Since the General Counsel is just the Mayor's lawyer, would the City Council (or someone with "standing" - like a rejected candidate who meets the Charter criteria) have to sue to get an unbiased opinion?

Tacachale

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The criteria is there for a reason. It is there because the governments being replaced by the charter were steeped in corruption. Political consierations were the prior criteria for staff positions. Clearly this was an effort to replace that with professional standards. This intent was respected by the prior mayors, but this one clearly does not. Does the General Counsel serve at the pleasure of the Mayor?   

The criteria was added in 2015. The City Council wasn't happy with the Brown administration's handling of that side of the house, and wanted to ensure that the CAO position, second in importance only to the Mayor, had qualified people in it. However, the Mayor is evidently the one who handles the vetting.

Yes, the GC is appointed by the Mayor.
Do you believe that when the blue jay or another bird sings and the body is trembling, that is a signal that people are coming or something important is about to happen?

vicupstate

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The criteria is there for a reason. It is there because the governments being replaced by the charter were steeped in corruption. Political consierations were the prior criteria for staff positions. Clearly this was an effort to replace that with professional standards. This intent was respected by the prior mayors, but this one clearly does not. Does the General Counsel serve at the pleasure of the Mayor?   

The criteria was added in 2015. The City Council wasn't happy with the Brown administration's handling of that side of the house, and wanted to ensure that the CAO position, second in importance only to the Mayor, had qualified people in it. However, the Mayor is evidently the one who handles the vetting.

Yes, the GC is appointed by the Mayor.

Thanks for the clarification. I stand corrected. So who was Brown trying to appoint that brought this about?   
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Tacachale

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The criteria is there for a reason. It is there because the governments being replaced by the charter were steeped in corruption. Political consierations were the prior criteria for staff positions. Clearly this was an effort to replace that with professional standards. This intent was respected by the prior mayors, but this one clearly does not. Does the General Counsel serve at the pleasure of the Mayor?   

The criteria was added in 2015. The City Council wasn't happy with the Brown administration's handling of that side of the house, and wanted to ensure that the CAO position, second in importance only to the Mayor, had qualified people in it. However, the Mayor is evidently the one who handles the vetting.

Yes, the GC is appointed by the Mayor.

Thanks for the clarification. I stand corrected. So who was Brown trying to appoint that brought this about?

I don't remember if there was a particular hire they were worried about. It was more about the pattern of weak hires and missteps across the administration. I think the idea was that things would be better managed with a strong CAO.
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Steve

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The criteria is there for a reason. It is there because the governments being replaced by the charter were steeped in corruption. Political consierations were the prior criteria for staff positions. Clearly this was an effort to replace that with professional standards. This intent was respected by the prior mayors, but this one clearly does not. Does the General Counsel serve at the pleasure of the Mayor?   

The criteria was added in 2015. The City Council wasn't happy with the Brown administration's handling of that side of the house, and wanted to ensure that the CAO position, second in importance only to the Mayor, had qualified people in it. However, the Mayor is evidently the one who handles the vetting.

Yes, the GC is appointed by the Mayor.

Remind me....most Mayoral Appointments that have people under them (such as Public Works Director, etc) require City Council approval. I seemed to remember (though I might be wrong) the only ones that don't are positions that have no direct reports.

Or am I misremembering?