Breaking News
More () »

Sheriff Mike Williams will meet with Jacksonville city attorney Tuesday

Williams told First Coast News that he does not live in Jacksonville. This may be a violation of the city's charter.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Last week, Williams told On Your Side's Kailey Tracy in a one-on-one on-camera interview that he doesn't live in the city he's charged with policing. 

Williams will meet with the Jacksonville city attorney Tuesday to discuss this issue, which could be a violation of the city's charter. 

Williams confirmed Monday he moved to Nassau County a year ago. The charter states if the sheriff should "remove his residence from Duval County during his term of office … the office of sheriff shall become vacant."

Williams said he has no plans to resign, but said moving back to Jacksonville is a possibility. 

"Currently, I do not live in Jacksonville and plan to stay outside of Jacksonville in Nassau County when I retire," Williams said.

Williams said he's not violating the charter, however. He said he's protected because in 2010, the Florida Legislature repealed a law that required sheriffs to live in the county they serve.

"I'm very aware of the city charter," Williams said. "I think that the city feels like they may have a solid position. I know we feel like we have a solid position, so we'll see through conversation where that shakes out over the next couple of days," he said.

"I feel strongly that there’s a clear inconsistency between the charter and state law," Williams said.

Williams said he didn't consult with any city official before moving. 

"I have some legal advisors that we discussed it with, but no, no city officials," he said.

Attorney Neil Henrichsen said the charter trumps what state law says.

"I don't think that change [repealing the state law] makes any difference for the sheriff of Duval County," Henrichsen said. "The city of Jacksonville is clear in its charter that the sheriff must maintain residence in the city of Jacksonville limits. If they don't, they're out of office, so, he has unlawfully been in office," he said.

If the sheriff moves back to Jacksonville, Henrichsen said it may not undo other implications of his decision to move out of Jacksonville a year ago.

"I don't think you could simply just change your mind move back into the county and say, 'well, the past year didn't matter' because the city charter is very clear about the vacancy having occurred when he removed his residency from the city of Jacksonville. I think it creates an unnecessary crisis legally in our city government again with one of our most important city agencies, the sheriff's department," Henrichsen said.

As far as what happens with all of the decisions Williams made over the past year, including allocating where taxpayers' dollars are spent in his office, Henrichsen said it's complicated.  

"It certainly creates an unnecessary crisis in terms of the general counsel’s office and other aspects of government having to look at those decisions that the sheriff has made while unlawfully in office for the past year," he said.

"Here's an officer, or leader in our community, that manages one of the largest budgets for the city of Jacksonville and they’re not residing in the city that they’re supposed to be taking the lead on in terms of police activities, in terms of the budgeting, in terms of a large work force, so not only would there be issues of commute expenses, but more importantly in my mind, would be the control of taxpayer money and substantial taxpayer money," he said.

In fiscal year 2022, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office received $502.13 million from the city's budget.

The Florida Division of Elections guidelines for determining when residency qualifications for elected office must be met states sheriffs have to live in the county they serve at the time of assuming office. It also states "but there may be county charters that mandate some durational residency."

Williams said his move doesn't change his relationship with the community. When asked about constituents saying they've had a hard time reaching him and arguments that his move makes it even harder to reach him, Williams responded, "I just don't think that's true. I reject that idea, and we’ve had multiple community meetings in our building this year."

Regarding constituents' concerns that the sheriff moving out of Jacksonville shows the city isn't safe, Williams also disagreed.

"We’re a big metropolitan area, so there’s a lot of overlap with people who work and live in Jacksonville, live outside of Jacksonville and JSO, me included, are working every single day to keep this community safe and I think there’s example after example of that every single day, so I disagree with that,” Williams said. 

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted a statement in support of Williams Monday morning.

"I have worked with and served with Sheriff Williams for almost seven years. He is always engaged, present and cares deeply about this community," the tweet read.

The mayor's office said Curry learned about Williams' move from news reports Friday.

Several city council members told FCN they didn't know Williams moved until news reports as well.  

Councilman Matt Carlucci said Monday he understands how people may feel mislead by the sheriff. He said it's "not good optics" for him to live outside of Jacksonville.

"I really respect him and I love him for what he does for our city," Carlucci said. "I said, 'can I give you some big brother advice,' and he said 'certainly,' and I said 'I think I would find a residence to move back into Duval County with to finish your term' and he said that was definitely was one of the options he was looking at, so I think we will definitely know something by the end of the week," Carlucci said.

Carlucci said he thinks the charter should be in line with the state, but also doesn't think they should change the charter to allow for elected officials to live outside of the city.

Congressman John Rutherford, who used to be the sheriff of Jacksonville, said he just found out about Williams' move last week as well.

Williams said he and the city attorney are meeting again Tuesday. 

“I think they can kind of render a decision that says, 'hey. We feel like the charter is, you know, superseding state law,' and again, we’re on opposite ends of that discussion and over the next few days we won’t let it linger," he said. "Over the next few days we’ll figure out what the next steps will be, what’s the best way to come to a resolution," Williams said. 

Williams also said he hasn't ruled out settling the matter in court.

RELATED: 'Currently, I do not live in Jacksonville and plan to stay outside of Jacksonville ... when I retire,' says Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams

Henrichsen said if the city attorney decides Williams is violating the law, and he ends up being removed from office, the governor could appoint an interim sheriff until a special election is held.

General Counsel for the city, Jason Teal, will issue a legal opinion on the issue on or before June 1. 

RELATED: 'Binding legal opinion' by city attorney on Sheriff Williams and residency controversy expected by June 1

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out