County sheriffs are elected in Florida. They have the chief law enforcement responsibility in unincorporated portions of the county. Jacksonville is a consolidated county, so the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer for the city of Jacksonville. The beaches cities in Duval County, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach all have their own chiefs of police and police forces, hired by their respective governments.

Having to stand for election makes county sheriffs, of necessity, politicians. This immediately poses challenges, because politicians do favors and citizens, in general, would like to see the law equally enforced.

Some sheriffs are more "political" than others. Two sheriffs ago, now Representative John Rutherford, wasn't, to my recollection, overtly political. Clearly, he harbored powerful political ambitions, because the ink wasn't even dry on his congressional predecessor's retirement announcement before Rutherford announced he would seek the seat. In fact, he'd planned to run for congress before he ever left the sheriff's office, when Ron DeSantis planned to run for Marco Rubio's senate seat, as Rubio sought the Republican presidential nomination. Then Trump happened, and everyone's plans went awry.

Anyway, Rutherford was succeeded by another Republican, Mike Williams. Williams was a low-profile kind of guy overall, and barely exhibited any interest in even having the job. His biggest achievement in office was putting the kibosh on one of Lenny Curry's flailing efforts to remain relevant by inviting the 2020 Republican National Convention to Jacksonville in the middle of COVID. Williams pointed out it was impossible to plan for and adequately resource security for the event, given the impossibly short timeframe Lenny was embracing.

But Williams' disinterest in actually being the sheriff led to him quietly move out of town, which had the unfortunate effect of actually removing him from the office, as the city charter requires that the sheriff live in the county. He apparently didn't mention this to anyone, because he kept showing up for work anyway, until local news organizations caught wind of it, and local pols had to furrow their brows and decide what to make of all this.

Williams announced his resignation, a temporary successor was appointed and a special election was scheduled to elect his replacement. Williams went on to a high position in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to assure that he would get enough time in the retirement system to earn his pension. Republicans fail up in Florida.

Which brings us to the current sheriff, T.K. Waters, a Black Republican, who won a hard fought race against a woman Black Democrat. The special election in November 2022 was an expensive affair, and was only to complete the remaining term of the disgraced, promoted predecessor. A regular election was to be held in March and May in Jacksonville's bizarre election calendar, designed to, and effective at, ensuring low voter turnout.

No Democrat wanted or was prepared for another expensive fight five months after the last one, so Sheriff Waters went on to another full term as sheriff unopposed.

All of this preamble is familiar to anyone from this part of Florida, but necessary for others who aren't.

What makes T.K. Waters' political career interesting is that he's a client of Timmy Baker, a local Svengali who runs a consulting firm called Data Targeting, or something. Timmy is one of "the boys," who swept into town with Lenny Curry back in 2015 and defeated Black incumbent Democrat mayor, Alvin Brown. The third official member of "the boys" is Brian Hughes, now the Chief Administrative Officer of Jacksonville under Lenny Curry. Lenny, Timmy and Bri-Bri are the immature adolescents also called "the machine," known for trashing their opponents in well-funded, relentless and hyperbolically negative campaigns, exploiting fear and division in pursuit of depressed voter turnout and victory.

Jacksonville is now in the second phase of its mayoral election, and the Republican candidate, president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Daniel Davis, is also a client of Timmy Baker. So Timmy is leveraging his relationship with Waters to the hilt, having Daniels invoke Waters' name every .6 microseconds.

Which, finally, and with some apology, gets us to the point of this post.

You see, T.K. Waters has appeared in a television commercial, attacking Davis' opponent, Democrat Donna Deegan. It's not just an "I like Daniel Davis. I trust Daniel Davis. Vote for Daniel Davis," sort of positive endorsement ad, it's an attack ad on his opponent.

One has to believe that T.K. Waters either thinks Davis will win this race walking away, or he just doesn't plan to have a good working relationship with a mayor who happens to be a Democrat.

This overtly corrosive, toxic partisan political ad hasn't gone unnoticed or unremarked on in Jacksonville. Not that Waters gives any indication of caring what anyone else thinks.

One might wonder if there weren't some guardrails in place to kind of preclude this sort of unseemly conduct by a chief law enforcement officer. Well, kind of...

Jacksonville's ordinance code has an election code that might seem to bar this sort of thing, but it specifically exempts elected officials, like the sheriff. So, it's perfectly legal.

But the sheriff's office has a "Code of Conduct," which is interesting.

It addresses political activity in Constraints on Behavior, in language the largely mirrors the city ordinance. It does not specifically, in the text, exempt the sheriff as a "member" of JSO.

I suppose this is simply a technical oversight. That even though the sheriff wears the same uniform as the other "members" of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, he's not a "member," He's an elected official, not bound by the same "constraints on behavior."

But it raises important questions, I should think. Regarding the appearance of other uniformed JSO "members" in his attack ad, did they all receive permission to appear in the ad? Were they ordered to do so? Was that done on city time? Does this matter?

We don't know, and we will likely never know. Because one thing does seem clear:

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Code of Conduct doesn't actually apply to the sheriff.

There are a lot of things wrong in Jacksonville, and this is one of them. And I wonder if Sheriff T.K. Waters appreciates the opportunity he's squandering to make meaning in his service?

Who is he serving here? Himself? His political consultant? Daniel Davis? Does he really believe he's serving the city here? His office? His members?

What message should his deputies take away from all this?

I believe this is the influence of Timmy Baker. A zero-sum, transactional, ethically bankrupt boy in a man's body, looking to add another "win" to his portfolio, oblivious to the damage he's doing in the process.

I also believe it's a weakness in T.K. Waters' character.

Regardless of who wins this month, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has been irrevocably diminished by the actions of the sheriff and his political consultant.

Originally posted at Notes From the Underground 05:03 Monday, 1 May 2023