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Sheriff candidate Lakesha Burton told to stop wearing JSO uniform in ads

Published on October 16, 2022 at 2:49 pm

Duval County sheriff candidate Lakesha Burton — no longer a member of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office — has been ordered to stop wearing her uniform in campaign ads.

The current sheriff, Pat Ivey, sent Burton a letter this month saying she was violating municipal code by wearing her uniform in ads after retiring.

“Should you continue with this conduct, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office may explore its legal options. Please govern yourself accordingly,” the letter said.

The Democrat Burton is running against Republican T.K. Waters to replace former Sheriff Mike Williams, who resigned after revelations that he had moved outside Duval County. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Ivey in the interim. Ivey has endorsed Waters.



Waters, retired as chief of investigations at JSO, also has worn his uniform in campaign ads, with Ivey’s permission. His campaign issued this statement Friday:

“To date, T.K. Waters is the only candidate who has followed the legal process and obtained permission from the Sheriff to use historic photos from his time at JSO. It appears his opponent not only didn’t follow this process but has gone back and worn her old uniform while campaigning — more than a year after she left the agency.”

In an interview on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, Burton said she received Williams’ verbal permission to wear the uniform — though the letter from Ivey says, “Since the date of your retirement from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on March 21, 2022, you have not been authorized to represent yourself as a JSO employee or wear a JSO uniform, nor have you requested the permission of the Sheriff to do so.”

Burton said she does not have Williams’ permission in writing. Her campaign says Williams “had conversations” with Burton, Waters and an earlier candidate, Mathew Nemeth, and gave all permission to use their uniforms.

Nemeth withdrew from the race in June and endorsed Waters.

Ivey issued a news release Saturday saying he was unaware of “the alleged permission” from Williams to Burton. He says he found no documentation of it. “It is clear in Municipal Ordinance that candidates must have written authorization as it pertains to these matters,” he said.

Burton said she has been wearing her uniform since she began campaigning, and she questions why the issue was not raised until Oct. 4, a month before Election Day on Nov. 8.

“My commercials have run hundreds of times, and he’s never asked me or said anything about it,” Burton said on First Coast Connect. “So, you know, I think everybody knows what this is about.”

Burton responded to Ivey six days after his letter, explaining that Williams had given her and other candidates permission to wear their uniforms. “I am not aware of any change in that understanding until I received your recent correspondence,” she wrote.

Burton then asked Ivey’s permission to wear the uniform. She says she pulled her commercial and will stop wearing the uniform until she’s allowed.

In a letter to Burton on Friday, Ivey wrote: “I am open to considering honoring former Sheriff Williams’ written authorization to use the insignia and uniform of the JSO. Please provide a copy of the written authorization you received from then-Sheriff Williams.”


author image Senior News Director, WJCT Public Media

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 35 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. 

author image Senior News Director, WJCT Public Media

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 35 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida.