Former City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor speaks at a news conference at City Hall.Former City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor speaks at a news conference at City Hall.
Former City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor speaks at a news conference at City Hall. | Casmira Harrison, Jacksonville Today

Deegan nominee DeFoor withdraws name from Jacksonville top attorney consideration

Published on September 13, 2023 at 7:50 pm

Randy DeFoor, the former Jacksonville City Council member who Mayor Donna Deegan nominated to lead the city’s Office of General Council, has withdrawn her name from consideration, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

DeFoor, according to the emailed statement, thanked the mayor for the nomination, stressed that she loved this city and wants it to “rise above politics.”

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“Thank you to Mayor Deegan for nominating me to serve as General Counsel for her and the Consolidated Government of Jacksonville, the City I love,” DeFoor’s statement reads. “In the best interest of both, I withdraw my request for consent to the nomination. My support for this Mayor, and my belief that we must as a city unite in support of her is undiminished; we must rise above politics to create a better environment for all of us.”

DeFoor also references the “events of the past few weeks.”

“After watching the events of the past few weeks in this and other related matters,” DeFoor writes, “I would remind us of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘If we do not learn to live together as brothers [and sisters], we shall perish together as fools.’ This is my only prayer for all of us.”

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She added that she looks forward to serving the community in other capacities.

In the same statement, the mayor issued a response to DeFoor’s withdrawal.

“I’m grateful that Randy was willing to continue serving the city we both love,” Deegan states. “I stand by her impeccable character and qualifications. Randy has the support of all the city’s independent authorities and a large, bipartisan coalition of community and business leaders. Jacksonville needs a General Counsel who has her vast experience, commitment to service, and belief that unity is our only path forward. We will continue moving ahead with those qualities in mind.”

The administration said that an acting general counsel would be announced “soon” and the term would begin Oct. 1.

The mayor’s nomination of DeFoor to be general counsel had faced staunch criticism by City Council members over the past month, almost since the official announcement on Aug. 10. While several Council members cited concerns over DeFoor’s legal eligibility due to state and local lobbying restrictions on former elected officials, the mayor described the opposition to her nominee as a “smear campaign.”

Both the mayor’s office and the City Council separately asked the Florida Commission on Ethics about DeFoor’s ability to take the position so soon after her term ended. But shortly after requesting the opinion from the state, Council President Ron Salem announced he’d decided not to wait to hear back from the state and, instead, aimed to hold a Council vote on the confirmation this month.

Salem, speaking to the Rules Committee on Sept 5, said he had heard the mayor’s office was considering making DeFoor acting general counsel while the legal questions remained unanswered — an intent that the mayor’s office denied that same day, calling Salem’s change in plans “perplexing.”

“My understanding was that Council wanted to hear from the Florida Ethics Commission,” the mayor said at the time. “If they are moving forward regardless, then this vote should be about Randy’s qualifications for the job.”

In Wednesday’s statement to the press, DeFoor said she would not comment further on the matter and it remained unclear who the administration might consider to serve as acting general counsel or who the mayor is considering for the permanent position.

For now, the acting general counsel is Robert M. Rhodes, who has served in the post since just after Deegan was elected, taking over from former General Counsel Jason Teal. Teal, who currently serves as senior assistant general counsel, had replaced Jason Gabriel back in 2021, after Gabriel left for a private firm.

Rhodes has told the General Counsel Qualifications Review Committee that he is not interested in remaining in the position long term. 

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Casmira Harrison is a Jacksonville Today reporter focusing on local government in Duval County.

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