50 years ago: Grand jury issues second wave of indictments against city officials
A new wave of indictments charging bribery and acceptance of unauthorized compensation by previously indicted former city officials were handed down by the Duval County grand jury.
City Commissioner Claude Smith was named in five counts charging he accepted unauthorized compensation totaling $11,766 from an employee of a company that sold mechanical equipment to the city.
Former City Commissioner Dallas Thomas was hit with six new indictments charging acceptance of $5,613 from two heavy equipment companies.
He previously had been indicted on 40 counts of grand larceny of city funds totaling $23,766 over a five-year period.
Former recreation director George Robinson Sr. was indicted on a new count of accepting a $1,200 bribe, also from an employee of a heavy equipment company.
Robinson already was under indictment on one count of perjury, one count of conspiring to commit grand larceny and 27 counts of grand larceny from the city.
When the jury issued its final report, it recommended a complete revision of Jacksonville’s government structure to eliminate waste and the misuse of public funds.
Capping six months of criminal investigation that brought indictments against eight city officials, the panel called on the next grand jury that would be empaneled the following week to continue the investigation of various aspects of local government.
The group also urged the Legislature to look into changing the government’s organization.
“Any new structure should not vest in so few the virtually unlimited power and authority that the few in our government here have,” the jury said in its report.
• Owners of two private ambulance companies that had recently been formed in response to an expected ambulance service shortage feared they were in danger of going out of business due to too much competition.
“Without limiting the number of permits, there’s no way to keep anyone out of the business,” said George Morgan, owner of Ace Ambulance Co.
Representatives of Ace and Gateway Ambulance Service were heard in a meeting with Sheriff Dale Carson. It was called to iron out looming ambulance service problems.
All but one funeral home in Duval County was planning to drop ambulance service on Nov. 14, leaving all service in the hands of Ace, Gateway and the Corey-Kerlin Funeral Home.
The owners were upset about reports of other ambulance operations preparing to open in Jacksonville.
“What’s the point in us putting $30,000 to $35,000 worth of equipment on the streets when anybody with a station wagon can come along and get in the business,” said Gateway owner Charles Elkins.
Morgan said, “We spent a lot of time laying the groundwork for these operations. And now, a bunch of them come along and get in on the gravy train.”
• Extension of street lights beyond Jacksonville’s city limits — a project calling for at least 7,000 mercury vapor lights — began moving toward reality.
A prime mover was a woman who was molested twice in dark areas along Cleveland Road north of Edgewood Avenue. She inflamed the community to seek an agreement with city utility officials to install additional lighting in the suburbs.
“Her area will probably be the first outside the city to get new lights,” said Utilities Commissioner George Moseley.
The city Electric Department would install lights on poles along property lines. Power bills would be sent to the property owners or occupants.
• Prize money for the third annual Greater Jacksonville Open would be increased to $100,000, said John Montgomery, golf tournament chairman, at a meeting of supporters at The River Club.
“This is the fastest growing tournament in the history of pro golf,” said Paul Warren, tournament director. “The first year, the prize money was $30,000. Last year, it was $82,000. This increase in prize money in two years is unheard of.”
Montgomery said the tournament was as big as any in the Southeast.
“This is indicative of the growth of a progressive city. It will prove to the rest of the state of Florida that Jacksonville is not a second-class city,” he said.
The tournament would be played March 13-19 and return to Selva Marina Country Club in Atlantic Beach with Doug Sanders defending his 1966 title.
A general admission ticket that would admit one person to the course for each of the seven days of the event would cost $15 if purchased before the tournament began or $18 if purchased during the tournament.
A Gold Patron admission would be $1,000. That included a sport coat, entry in the pro-am tournament, clubhouse parking and privileges, bleacher seating at the ninth and 19th holes and an invitation to the Patrons Party.
• The report card was in on the 12th annual Greater Jacksonville Fair.
The attendance in 1966 was 229,000 — 54,000 more than in 1965.
“It has been the greatest fair in our history. We are tremendously pleased with the progress of the fair and look forward to bigger and better things next year,” said R.A. Altobellis, fair president.
“This year, we had the least amount of disorder and profited from mistakes made in the past,” he added.
• Jacksonville’s new public school opened this week in 1966 — two months late.
Eugene Butler Junior-Senior High School was scheduled to open Aug. 29, but the contractor, Fred Gardner Construction Co., experienced a series of problems that delayed the opening date.
Construction workers went on strike, there was heavy rain during the summer and an industrial accident destroyed a concrete beam.
When the 1965-66 school year ended, students in the attendance area received their assignments to Butler. When it became apparent the new school would not be ready when the 1966-67 year began, the students were assigned to other schools.
When Butler finally opened, 1,800 students arrived for classes in the building that was designed for 1,640.
The architect, J. Brooks Haas, came up with what were referred to as “pacesetter ideas.”
Because of the small site along Acorn Street, it was decided to build a two-story structure that was air-conditioned and had central heating.
There were rooms designed for instructional television that could be converted to classrooms and as part of the homemaking suite, there was a small patio where students could learn to cook on barbecue grills.