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Former Jacksonville Mayor Haydon Burns
Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 13, 201412:00 PM EST

50 years ago: Mayor Burns denies having $1.2M in offshore bank account

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Charles Holley, Republican candidate for governor, accused his opponent, Democrat and Jacksonville Mayor Haydon Burns, of having deposited $1.2 million in a bank in the Bahamas.

Burns said the statement was “sheer trickery and the employment of untruths.”

Holley called a news conference and displayed what he said were ledgers from the Bank of Nova Scotia in Nassau for July through September 1964.

They listed Haydon Burns, 1805 Lorimer Road, Jacksonville, as the depositor. The ledgers also listed the account number and a balance of $1,215,690.

In response, Burns issued a statement from Washington, D.C., where he was attending a White House conference, saying the ledgers were fake.

“The identical, same concocted information was offered to me for $500 showing the name of Mr. Holley and his St. Petersburg resident address as the identity in the same bank,” Burns said. “The ledger cards are identical in every regard, including amounts, dates and every identifying characteristic.”

In Nassau, a representative of the Bank of Nova Scotia said the bank did not talk about accounts with “third parties.”

Two days after the allegation, Burns said he would go to the Bahamas and instruct officials at the bank to answer reporters’ questions about alleged bank accounts in his name.

Burns, speaking at a luncheon in Lakeland, said he would make the trip “in order to denounce and deny this or any other bank account outside the limits of the United States.”

After his speech, Burns invited members of the Florida press to accompany him to Nassau at their own expense.

“I have not at this time, or on any previous date, had any such relationships of the nature described and I believe the people of Florida will forcefully denounce at the polls Nov. 3 in complete disgust, the political trickery and connivery that Mr. Holley has resorted to in an effort to fool and mislead the people of Florida,” said Burns.

Twenty reporters accompanied Burns from Miami to Nassau either on a commercial flight or met him in the Bahamas. Burns told the group that the bank would receive him and two representatives from the press. The reporters drew numbers to see who would accompany Burns into the bank.

After Burns signed a document authorizing him to do so, William Ellis, president of the Bank of Nova Scotia, read in Burns’ presence a statement: “Mr. Haydon Burns has authorized us to state that to the best of our knowledge he has never had any dealings with us directly or indirectly, does not maintain an account with us now and has not maintained one at any time in the past.”

After the statement was read inside the bank, Burns met the entire group of reporters outside and some were not satisfied with the statement made by the bank president. Burns was asked if he was willing to provide a financial statement that could be made public. Burns, as he had since the allegations were made, refused to provide any accounting of his finances.

The question of financial disclosure was first raised when Holley leveled the charge against Burns. Holley said he was worth only $12,000 to $20,000.

“If Mr. Holley wants to apologize for being a failure, that’s his business,” Burns said soon after the allegation was made.

“Any day during the past 20 years that I could not have written a check for $12,000 would have been a bad day,” he said.

He added that although he was not a millionaire, he was not “poverty-ridden” and described himself as “a man of modest means.”

When a reporter challenged Burns to explain how a man of modest means could write a $12,000 check, he replied that there could be different interpretations of modest.

“If you think I’m rich, come and look at my house. I’ve lived there 28 years.

“But you must remember that before I got into politics, I owned 11 airplanes and an airplane business, which I sold in 1942. I also owned and operated the GE (General Electric) franchise in Jacksonville before the war (World War II),” he said.

Burns said he gave up the franchise when he decided to run for public office, but had maintained his status as a business consultant.

• For the first time in Jacksonville history, the City Commission approved a hospitalization and medical insurance plan for all city employees except appointed and elected officials.

The plan would cover as many as 4,000 city workers and would cost the city about $210,000 a year in premiums.

After bids from 16 companies were reviewed, the contract was awarded to Aetna Life Insurance Co. The firm submitted a monthly premium figure for employees of $4.38, which the city would pay.

The package also provided a $10.83 monthly premium to cover all of the dependents of each employee. The commission voted to pay the portion covering the employee only.

The medical insurance plan was authorized under a special act of the Legislature passed in 1963.

The plan required 75 percent of the eligible employees to enroll in the program for the plan to be adopted, said City Solicitor Claude Mullis.

• The 125-ton electric transformer that malfunctioned June 28 and caused loss of air conditioning in Downtown buildings for a week was back on line and “better than new.”

That was because when it was new, there was a flaw in it, according to city Utilities Commissioner J. Dillon Kennedy.

He said when the transformer was stripped down at the factory after it blew up, it was found that the steel bars used in winding the coils had been left inside the device. They should have been removed, said Kennedy.

When the transformer was put into service, the bars overheated and melted, causing a series of short circuits that led to the failure.

Kennedy said the $300,000 transformer was insured and a settlement on the more than $100,000 damage cost would be negotiated.

• A request for funds to boost the range of Jacksonville’s educational television station ran into opposition at the Florida Educational Television Commission.

Fred Rebman, general manager of WJCT TV-7, asked the commission for $15,000 to strengthen its antenna and transmission system. An equal sum was being requested from the U.S. Department of Education.

School boards in surrounding counties had indicated they would be interested in subscribing to the station’s service if the signal they received was strong enough, Rebman said.

Commission member Judson Freeman, a Jacksonville attorney, said he believed the television station should have something more concrete than “indications” from the neighboring school districts.

“An educational TV station that doesn’t serve the schools in its own county has no excuse for being in existence,” said commission member Stan Witwer from St. Petersburg.

After a dispute over how much Duval County schools should pay, the Board of Education had severed its relationship with the television station.

Commission Chairman Glenn Marshall Jr., general manager of WJXT TV-4, referred Rebman’s request to a committee led by Freeman.

• A fuel oil dealer in St. Augustine, L.H. Hough, said he was planning to open a Lee Harvey Oswald museum despite strong opposition from a number of St. Augustine residents.

He said he had been working on the project for nine months, trying to collect items relating to Oswald and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“I’ve just acquired the hearse which carried Oswald to the hospital after he was shot by Jack Ruby,” Hough said. “I’ve got a number of other things lined up.”

Hough said many people interested in St. Augustine called him to protest establishment of the museum.

“They seem to feel this type of violent thing would detract from the dignity of St. Augustine,” he said, then added he felt the museum would be an asset to the city.

“I don’t intend to glorify or degrade Oswald. I just want to present an interesting exhibit that will feature a library so that people can get all the facts about the event,” said Hough.

His search for artifacts had led Hough to visit Dallas, including a trip there when the Warren Commission was investigating the assassination.

Hough said he talked to the Dallas police chief about the project and five minutes after he left the police station, he was stopped by FBI agents.

“They wanted to know what I was up to while the Warren investigation was going on,” said Hough.

• An Atlantic Beach oceanfront property owner whose apartment building was badly damaged during Hurricane Dora offered to deed the city part of his eroded land in exchange for a promise the city would do something to protect private property along the beach.

Joe Bloom, owner of the Bikini Apartments at the end of Tenth Street, was told the city would not and could not attempt to protect private property damaged by storms.

“There is no plan for the city to protect private property,” said Mayor George Olsen. “We have no right to and have no intention of accepting the responsibility to do so.”

Bloom countered that the city had to take action before erosion reached the city’s streets.

Bloom then asked Olsen if the city would accept a deed to part of his property, apparently with the idea the city then could legally take steps to protect it.

Olsen said the matter would be turned over to the city attorney for study.

Bloom also sought a moratorium on his 1964 taxes and a reduction in utility billings for his apartments. He was told it was too late to make any adjustment on his taxes due and that a reduction in utility charges already had been granted to owners of apartments made not rentable by the hurricane.

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