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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 25, 201805:20 AM EST

The Cawton Report: Curry, Mousa won’t be deposed in Landing lawsuit

Judge denies two motions from Jacksonville Landing Investments as part of 2017 lawsuit.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

Mayor Lenny Curry and Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa will not be deposed in a 2015 lawsuit between the city and the owners of the Jacksonville Landing.

Circuit Court Judge Kevin Blazs denied two July motions from Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC seeking to depose Curry and his top administrative official as part of a 2017 lawsuit initiated by Sleiman Enterprises.

The city owns the land and the area surrounding the Landing, while JLI, managed by members of the Sleiman family, owns the three buildings comprising the Downtown riverfront mall.

The complaint accuses the city of violating the terms and conditions of a lease agreement, which the city also claims of JLI.

According to an order issued Oct. 22 in the 4th Judicial Circuit Court, attorneys for the city successfully argued during an Oct. 16 hearing that Mousa and Curry could not be subpoenaed, citing the Apex Doctrine.

Under the Apex Doctrine, the head of government should only be required to testify if the party seeking the testimony has “exhausted all discovery tools in an attempt to obtain the information sought.”

Attorneys with the Office of General Counsel argued that because lower-level officials can provide the needed information, there is no reason for Curry or Mousa to be deposed.

General Counsel Jason Gabriel said there is a high bar for deposing high-ranking government officials and rarely are they compelled to do so by a judge.

No trial date has been set in the case and both sides continue to work toward a resolution.

The city notified JLI in May that it was terminating the 1985 lease agreement JLI assumed when it purchased the buildings from Rouse-Jacksonville Inc. in 2003.

JLI paid $5.3 million for the buildings and extended the land lease through 2056.

The sides also continue to negotiate a settlement in a 2015 case over a neighboring parking lot.

City searching for task force members

City Council President Aaron Bowman invited those interested to apply to join his new task force to address public safety and crime.

At least four applications to serve as chair were received and more are expected through Bowman’s deadline of Nov. 2.

Bowman seeks 17 people to serve on the committee including a chair and vice chair. Representatives from Mayor Lenny Curry’s office, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, State Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Kids Hope Alliance and Duval County Public Schools will serve on the task force.

Bowman also is searching for members representing religious organizations, those engaged in crime prevention, community and business leaders, activists, civic groups, local universities and a representative for the youth community.

A subcommittee led by council member Bill Gulliford agreed Tuesday on some basic criteria for applicants.

They need to be Duval County residents and have a demonstrated ability to raise money; volunteer experience on city boards, commissions or elected office; and experience working with diverse groups; and demonstrated leadership skills.

JaxPort sets cruise passenger record

The Jacksonville Port Authority said a record of almost 200,000 passengers boarded a cruise ship out of Jacksonville during the past year.

The Carnival Elation is based in Jacksonville, the latest ship to dock here since the city established a cruise terminal 15 years ago. Since then, the JPA states 2.4 million passengers have taken a cruise out of Jacksonville.

The authority and Carnival Corp. recently signed a long-term agreement to extend cruise service from Jacksonville through 2021 and potentially 2027.

The agreement requires the port authority to make improvements to the terminal, which is west of the Dames Point Bridge.

St. Johns County lands investments

St. Johns County is the top area in Florida for business growth and investment, according to a report by SmartAsset.

The county, which is south of Duval County, experienced business growth of 13.1 percent in 2018, with $755 million in GDP growth.

The area ranks ninth nationally among counties for incoming investment and 11th for business growth.

Duval did not make the top 10 in either category.


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