Former Duval Clerk of Courts may have used gov't funds for legal fees | News

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Former Duval Clerk of Courts may have used gov't funds for legal fees
News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Accusations of wrongdoing against the outgoing Duval Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller.  The man coming forward with these allegations: the new Clerk of Courts, Ronnie Fussell.

In a news conference Friday afternoon, the new Clerk said he is questioning how Fuller spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

"Inappropriate yes, unethical, yes," he explained.

Fussell is describing what he said Jim Fuller did before he left office, but he's not going as far as calling his actions illegal.  The first allegation involves around $46,000 in money for legal bills to pay for Fuller's quest to seek an additional term in office after he was term limited.

"We found some legal fees that were paid with clerk funds that I believe was directed by the General Counsel and the City Council not be spent on the clerk funds not to be spent on the term-limited issue by Jim Fuller," Fussell said.

Fuller is wondering why Fussell didn't come to him for an explanation on the allegations, versus holding a news conference. 

Fuller said, "The Clerk of the Court hired an attorney for a constitutional issue that affects all constitutional  officers in Duval County.  It wasn't for Jim Fuller, it was for the Clerk of the Court.  My attorney made that very clear."

Fussell is also trying to figure out why the outgoing clerk would give around $200,000 in annual raises spread out over some employees, as he was leaving office.  Those raises have since been reversed.  City leaders have been clear in not wanting to give raises.  All this, after the controversy with Fuller handing out more than $100,000 in bonuses to 34 of his workers this past fall. 

"The majority of folks did not know they received a raise until they saw the paycheck that Friday afternoon," Fussell stated.
 
Fuller responded, "The timing of that, I felt like I wanted to do it and I felt like they deserved it."

On his first day on this job last month, Fussell was confused as to why Fuller ordered around $140,000 dollars worth of supplies for the clerk's office.  Fussell said he has taken advantage of return policies and sent back most of those items. 

"These things that were purchased were well needed within this building and would have been appropriate in a different structure.  But they weren't appropriate on the last day you were leaving office to do that."

Fuller explained, "The things I bought for the courthouse are things that needed to be done for the courthouse and they are very appropriate, and I did that."

Fussell has turned his findings over to the City's General Counsel's office to investigate.  We have a call into that office and are waiting to hear back.  He also said he wants new laws that would prohibit spending if someone is leaving office.

Fuller served three terms in office, totaling 12 years.  He earned around $150,000 per year. 

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