JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The city of Jacksonville's top lawyer say City Council does not have the power to hire its own lobbyist.
Cindy Laquidara, Jacksonville's General Counsel, issued a legal opinion Tuesday about whether a lobbyist can engage in advocacy on behalf of city council. Council member Stephen Joost requested an opinion from the General Counsel after council voted earlier this month to approve hiring its own lobbyist.
Laquidara's opinion states, "The act of procuring a contract for the engagement of a lobbying firm or individual, and directing of such activities, is an executive function." That means only the mayor's office should be permitted to hire a lobbyist, not a legislative body.
City Council President Bill Bishop introduced and passed a bill through council two weeks ago to hire a lobbyist to advocate for the River City in the state capital.
Bishop said, "Our issues in Jacksonville are not promoted as effectively as they could be, simply because we don't have the manpower to do it."
The manpower right now consists of one man. Mario Rubio works for Mayor Alvin Brown's office and is the only lobbyist working in Tallahassee solely for the city.
"Miami-Dade, Broward County, Orange County -- they have multi-million dollar lobbying budgets. And consequently, they are net gainers when it comes to return of tax dollars," said Bishop.
Councilman Stephen Joost says other Florida municipalities that are spending millions of dollars to lobby in Tallahassee are wasting money. He lost the vote though when Jacksonville City Council agreed to hire a new lobbyist at a $160,000 annual salary.
Joost said, "With the layoffs of police and firemen taking place, I'd rather have that money go to them."