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School Board member criticized for ties to ex-politician

Moms for Liberty, a parental rights organization that monitors school activities, has compiled information indicating that a School Board member has a conflict of interest based on his connections to former schoolteacher and City Council member Garrett Dennis.

Dennis has been awarded more than $2.6 million in Duval County Public School bids through a contracting company he owns, the organization said.

Court records also show that Shifting Gears, LLC, the company owned by Dennis, defaulted on $103,276 in payments and has unpaid taxes of $29,168.

Dennis publicly supported School Board Member Darryl Willie in his last election. Moms for Liberty called that “especially concerning” because Willie did not disclose his friendship with Dennis when the board voted to approve the bids. Both Dennis and Willie are Democrats.

Dennis also was caught in March making illegal campaign contributions to other candidates, which he claimed was remedied by returning the money. His company’s financial woes, which he blamed on the coronavirus, have been reported in other local media previously but the potential conflict is being ignored.

Dennis resigned from the council to run for the Florida Legislature, but he was unsuccessful.

Recently he was appointed by Mayor Donna Deegan to be director of boards and commissions.

Holli Dean, chairman of the local chapter of Moms for Liberty, found that Dennis’s name was not shown on the board packets during the bid awards, which is out of the ordinary.

Dean mentioned the potential conflict at the board meeting Monday and asked, “Is this a quid pro quo situation?”