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Mayor Alvin Brown's Chief of Staff Chris Hand Responds to Comments Over Arena Issues

11:11 AM, Feb 25, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A First Coast News investigation into construction problems at Veterans Memorial Arena led to allegations against the mayor's staff, and now the the chief of Mayor Alvin Brown's staff is speaking out.

"Has anyone from the mayor's office or the city asked you to be careful what you say or to not say certain things to us?"

"Well, they've asked me not to say things that are unnecessarily inflammatory, and I wouldn't do that anyway, because that's not the point here."

This is what City Council member Bill Bishop told us Thursday about what someone from Mayor Alvin Brown's office told him regarding our investigation into Veterans Memorial Arena.

"The administration is asking me not to throw fuel on the fire, and I'm not going to do that anyway," Bishop said.

At the time, Bishop would not tell us who from the mayor's administration said these things.  Later that night, he told me over the phone, it was Mayor Brown's chief of staff.

"Chris Hand, last name is just like the body part, I am chief of staff for Mayor Brown."

After several requests via e-mail, phone and a personal stop to his office,

"Is Chris Hand here, please?"

The mayor's chief of staff agreed to talk.

"Did you ask Councilman Bishop not to say things that are unnecessarily inflammatory?" we asked Hand. 

"Well look, anyone who knows Bill Bishop knows that one of his real strengths as a council person is he's independent, he doesn't take direction from anybody," Hand told us. "We had a very good conversation about the need approach this issue soberly, straightforwardly, logically, and to make sure that we can attack this problem and get it fixed as soon as possible.  That's what our conversation was about, that's our goal here in the administration."

So we asked one more time. "Chris, I'll ask the question again, because you didn't answer my question.  Did you ask Bill Bishop not to say things that are unnecessarily inflammatory?"

"No, what we talked about was again, how we need to approach this problem," Hand replied.

Hand said there's a perfectly good explanation for all of this.

"At worst what happened here was some sort of miscommunication or misunderstanding at all."

He said this was the focus of their conversation.

"What we're talking about is what are the outstanding questions, what do we need to do to fix the problems at the arena, and how quickly can we fix them? Cause that's our goal here, Jeff," Hand explained

We also asked the mayor about this.  We caught up with him at the mayor's conference downtown this morning.

"I can't. I don't want to comment on it. I don't know because it's between them two. They're both adults. I have no thoughts on it because I don't know about it. Okay, no thoughts on it," Brown told our photographer.

First Coast News

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