Errol Jones is a man who many in the community say has earned their trust and support; having served as vice-mayor and as a commissioner for ten years since his retirement from the St Johns County School District, where he was Dean of Students at St Augustine High School.
Jones is the guardian of his failing, ninety-plus year old mother. He is himself handicapped — he requires a brace to compensate a 4″ short femur that he has suffered since childhood, he wears a hearing aid in his left ear, and he admits that he is no longer able to move as fast as he did as a younger man.
Anyone who knows Jones will tell you that none of his physical impairments has diminished his passion for the issues he supports. He has stood for election and been elected to public office on four occasions in the City of St Augustine.
Some in town have criticized Jones for his behavior in recent years, however, others, including Historic City News, have published articles praising his strengths. He is an advocate for the Willie Galimore Center community pool, the Riberia Street reconstruction projects, and a critic of county officials who are trying to bully the city into extending city sewer lines to non-city residents presently served by working, underground septic tanks; county residents who are likely unable to afford the cost of hookup.
A frequently repeated euphemism for politics is that your friends come and go — but your enemies accumulate. Jones may be reaching the point where the accumulation exceeds his political friendships.
He was recently found guilty at trial on charges that he interfered with a city police officer in the investigation of a domestic incident that occurred at his mother’s home. He was ably defended by local attorney, and St Johns County School Board candidate, Patrick Canan. Many who expressed an opinion at the time said the case was not a “slam dunk” for the state — one of the charges against Jones was dropped before the jury was seated and the judge in the trial was critical of the state’s “less than stellar” handling of the charges.
Jones may have shot himself in the foot by taking the stand to testify in his own defense — something the jury had been instructed that he would not be required to do; and, if he did not, from that, they were to draw no inference of guilt or innocence.
During the second of two days of trial, on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at 11:30 a.m., responding to his attorney’s question, “What type of courtesies did he extend to you,” Commissioner Jones described the way he met and greeted Officer Mitchell at his mother’s home that night. Jones described the scene, saying that, “it was a dark evening, I approached him — he was courteous”.
In what Jones would later explain as a remark made in a “nice” and “candid way”, when describing Officer Mitchell’s appearance, his testimony in front of the jury was, “frankly speaking, all white folks look alike”.
There was a noticeable pause, until Jones concluded his comment by saying, “it’s like, he’s in a uniform — you see one officer, you’ve seen another, unless there’s something very distinguished.”
Now Jones finds himself back on the docket defending an injunctive order filed by a Jacksonville woman who says she is the victim of unwanted, sexual advances by the commissioner.
Jones has stated publically that he believes both charges are politically motivated in an attempt to embarrass and discredit him. Jones term in office expires this year.
Although Jones has yet to file for re-election, he may have designs on the mayor’s seat; which is also up for re-election. Likewise, Mayor Joe Boles has not filed for re-election as of this time.
No one wants to see another person humiliated for political gain. The appearance of political “piling on” is noticed in the community. Unfortunately, there is no place for backhanded racial comments like the commissioner made in court. If Jones is not prepared to be more thoughtful before he speaks, there is concern that he will be the author of his own political undoing.