Dispute arises over commissioner’s use of civic honor for political purposes

On Sunday, June 21 at 11:01 a.m., St. Johns County District 1 Commissioner Jimmy Johns wrote on his re-election campaign Facebook page that he had “the honor of attending the dedication of St Johns County’s newest ball field, Keith Martin Field.”  According to two Historic City News readers, that “honor” might not have been mutual.

Commissioner Johns actively worked against the community to name a football field after the late Keith Martin, according Martin’s widow, Dawn Martin.  Despite his opposing efforts, Kim Kendall reports that Johns used last weekend’s field dedication ceremony to take some pictures, then posted them on his political Facebook page.

“It is fitting that this dedication occurred on the same weekend that we celebrate Father’s Day, as Keith was a mentor and father figure to many in our community,” Johns wrote.  “This is the day we celebrate the men who helped build and shape us, our fathers.”

On Monday morning, Kendall contacted Johns by e-mail on Dawn Martin’s request.  She pointed out to Johns that his invitation to the dedication event was thought to be “proper etiquette”.  Kendall wrote “We don’t like how you actively worked against this renaming initiative.”

When Johns did not respond to Kendall and Martin’s request to remove the photographs from his political Facebook page, and not to post them anywhere else such as his newsletter or personal Facebook, Kendall informed County Administrator Hunter Conrad and County Attorney Patrick McCormack of the problem.

“As candidates, we know that no picture can legally be used on a campaign page without first asking permission. He did not do that,” Kim Kendall told Historic City News today.  “When Dawn and I asked him via text and email to remove the pictures and posting, he ignored Dawn’s wishes.”

Johns fought against the naming of Keith Martin Field, took advantage of the occasion, then disregarded the request of Martin’s widow to remove the offending post, according to Kendall.

“I have no issue that Jimmy Johns came out to the event.  I just do not understand why he would fight against it the entire time, then show up, get into pictures and use them on his re-election Facebook page,” Dawn Martin explained to Historic City News.

Kendall forwarded copies of several e-mail messages to Johns as well as St Johns County officials asking that the dedication photographs, which include Martin’s image, be removed from Johns’ campaign website.  Kendall informed Johns that, knowing how actively he worked against the dedication, “Dawn and I do not want you to be politicizing it.”