Cindy Laquidara announced last week that she’s resigning her job as the city of Jacksonville’s chief attorney to take a private-sector gig (she’ll start at Ackerman Senterfitt in July). But some critics believe her departure has more to do with the future of Mayor Alvin Brown.

The mayor, after all, needs an image overhaul. 

Last week Peter Rummell, who in the 2011 campaign gave Brown $150,000 and raised another $431,000 through his PAC, told the Times-Union that he no longer supports the mayor, saying Brown “does not know how to manage” and “has no courage.” (Ouch.) But it’s not just powerful Republicans jumping ship. Brown may not be able to count on the black voters who supported him in 2011, either.

One big problem for the mayor is that his administration has continued to battle at every turn the six federal hiring-discrimination lawsuits he inherited against the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department instead of pursuing a settlement. And at the forefront of that fight has been Laquidara.

The city attorney announced her resignation the same day the city entered mediation talks with a flank of civil rights and labor lawyers, as well as attorneys from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Justice Department, both of which are backing the plaintiffs. Her impending departure didn’t affect the negotiations; by Friday, the sides were still locked in a stalemate. But the black firefighters believe Brown is pushing Laquidara away in order to regroup and refashion his brand. 

During the mediation, one firefighter said he’d heard from a City Hall source that Brown had taken a call from the Justice Department before the mediation — another said it was Eric Holder himself — urging him to take action, lest the feds withhold funding from Jacksonville. Maybe that’s wishful thinking — the mayor’s office denies the conversation took place — but the firefighters say it was a similar threat in the late ’80s, over money for the Dames Point Bridge, that got the JFRD to agree to finally hire blacks after a decade of resistance. They’re hoping the Justice Department will once again force the city’s hand.

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