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Gadsden County leaders want answers after alleged 'KKK' photo of DeSantis appointee surfaces

Pastor Tracey Stallworth.jpg
Valerie Crowder
Tracey Stallworth, senior pastor at Kingdom Glory Worship Assembly in Quincy, speaks to reporters outside the Gadsden County Courthouse on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Gadsden County leaders have questions about what led to the appointment of Jeffrey Moore to the county commission after an old photo purportedly of him wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe recently surfaced.

“There’s a lot of people that are hurt, that are mad about what has taken place," said Tracey Stallworth, senior pastor at Kingdom Glory Worship Assembly in Quincy, speaking at a press conference outside the Gadsden County Courthouse on Wednesday.

Moore resigned and withdrew himself from the county commission race last week after the photo began circulating online.

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Moore, a white Republican, to fill the vacant District 2 commission seat in late July, roughly three months ahead of the November election.

Moore filled the vacancy left following the June resignation of former County Commissioner Anthony Viegbesie, a Democrat who's African American. Moore resigned from the commission and withdrew his name from the race last week after the racist photo began circulating online.

Alleged KKK Robe Photo Jeffrey Moore.jpg
This photo allegedly of Jeffrey Moore wearing a KKK robe was circulating online before Moore resigned from the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners last week.

Moore hasn’t responded to two interview requests from WFSU News. The governor’s office declined to comment at this time, explaining in an email that the office is prioritizing inquiries about Hurricane Ian.

Local leaders also haven't heard from Moore or DeSantis following the incident.

During the press conference, Stallworth called on DeSantis to visit Gadsden County and address the incident.

"As the governor, you’re supposed to protect us. You’re supposed to take care of us," Stallworth said. "Come sit down and talk to the common folk in Gadsden County.”

Stallworth says he wants to ask the governor why he appointed the only District 2 county commission candidate who's a white Republican ahead of the primary. “How come he didn’t appoint one of the other three candidates that were running?"

Appointments are decided based on who applies. DeSantis' office hasn't responded to questions about who else applied to fill the vacant commission seat and how applicants were vetted.

"I know there’s a vetting process. I don’t know if he vetted him," Stallworth said. "I don’t know who filled out the paperwork, but something got missed."

Moore Swearing In.jpg
Gadsden County Commissioner Jeffrey Moore is sworn into the post on Aug. 3, 2022.

Gadsden County is the only county in Florida with a majority Black population. The photo surfaced at a time when county residents have felt left behind by the DeSantis administration. Earlier this year, the governor eliminated North Florida's only congressional district where African Americans can elect their preferred candidate. The new map puts Democratic Congressman Al Lawson, who was born and raised in Gadsden County, in the same district as Republican Congressman Neal Dunn of Panama City. The newly drawn district leans Red.

Lawson also spoke out against Moore's appointment at the press conference.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Lawson suggested Governor Ron DeSantis’ office should’ve done a better job vetting applicants.

“Nothing like this should really happen. It’s a slap in the face to African Americans and people of color in Gadsden County," Lawson said. "It’s going to change. And hopefully we can change everything, even the governor’s office.”

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.