Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown to return money raised at Bill Cosby fundraiser

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Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown announced his campaign would return campaign cash raised at a September fundraiser in New York hosted by the troubled comedian Bill Cosby.

SaintPetersBlog reported that Brown’s decision to attend the Cosby fundraiser Sept. 23 at The Harvard Club was already controversial, since the Jacksonville mayor missed some important negotiations about the city’s budget to attend the event.

Campaign spokesperson Dave Beattie told reporters that donors will get refunds, but was not specific on exact amounts. Brown’s connection to Cosby will likely become an issue in the highly competitive Jacksonville mayoral race.

Cosby was also Brown’s guest at a 2013 education summit hosted by the mayor.

Although allegations of sexual assault have dogged Cosby for decades, renewed interest came after a stand-up routine by comic Hannibal Buress, who joked about the legendary performer’s date rape. The widely viewed Buress video led many to revisit the claims of rape brought by as many as 13 women.

One of Cosby’s accusers, Barbara Bowman, leveled allegations of sexual assault against him in interviews and in an online column for The Washington Post. Bowman wrote that in 1985 she was 17 and an aspiring actress when Cosby “brainwashed me into viewing him as a father figure, and then assaulted me multiple times.”

Cosby, who was never criminally charged in any case, settled a civil suit in 2006 with another woman over an alleged incident two years before.

As a result of the new attention, NBC and Netflix each canceled planned projects this week featuring Cosby, who pulled out of appearances on both David Letterman and Queen Latifah’s shows. TV Land has also reportedly stopped airing reruns of the ’80s sitcom The Cosby Show.

The New York fundraiser was for Brown’s “Taking Jacksonville to the Next Level” re-election effort.

Donations for the reception where guests joined Brown, Cosby, former New York Mayor David Dinkins and others were $10,000 for hosts, $5,000 for “friends,” $2,500 for supporters and $1,000 for guests. According to the Florida Division of Elections, the Taking Jacksonville to the Next Level political committee raised approximately $18,000 from donors who contributed on or near the day of the fundraiser and also have a New York address.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.