Action News Jax Investigates has learned the St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Office is being sued by the former St. Johns County Inspector General for “unlawful termination” and violation of Florida’s Whistleblowers Act.
The suit by Nilsa Arissa alleges she was fired in March 2023 by County Clerk Brandon Patty for not disclosing the name of a confidential informant who reported that Patty hired someone he was having an “inappropriate relationship” with at the time.
“Would there be anything you would do differently?” asked Action News Jax investigative reporter Ben Becker who sat down with Patty for a one-on-one interview.
“No,” Patty said. “She was relieved of her duties due to performance-related issues. I had a loss of confidence.”
Patty, who is the former Chairman of the St. Johns County Republican Party, was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019 and won re-election in 2020.
“Was there an inappropriate relationship between you and this other person?” Becker asked.
“No. Any assertion of such is categorically false,” said Patty, who is married with three children, “During that process we asked her [Arissa] if this is a matter for the Inspector General and she said no and as that happened [we] pivoted to a human resources investigation.”
The clerk’s office also hired an outside firm to perform an investigation which concluded there was “no reasonable fact-based support” that Patty and the employee had a romantic relationship.
Two informants were eventually identified and according to the report “expressed regret over engaging in rumor and gossip” as the office was undergoing a reorganization of positions at the time.
“My sense [there was] some angst about the reorganization and that might have led to these types of rumors to bubble up,” Patty said.
“The fact she [Arissa] wouldn’t give up who told her about these allegations had nothing to do with her termination?” Becker pressed.
“Nothing. Zero,” Patty said.
Becker emailed Arissa and asked for a sit-down interview to discuss her allegations but never heard back.
“What’s your message to residents of St. Johns County who are saying what’s going on in the clerk’s office?” Becker asked.
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“I’m confident of our record and once everything is shaken out, that their confidence in me, and confidence in this office, will be maintained,” Patty said.
Arissa has until late December to serve the Clerk’s office with a court summons.
Action News Jax is not naming the employee Patty is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with since she’s not accused of any wrongdoing.