Suicide is being examined as the cause of death of a major associate of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who had extraordinary access to local authorities and was apparently under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct.
The Florida Times-Union said that Kent Stermon, 50, of Jacksonville was discovered dead in a truck parked outside the Atlantic Beach post office at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Christie, Stermon’s wife, reported him missing when his heart monitor failed earlier that day, according to The First Coast News.
The police said shortly after discovering his body that they were investigating his death as a suicide.
At the time of his death, Stermon was under investigation for alleged sexual misbehavior, law enforcement authorities told the Times-Union.
Last Thursday, the body of Jacksonville resident Kent Stermon was recovered in a truck.
Florida State University System
Sheriff T.K. Waters of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) stated last week that Stermon was the subject of a “active investigation” at the time of his death, but did not elaborate on the nature of the investigation.
David Barksdale, Stermon’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As a generous supporter of Mayor Lenny Curry and former Sheriff Mike Williams, Stermon was prominent in local Jacksonville politics.
WJXT reported that he used his swipe access card to the sheriff’s office headquarters and other places hundreds of times during the past five years.
A representative for the JSO told First Coast News that Stermon’s card was revoked when Waters assumed office in late November, and that the megadonor was “advised” of the decision.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Mayor Lenny Curry’s office did not reply quickly to requests for comment.
Stermon, the defense contractor behind Total Military Management (TMM), also served on the Board of Governors of the public university system. According to public records, he and his wife made many contributions to Florida Republican candidates, including a $50,000 contribution to a political action committee affiliated with Governor Ron DeSantis.
The office of Governor DeSantis stated on Friday that the governor and his wife were “shocked and heartbroken to learn about Kent’s passing.” A spokesman for POLITICO also stated that the pair was ignorant of the probe into Stermon’s behavior.
Stermon’s links to the state’s top politician go back several years. At 2018, POLITICO revealed that the then-congressman resided in an apartment co-owned by Stermon after being exiled from his district in 2016.
“You wouldn’t have Ron DeSantis as governor without Kent Stermon,” Florida politics reporter A.G. Gancarski told First Coast News. “He was big with everything…in the state party.”
2016 Citizen of the Year Kent Stermon is pictured with former Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department
A.G. Gancarski, a Florida political reporter, informed First Coast News that Ron DeSantis would not be the governor without Kent Stermon.
Some law enforcement veterans questioned the morality of Stermon’s apparent unrestricted access to the JSO after his death.
Former JSO candidate Lakesha Burton said First Coast News that it was widely known that Mr. Stermon had high-level security access credentials to JSO facilities for many years, including to herself and many other employees.
His extensive participation in the inner workings and politics of the agency was made known to all ranks.
Kim Varner, a retired JSO investigator, stated, “If you give that badge to the incorrect person and they’re connected to someone doing wrong outside, then you can enter the building, do what you want, and return to give them information.”
Gov. DeSantis and wife Casey DeSantis gaze on during Florida event at Pelican Golf Club on Dec. 10.
Images from Getty for the Match
“John Q. Citizen cannot stroll in and acquire a badge to come and go as he pleases, and I believe it is a problem.”
James Brown, another JSO retiree, informed WJTX that Stermon’s alleged degree of access exceeded that of past officers.
“Access is limited and restricted to sheriff’s office personnel.” Retirees are granted such access, but even that access is limited,” he noted. “It would generate a suspicion of, why would that person be granted that type of access?”