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JEA racked up estimated $13M in legal bills in failed bid to sell utility

JEA provided News4Jax a breakdown of how much it could pay each law firm

JEA racked up estimated $13M in legal bills in failed bid to sell utility
JEA racked up estimated $13M in legal bills in failed bid to sell utility

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JEA could be on the hook for nearly $13 million in legal fees in connection with the failed bid to sell the city-owned utility.

JEA on Friday provided an estimated cost breakdown for legal items relating to the since-canceled Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) process showing how much it paid, and may have to pay in the future, to 19 different firms hired by the utility.

So far, JEA has paid over $1.1 million to the firms, but pending fees could skyrocket the cost to $12.9 million once all is said and done, according to a spreadsheet given to the News4Jax I-TEAM by JEA in response to a public records request.

“Please keep in mind that this is the estimate to date, and it is likely to change as items continue to be processed,” JEA spokeswoman Gina Kyle told News4Jax. “Also keep in mind, that (the Office of General Counsel) is reviewing legal invoices as they are received. There may be items included on the invoices that ultimately are removed if they are found to be outside of the scope, contract or guidelines.”

Most of the money for legal fees is expected to go to Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, a New-York based law firm, which could receive over $10 million for its work during the ITN process. International law firm Foley and Lardner could get a payout of over $1.3 million.

“The legal expenses are absolutely disgusting, the amount of taxpayer dollars thrown at this effort to sell JEA. What’s worse is some of it was spent without being authorized by JEA," Councilman Rory Diamond said.

Firms billing JEAPaidPendingTotal
Milam Howard$56,745$26,393$83,139
Carlton Fields$28,116$7,526$35,642
Hopping Green$57,560$57,560
Foley and Lardner$111,885$1,249,900$1,361,786
JP Morgan$170,217$170,217
Morgan Stanley$165,217$165,217
Lewis Longman & Walker$53,448$29,026$82,474
Edwards Cohen$11,202$11,202
Segal Consulting$36,437$36,437
Holland & Knight$393,092$393,092
Nixon Peabody$54,800$54,800

Also included in the document provided by JEA is a breakdown of the costs of travel reimbursements handed out to members of the leadership team for a trip to Atlanta.

Fifteen members of JEA’s senior leadership team made the trip to Atlanta to meet with companies that were interested in buying JEA, a move that drew criticism.

The leaders were reimbursed $1,000-$1,500 for the trip, for a total of nearly $15,000. Former CEO Aaron Zahn, interim CEO Melissa Dykes and Chief Administrative Officer Herschel Vinyard did not submit expense reports after the trip, records show.

On Monday, Diamond will hold the first committee meeting for the city-council led investigation into JEA. In the meeting, Diamond is expected to lay the groundwork for how it will move forward.

Federal investigators are also looking into potential criminal misconduct connected to the failed sale of JEA.

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.