Mayor asks entire JEA board to resign

Controversy began after board votes to give CEO $43,000 bonus


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Weeks of controversy stemming from a vote to give the CEO a raise has prompted the Mayor Lenny Curry to ask all JEA board members to resign.

The move comes weeks after the Florida Times-Union reported that JEA board members and administrative staff scripted comments about giving CEO Paul McElroya a $43,000 bonus at the board's August public meeting.

Curry was meeting individually with members of the JEA board to talk about the issue. Last month, he asked members Lisa Strange Weatherby and Peter Bower to resign.

Weatherby initially refused to meet with Curry without her attorney present and refused to resign. She reversed her position a week later and submitted her letter of resignation.

Last week, Curry appointed two prominent business leaders -- Tom Petway and Delores Kesler, both supporters of his campaign -- to fill the two board positions.

Curry sent a letter on Monday to the remaining five board members thanking them for meeting with him, but asking for their resignations. Letters went to board Chairman Helen Heim Albee, Wyman Winbush, Husein Cumber, John Hirabayashi and Robert A. Heekin.

"We appreciate your continued service until our review process has been completed. If you wish to be reappointed, I invite you to submit a letter of interest along with a bio or resume," Curry wrote. "This action empowers us both to reflect on our interests, priorities, and experiences that best contribute to the effectiveness of our city. In addition, I am requesting the Office of Ethics Compliance & Oversight to continue and strengthen its Sunshine Law trainings for members of all boards and commissions"

DOCUMENTS: Mayor Curry's letter to John Hirabayashi | Husein Cumber's resignation letter

As of Tuesday afternoon, Hirabayashi and Cumber had submitted their letters of resignation, Hirabayashi saying he was glad he had the opportunity to serve and Cumber asking that he be considered for reappointment to the board.

Asked for its response, the JEA sent a statement, which said, in part: "We look forward to working with the mayor's appointees to our board and to continuing to serve our community with excellence."

Board members of Jacksonville's independent authorities are subject to approval by City Council.

"I think the mayor is clearly sending a signal that he wants to make sure that the boards that are operating are independent and transparent," council President Greg Anderson said. 

Councilman Reggie Brown said the mayor is well within his rights to do this, adding that JEA needs to be held accountable to the city and its customers.

"We all know that live in Jacksonville that there have been some struggles with JEA and the city of Jacksonville, from the board all the way down to services," Brown said. "It's time that we take a real look at it. It's time we get board members on board that really want to work in the best interest of Jacksonville."  

At Tuesday night's meeting legislation to appoint Petway and Kesler will be introduced.

Petway was a founding minority owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and has a long history in the insurance and real estate industries. He served as chairman of Curry's transition committee after the mayor was elected in May.

Kesler is a veteran entrepreneur and founded Associated Temporary Staffing, a company that eventually became MPS Group Inc. before it was sold to Adecco Group.

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