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JEA CEO, mayor's chief administrative officer refuse to go under oath

Possible JEA sale takes dramatic turn at special council committee meeting

Mayor's chief administrative officer Sam Mousa and JEA CEO Paul McElroy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The discussion of possibly selling JEA took another dramatic turn at a meeting on Thursday.

Both the utility's chief executive officer and the mayor's chief administrative officer refused to go under oath and address a special City Council committee that is examining the pros and cons of a possible sale.  

Council members said they wanted JEA CEO Paul McElroy and Mayor Lenny Curry's chief administrative officer, Sam Mousa, to be sworn in because the proposed sale of JEA, which is the city's biggest asset, is the most significant event that has ever gone before the council.

Committee members said they want to make sure everyone is telling the truth. 

The council debated for 30 minutes about whether to place people under oath. When it finally decided to do so, Mousa said that he would not take the oath and then left the meeting.

"He did not recommend that he or anyone speak under oath without the presence of a lawyer," city public affairs director Marsha Oliver told News4Jax after the meeting. "I think you heard some of the council members (say) that Mr. Mousa has spent decades -- 31 years -- that he had spent with the administration, and he has earned the credibility. And you heard them say they did not expect for him to be dishonest in any way."

After Mousa left, McElroy also refused to go under oath, saying he wants an attorney present. As he left the meeting, McElroy told News4Jax that he's not hiding anything, he just wants to be careful.

"This was sprung on us at the last minute. This has been a dramatic conversation," McElroy said. "There is a lot of emotion ... and a lot of pressure and the fines for perjury -- it's a third-degree felony. It’s five years in prison. And at the advice of my counsel, until we have time to sit down and go through and be prepared."

The council committee has decided to subpoena McElroy and force him to talk to the committee. At this point, the council committee does not plan to do the same for Mousa.  

The special council committee on the possible sale of JEA will meet again March 22.  JEA will hold a special workshop on Tuesday to discuss the proposed sale.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.