JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new radio ad was released Monday, attacking the mayor of Jacksonville and the potential sale of JEA.
The problem is that Mayor Lenny Curry continues to say he's neutral on the possible sale of the city-owned utility until a thorough valuation has been done.
The mayor's office has pushed back on the ad, calling it "baseless attacks" and "lies."
In the beginning of the 30-second radio ad, a child can be heard saying, "Mommy and daddy, they're saying that Lenny Curry is trying to sell JEA. Don't let him sell JEA. Don't let him sell our future."
The ad calls on people to pressure the mayor's office.
A woman in the ad then says, "Did you know Mayor Curry and his buddies are trying to sell JEA behind your back? Call 630-1776 and let him know not to sell JEA without your say."
The goal of the ad seems straightforward.
"But he could stop this all by saying, 'I'm not in favor of selling JEA.' And that would be the end of it," said Valerie Gutierrez, who runs the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2358.
The electrical workers union represents about 500 JEA employees. Gutierrez said IBEW is one of five unions involved in what she called a coalition supporting Florida Committee for Infrastructure Investment, the political action committee running the ad.
News4Jax asked why the ad claims the mayor is trying to sell JEA.
"Because he hasn't come out to say he's not," Gutierrez said. "And when you kind of, you know, 'ride the fence,' people will speculate that you are behind it."
When News4Jax asked to interview Curry, his press office sent the following statement from city of Jacksonville Chief of Staff Brian Hughes:
Baseless attacks and lies from a political committee affiliated with and supportive of Democrat Lisa King are not how we will protect the value of taxpayer assets at JEA. The mayor remains committed to ensuring that facts inform all future plans for our utility, and that those plans respect taxpayers and the promises made to JEA employees.”
Lisa King, who's mentioned in the statement from the mayor's office, is a former candidate for City Council and current Duval Democrats chair.
The address listed for the Florida Committee on Infrastructure Investment is Langton Associates, where King works as vice president.
The Republican mayor himself continues to push back against the perception that he is orchestrating a sale behind the scenes.
"The public, at large, does not believe that there's some deal that's been hatched behind closed doors. And there hasn't been. And those that have perpetuated that idea, shame on them," Curry said Thursday.
The ad came out as City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche on Monday sent a letter to Curry, asking him to have his chief financial officer hand over information requested by the council auditor.
In the letter, Brosche writes that Chief Financial Officer Mike Weinstein has stated the city is not working on any JEA sale analysis, however, a special council committee is.