Bidders for JEA may not be so secret soon

City-owned utility is asking suitors if company names can be made public


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JEA is asking the 16 bidders who responded to invitations to bid to buy all or part of the city-owned utility if their names can be released.

JEA's initial guidelines called for the process to be conducted in private. Even if the names of the suitors are made public, the price they are offering for the utility will not be released until February.  

On Monday, JEA's top staff will meet to review the 16 bids and decide which will move ahead to the next step of consideration. 

News4Jax, Jacksonville Daily Record and the Florida Times-Union have confirmed the identity of several of the bidders, including Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Emera, the Veolia Group and American Water, from the bidders themselves, who are not barred from identifying themselves.

The CEO and board have stressed this only a fact-finding expedition. They just want to find out how much they could get for the utility, which has been independently valued at about $7 billion. Any decision to privatize JEA would require the approval of the Jacksonville City Council and the voters of Jacksonville.

Critics of conducting the process in private include City Council members and the First Amendment Foundation out of Tallahassee. In most cases, bids in public projects are made public 30 days after they are opened. 

City Council member Michael Boylan chaired a special meeting Tuesday where the majority of council members voiced concerns about the process. They agreed to introduce legislation that would allow council members to get their own attorneys to make sure they don’t get left behind in a pending sale.

JEA has seven special attorneys doing the same thing for the utility, including former JEA board Chairman Alan Howard.

During the meeting, some council members expressed concerns that most of the public believes a JEA sale is a done deal.

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