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Council member criticizes ‘golden parachute’ for JEA leadership

State ethics commission reviewing conflict of interest questions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JEA is still talking a lot about its future — in commercials and in pamphlets it’s sending to every customer. But the talks concerning a possible sale are now in question.

The Florida Commission on Ethics is going to look to see if there is a conflict of interest. The concern is how JEA’s management is negotiating their future and how would they would stand to benefit financially from a possible sale.

JEA told News4jax that talks with the nine companies in the running to possibly buy the utility are still on despite the fact emails with their attorney suggest there won’t be much movement until the Ethics Commission comes back with an answer.

More and more details are coming out that suggest the way JEA is going about the sale is questionable. Now, other stakeholders, like city and state leaders, are weighing in.

“I do have a problem with upper management getting like a golden parachute, but I am sure it will work itself out,” Jacksonville City Council member Sam Newby said.

State Senator Audrey Gibson said she is glad to hear the state is getting involved. Gibson said she believes there are many issues to look at.

“The whole process has been a concern for me. I am certainly pleased that the State Ethics Commission will weigh in,” Gibson said.

Other city leaders, like Aaron Bowman who heads the City Council finance committee, want to see the idea of a sale explored. Boman is questioning how JEA is handling everything lately.

“This has not been a textbook case on how to go about on what they’re doing right now. It’s very frustrating to me. And I think we’ve lost a lot of the public that has been watching this,” Bowman said.

JEA is one of Jacksonville’s biggest assets, worth nearly $7 billion, but there is also a lot of debt with the utility. The JEA board has said in the past that JEA’s future does not look good and that’s why it’s exploring the sale.

“JEA has appointed the negotiations team members while stating on the record that the conflicts review by the OGC and Commission on Ethics is pending,” Lynne Rhode, Office of General Counsel and JEA Chief Legal Officer, said in a news release Monday. “Our initial analysis is that there is no conflict of interest however we look forward to the state level opinion being issued as soon as possible as we continue with the negotiations phase.”

JEA’s next board meeting is in December. There should be an update on the negotiations at that time.

News4jax has again asked to see all nine bids from those interested companies. JEA said they are not public at this point.


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