JEA employee accused of stealing more than $11,000 from employee-owned gym

Utility now in the process of changing the way gyms are managed

By Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Ronald Milligan

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A JEA employee has been arrested and fired after being accused of stealing more than $11,000 from the bank account for a gym owned and managed by JEA employees at JEA’s Southside Service Center.

Ronald Milligan, a line maintainer for JEA, was arrested on April 11 on a felony charge of grand theft. He was released from jail on bond the same day. Milligan was arrested following investigations by the city of Jacksonville’s Office of Inspector General, as well as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s Integrity Unit. JEA terminated Milligan’s employment on May 23.

In October 2018, the inspector general began reviewing processes and procedures for the employee-owned gym organizations at six JEA-owned facilities. That review followed three other separate investigations involving JEA employees who managed the facilities on a volunteer basis. The gym organizations are funded by dues paid by employee members who pay $5 every other week through a payroll deduction.

According to a new report issued this week, during the course of the overall management review, the inspector general’s office discovered the possible misappropriation of funds from the bank account of the Southside Gym, located at the JEA Southside Service Center, a facility for service crews and equipment. The report states during that review Milligan, the volunteer manager of the gym, testified under oath that he did not use any money for personal use from the gym’s bank account.

Investigators then reviewed the gym’s bank accounts from January 2015 to June 2018 and discovered that on at least 35 occasions, money from the account totaling $1,424.48 appeared to have been used for non-gym-related expenses. Milligan was the only one assigned to have access to the account. The inspector general then referred the matter to JSO, due to the possibility of theft.

The investigations by JSO and the inspector general found that Milligan used $11,627.83 from the gym’s bank account for personal use, an amount that included the $1,424.48 initially identified by the inspector general’s office. Investigators found he used the money for transactions with a financial institution, a gas station and a video gaming company, as well as for the purchase of services related to medical weight loss and anti-aging treatments. The inspector general’s office also determined that Milligan had falsely testified when he stated he did not use any money for personal use.

Milligan, who told investigators he had been employed by JEA since 2004, had voluntarily managed the gym for about nine years. His responsibilities as gym manager included ordering and coordinating maintenance for gym equipment and maintaining the gym, as well as ordering products members wanted to purchase, such as supplements and gym wear.

Milligan is the fourth JEA employee investigated and the third JEA employee arrested on a theft charge. One employee who was previously arrested was ordered to pay back money and avoided jail time, and the other has been accepted into the felony pretrial intervention program.

As part of JEA’s response to a draft version of the inspector general’s report, utility officials stated that JEA is in the process of transitioning from employee-owned to JEA-managed gyms. JEA has also created a Benefits Manager job profile, which in part includes management oversight of JEA-operated gym facilities. The change comes in response to the inspector general’s management review that began in October 2018 and found no contract, agreement or release of liability between JEA and the gyms, no oversight of how finances were managed and no written policies and procedures.  

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