JEA employee's free gym membership found to be violation of policy

Worker managed employee-owned JEA gym on volunteer basis

By Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - JEA has found that one of its employees who managed the utility's employee-owned gym was violating the JEA Secondary Employment Policy by receiving a free gym membership for more than five years.

Eric Petty, an operations analyst for JEA, co-managed the gym along with his wife Michelle, also a JEA employee.  In April 2017, the city's Office of Inspector General received a complaint that expressed concerns related to the management of the gym and the amount of work time spent managing the gym.

The inspector general's investigation found that Eric Petty had a flexible work schedule, and that his responsibilities related to gym management were not included in his job specifications.  Investigators could not substantiate allegations that Petty was not working his required hours for his job.

According to the investigative report, Petty admitted that he did not pay for gym membership dues.  JEA employees who belong to the gym pay $5 each pay period, and investigators found that Petty saved approximately $755 by not paying gym dues over a period of more than five years.  JEA's Secondary Employment Policy states that voluntary employment in return for a benefit is a violation of the policy.  Following the OIG investigation, JEA found that Petty's free membership violated the policy.

Investigators also found that Petty used his JEA computer and email account for personal use, in violation of JEA's Acceptable Use Policy from 2016.  Petty testified that he was aware of the policy and had received training, but had not read the policy.

In his response to the inspector general, Petty stated that, as a volunteer manager of the gym, he used his personal vehicle off the clock to purchase supplies and equipment, and that his expenses from that exceeded the $5 he would have paid every two weeks for membership.

Michelle Petty was the subject of a separate inspector general's investigation related to gym management. 

As News4Jax reported last month, she was found to have used more than $3,000 from the gym's bank account to pay personal credit card bills.  When the matter was referred to law enforcement, investigators said she used more than $11,000 in gym funds, including the money used for her credit card bill, for personal use.  

Michelle Petty was charged with felony grand theft.  According to court records, her case has been referred to a felony pre-trial intervention program. She has been placed on unpaid leave.

The inspector general's office found that, based on the two investigations into the Pettys, there is an inconsistent understanding by JEA managers and employees as to whether the gym is part of JEA's Wellness Program, and whether gym management is part of an employee's official duties.  The inspector general is now reviewing all known gym organizations within JEA facilities.

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