JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While top executives at JEA continue not to comment on the ongoing negotiations of a potential sale, the lawyers and lobbyists for the city-owned utility is paying to talk to prospective buyers are racking in big bucks.
A report from the Jacksonville City Council auditor shows JEA has contracts with seven law firms and financial advisors to help in the process are authorized to be paid up to $1.3 million. The report also shows that three and possibly a fourth firm has already gone over their budgeted amount.
Council Auditor Kyle Billy said that means contracts would have to be amended and the total cost would go up.
Firms contracted to assist JEA with plans to sell
JEA will not comment on the audit of the cost of the sales negotiations. JEA officials are in Atlanta this week meeting with nine companies that are still in the running to buy part or all of JEA.
JEA’s board will meet next Tuesday.
This is the latest revelation in the JEA saga. City Council members decided Tuesday night to hold off until the new year before taking up a resolution that would tell JEA to back off the sales talks. Councilman Sam Newby suggested the council not pass a referendum as an emergency and revisit the issue next month and his amendment prevailed.
Newby said the costs involved are one reason for concern about the process.
“Just the amount of money they are spending (JEA) and the amount of money it’s costing the citizens of Jacksonville. I am not an expert when you look at the numbers, I think they spend a little too much money,” Newby said.
Activists who protested against the JEA sale before Tuesday Council meeting held another rally on Wednesday, with about 30 people -- some on all four floors of City Hall calling for a boycott of area businesses to show opposition to this idea, as well as the need for new gun laws and the half-cent sales tax to fund schools.
“We are going to send a serious message to city government and the mayor of the city that we are sick and tired of them ignoring people,” said Pastor R.L. Gundy of the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition. “Normally, they don’t pay attention to people who are protesting and asking for change. Well, we are going to start going after the money in the city and start picketing things and start protesting and stop spending our money to get their attention.”