Mayor receives backlash after email to JEA board members

Michael Ward, the co-chair of a Jacksonville Civic Council subcommittee, wants talks to end now.

Michael Ward, the co-chair of a Jacksonville Civic Council subcommittee, wants talks to end now.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There is some pushback to Mayor Lenny Curry’s plan to make changes in the JEA sales talk process.

Michael Ward, the co-chair of a Jacksonville Civic Council subcommittee, said the Mayor Curry’s email to JEA board members is questionable and wants talks to end now.

“It almost felt like the chairman of the company sending a letter to his handpicked board telling them what to do," Ward said.

In the Thursday email, Mayor Curry encouraged JEA to speed up discussions of its future including the current sales talks and have everything in the hands of City Council by the end of January.

The next step in all of this will come from the JEA board. Members could take up the suggestion at Tuesday morning’s board meeting.

Members of the Jacksonville Civic Council are also weighing in with their own letter on the proposed JEA sale. In the letter to City Council members, the Civic Council said the talks about JEA’s future need to be more transparent and called for the current sale negotiations to stop. Ward suggested taking the process out of the hands of JEA and moving it to City Council immediately. He said it should be the City Council that requests any bid for a potential sale, known as a “request for proposal” (RFP).

“I think we need to restart, a real restart. And let the City Council take this process and start from the beginning do a real RFP and determine do we really need to sell JEA," Ward said.

He believes the approach would be much more transparent and open to the public.

Most City Council members who spoke to News4Jax on Friday want more time to closely look at the Mayor’s ideas and are holding off on comment, but councilmember Matt Carlucci did speak up. Carlucci has been very vocal about the JEA sale and the problem he sees with JEA‘s CEO Aaron Zahn.

“My opinion, the real answer to this whole thing, is to replace Aaron Zahn with a real actual world-class CEO and surround that CEO with the best board possible," Carlucci said.

Carlucci believes JEA should remain an independent authority.

Land deal

Another revelation involving Zahn emerged this week from the Florida Times-Union.

The Florida Times-Union started looking at Zahn and his relationship with a hired JEA lobbyist and their ownership of piece wooded vacant property which is for sale on the Westside.

The Times-Union reports Zahn never disclosed the partnership when he became CEO of JEA. As a result of that story, the lobbying firm withdrew from its contract with JEA on Friday. News4Jax has not been able to independently confirm the report.

News4Jax has reached out to JEA staff for comment but has not heard back from them. News4Jax also reached out to the Mayor for comment about the email but was told it speaks for itself.

City Council President Scott Wilson said he wants to talk to city lawyers first to see his options.

The public should learn more on Monday when several council members met to talk about JEA and this process. Zahn might be at the meeting.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.