JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Carlucci wants a grand jury investigation into the JEA sales talk process. It follows Mayor Lenny Curry’s push to speed discussions of the city-owned utility’s future, including the current sales talks.
On Saturday night, Carlucci released a letter stating that on Monday, he will begin preparing a resolution to drum up support for a grand jury to investigate potential ethics violations and conflicts of interest, including CEO Aaron Zahn’s ties to a lobbyist.
“Corruption can be on a scale from here to there,” Carlucci told News4Jax on Sunday. “I want a grand jury to investigate. All I know is there is a lot of smoke and there seems to be more and more smoke coming.”
Three weeks ago, Pastor R.L. Gundy, of the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition, first suggested there be a grand jury investigation, either state or federal, into the JEA.
Carlucci’s letter said his reasons in six points. On Sunday afternoon, he released an updated letter, in which he pointed out what he called areas of concern:
- "The proposed Unit performance Bonus plan introduced on July 23, 2019, and approved unhesitatingly by the board. Subsequently, City Council auditor Kyle Billy outlined the potential of hundreds of millions of dollars that could go to JEA executives and non-JEA personnel.
- "Potential conflicts of interest and ethics violations by the JEA CEO in not disclosing to JEA’s Ethics department or the State of Florida that he co-owned property with a JEA lobbying firm.
- "JEA CEO and Board placed Jacksonville’s largest city asset up for sale without notice to the City Council, the City Council Auditor and without any form of public engagement.
- "Potential conflicts of interest in the awarding of city contracts.
- "Lack of sunshine on the awarding of multimillion dollar contracts to law firms, consultants and others. Concerns include how the contacts were awarded, the timing of the awards and the amounts of the awards.
- “Potential conflicts of interest and ethics violations by approving on July 23rd 2019 the invitation to negotiate resolution despite a May 2018 resolution ending the sale of the JEA.”
It's the latest development in the ongoing saga that could change the future of the city utility.
On Thursday, Curry sent an email to the board members of JEA who are exploring options to restructure or sell the utility that they should give more options to the City Council sooner. On Sunday, City Council President Scott Wilson sent an email to council members, saying they had received a copy of the letter that Curry sent to the JEA Board of Directors.
“Mayor Curry has asked the board to turn this entre conversation over to us as the elected legislative body of our consolidated government. I expect the JEA Board will decide whether or not to comply with this request at their next board meeting on Tuesday. We are currently in the early stages of a fact-finding process led by Council Member Michael Boylan. I want the workshop to continue its work prior to us considering legislation related to the recapitalization of JEA,” Wilson’s email reads, in part.
Wilson also said in the email: “Any legislation filed related to the recapitalization shall be deferred at committee level until the workshops have concluded and our attorneys are up to speed and prepared to represent us."
Ultimately, the sale of JEA must be put before the voters of Jacksonville prior to the sale being finalized.
The public should learn more Monday when several council members meet to talk about JEA and this process. Zahn might be at the meeting.