After sale stopped, what’s next for JEA?

Councilmembers call for investigation into failed attempt to sell public utility

Councilmembers call for investigation into failed attempt to sell public utility

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The JEA Board of Directors voted Tuesday to end the process of selling JEA.

So what’s next for the city-owned utility?

A grand jury investigation or a City Council-led probe could be in the works.

Councilman Matt Carlucci told News4Jax that he plans to file a resolution for a grand jury investigation.

Councilman Rory Diamond said he would like to see the council investigate the actions of top-level executives during the JEA sale process. This will likely be one of the first issues handled by the council when they get back in session.

Council has the power to set up committees to investigate. Those committees will have subpoena power to call up witnesses and evidence.

“This is our fiduciary responsibility to protect the taxpayers of Jacksonville,” said Councilman Garrett Dennis. “And let me tell you — the taxpayers of Jacksonville — Councilman Diamond called it “legal theft” and I think it’s much more sinister than that and these investigations will show who, what, when and where.”

The city-owned utility has faced ongoing turmoil since the ITN process began, particularly when a city auditor discovered a controversial bonus program that could have netted top executives hundreds of millions of dollars if JEA was sold. That total was much more than the $3.4 million estimate provided to board members, according to the City Council auditor.

Also up for discussion is the fate of former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn.

Multiple council members want to see him fired with cause, leaving him without his negotiated $800,000 severance pay.

But some fear firing him with cause could open the city up for a lawsuit.

During the special meeting Tuesday, interim CEO Melissa Dykes said the utility had spent $10 million on the ITN process, and one board member called it “complete government waste.”

News4Jax has requested a full breakdown of how the $10 million was spent.

About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.