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Latest JEA document dump shows utility’s pitch to potential buyers

JEA released new documents from now-dead bid to sell city-owned utility

Happening today – a Jacksonville city councilman is continuing his push for a grand jury investigation into the JEA sale process. This comes as the JEA board plans to meet next week to discuss how much money suspended JEA CEO , Aaron Zahn, will get on his way out. News4Jax investigative reporter Kelly Wiley is LIVE with what's happening next.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JEA released more documents Thursday related to the potential sale of the city-owned utility that was shut down last month.

Included in the 42 items added Thursday to the public records document repository on WhatsNextJax.com is a 200-page presentation shown to six different companies that expressed interest in buying JEA. The presentation gives a full overview of JEA’s operations, looking at its strengths, potential challenges and opportunities for growth.

The presentation also lays out constraints, like the Constitution of the State of Florida and business structure, that JEA said has crippled its "ability to evolve and remain relevant to address customer and community needs, as well as market and industry trends.”

The documents reveal that JEA showed the presentation to five companies interested in acquiring JEA over four days in Atlanta last month — NextEra Energy, Duke Energy, Emera Inc., JEA Public Power Partners, and American Water Works Company — followed by a sixth meeting with MIRA Inc. in Jacksonville. The five Georgia meetings were held at Holland & Knight, a law firm in Midtown Atlanta. A logistics memo laying out plans for the December meeting in Atlanta was prepared by J.P. Morgan and labeled “strictly private and confidential".

City Councilman Matt Carlucci expressed concerns about the Atlanta meetings last month arguing that any meeting about selling a Jacksonville utility should be held in Jacksonville. Jacksonville’s Ethics Director Carla Miller also raised concerns to JEA’s legal advisor that the series of six meetings with the potential JEA buyers should have been made public. Miller asserted that at least the first part of these meetings should have been made public to comply with Sunshine Laws, laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of governmental bodies in Florida.

JEA put out a statement in December, saying Atlanta was the best option for meetings about potentially selling the utility to a private buyer, citing Atlanta’s international airport and its proximity to Jacksonville.

Documents posted Thursday also show exactly who represented JEA at the meetings and who was there from each of the bidders. Some of those who represented JEA, like then CEO Aaron Zahn, are no longer with JEA.

Also released were documents from the evaluation committee that outline the goals of the potential sale — also known as the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) — that would be used when evaluating the initial responses from companies interested in buying JEA. An instruction sheet for the negotiation process reiterates those goals.

A JEA spokeswoman said Thursday the utility will continue to add documents related to ITN as they become available following legal review.

The JEA Board of Directors voted unanimously on Christmas Eve to end the process of selling JEA. Following the decision, JEA launched the redesigned Whatsnextjax.com last week, a website billed as a way to "provide as much information regarding the Strategic Alternatives ITN process to the public as quickly as possible.”

“While I firmly believe the ITN process began for the right reasons — to figure out how we can best serve our community long into the future — the way the process was conducted has resulted in a loss of trust by the stakeholders we serve,” Interim Managing Director and CEO Melissa Dykes wrote in a statement on the website. “It is my goal to rebuild that trust. We will do so by operating in a deliberately transparent way, being more forthcoming with information, and clearly explaining the reasons for the decisions we’ve made.”

The move comes after JEA was heavily criticized for lack of transparency during the ITN process, which was cloaked in secrecy by a so-called “cone of silence” at the advice of attorneys.

For a closer look at all the documents released by JEA so far, visit WhatsNextJax.com.

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

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