Interim JEA CEO welcomes federal investigation

Melissa Dykes said she’s offering her assistance in the inquiry

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after the State Attorney’s Office announced the federal government will take over the investigation of issues connected to the potential privatization of JEA, interim CEO Melissa Dykes said she welcomes the scrutiny.

“From what I’ve been hearing is that the community takes a lot of comfort that people are looking into the situation and determined to find the truth in the situation,” Dykes told News4Jax during a Tuesday interview. “So I support the investigation and in fact, I’m offering my assistance should that be helpful to them and getting to the truth.”

Her statements also come a day after JEA confirmed Dykes will not seek the permanent CEO job when the utility’s board of directors looks to fill the position.

“It’s the right decision because we have an opportunity now to have a fresh start,” Dykes said. “We have an opportunity for a new leader to come in and join JEA and join our community and lead us into the future.”

Despite a wave of top officials leaving JEA, Dykes said she plans to remain interim CEO until the board appoints a new one, though it’s unclear how long that will take.

“That allows me during this transition time to lead with the community’s best interest in mind,” she said. “So it’s not going to be leadership through the lens of somebody applying for the job at the end of it, it’s leadership through the lens of somebody that’s going to work really hard to restore trust with our community and set our next leader up for success.”

Dykes has already made an effort to bring more transparency to the city-owned utility in the wake of recent controversies, which include an abandoned plan to explore a sale of JEA. Under her leadership JEA launched the redesigned earlier this month, a website billed as a way to "provide as much information regarding the Strategic Alternatives ITN process to the public as quickly as possible.”

The move came 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. The loudest criticism came following a controversial bonus plan that would have greatly benefited JEA’s leadership. Dykes addressed the now-abandoned plan Tuesday.

“There were controls put in place along the way by a leadership team member that helped to make sure that the plan was legal and ethical and in the best interest of the community and a large part because of those controls the plan was canceled,” Dykes said. “So I take a lot of comfort that controls around the plan work the way they were supposed two and the outcome was in the best interest of the community.”

Dykes also said despite some public concerns that the mayor’s office has control over JEA, she does not communicate regularly with Mayor Lenny Curry.

“I had a very nice congratulatory call when I received my interim appointment. Otherwise, my leadership has been focused on being an independent leader,” Dykes said. "And I have to do what’s in the best interest of JEA and the community and I hope to do that with the support of all of our political stakeholders. It’s one of the reasons that our board chair and I have been meeting independently with each City Council member.

Dykes, who was named CEO after Aaron Zahn was ousted Dec. 17, said she hasn’t decided what her future will hold once she steps down from her current position.

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