74ºF

Golden parachute contracts promise millions to JEA officials if they are fired

Contracts under heavy scrutiny after ethics director’s call for JEA officials to voluntarily give up hefty termination benefits.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – $18 million.

That’s the total amount of money the city would have had to pay senior JEA officials if they were all fired after the sale of JEA.

City records show 14 senior JEA leaders were promised hundreds of thousands of dollars each if they were terminated without cause, but that number more than doubled if JEA was sold.

This all comes as the JEA chairman and City Ethics Director call for senior-level executives to voluntarily give up their hefty termination benefits.

Letter from City Ethics Director Carla Miller to interim JEA CEO Melissa Dykes.
Letter from City Ethics Director Carla Miller to interim JEA CEO Melissa Dykes. (News4Jax)
Letter from City Ethics Director Carla Miller to interim JEA CEO Melissa Dykes.
Letter from City Ethics Director Carla Miller to interim JEA CEO Melissa Dykes. (News4Jax)

JEA confirmed that before July 2019, the same month JEA started exploring a possible sale, none of the senior leadership had active contracts.

According to a spreadsheet released by the City Council auditor, the 14 senior-level leaders at JEA have contracts promising the city-owned utility will pay them anywhere from $114,000 to more than $700,000 if they are ever fired.

City lawyers have asked for more time to figure out whether or not former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn will get his payout that could be worth about $450,000.

RELATED: Interim JEA CEO welcomes federal investigation | Attorney: Ex-CEO Zahn ‘scapegoated’ for JEA’s woes

But City Ethics Director Carla Miller is shining a light on the more than a dozen other golden parachute contracts within JEA.

In a letter to JEA’s interim CEO Melissa Dykes, Miller asked that senior leaders voluntarily give up the payouts and other expenses, like the interim CEO’s $850 a month car allowance and up to $1,600 a month for a “business allowance.”

“I literally almost fell out of my seat seeing the amount of money in addition to their base salary,” Jacksonville City Council member Garrett Dennis told News4Jax. “It’s egregious.”

City records also tell another story: how much senior leaders within JEA would have made if they were terminated following the sale of JEA.

Altogether, the city would have had to pay more than $18 million to 14 senior leaders within JEA if they were all let go after was JEA sold.

For just the CEO, the total payouts, including termination pay, employee protection benefits and consultant fees would have amounted to more than $2.8 million.

Right now, city leaders are trying to figure out if they will fire Zahn without cause, meaning he would get a payout, or with cause, which would leave him mostly empty-handed.


About the Author: