City councilman: JEA leadership contracts 'incredibly rigged’

Contracts had the potential to cost the city more than $3 million

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city is meeting with the top leaders at JEA to discuss controversial contracts that would force the City of Jacksonville to pay them six-figures if they are fired without cause.

The contracts for 14 JEA senior executives initially had the potential to cost the city-owned utility more than $3 million dollars. After the departure of two top officials, the city could still be on the hook for more than $2.6 million if every top JEA official was fired without cause.

Records obtained by the News4Jax I-TEAM show contracts negotiated even bigger golden parachutes for the senior JEA officials if the utility was sold. The negotiated termination pay after the potential sale of JEA collectively amounted to more than $18 million.

“This thing is disgusting. It is incredibly rigged for the executives who were there. They knew that we were probably going to try to sell the JEA, they knew that, and they were going to pay themselves millions of dollars and with these bonus plans, hundreds of millions of dollars. Outrageous. We can never let this happen again,” City Council member Rory Diamond told News4Jax.

Records collected by the City Council Auditors Office show contracts offered the CEO of JEA more than $720,000 in termination pay and consultant pay if fired without a sale of JEA, but promised more than $2.8 million if he was fired after the utility was sold.

Carla Miller, the city’s ethics director, and JEA Chairwoman April Green asked for top JEA officials to voluntarily give up their lucrative golden parachutes in a letter sent last week. A new letter sent on Jan. 17, that was forwarded to City Council members, revealed the Office of General Counsel plans to meet with individual JEA senior leaders to discuss their contracts.

“I reiterate my wish that in your contract discussions with OGC, you carefully assess the ethics of the situation and what actions will increase citizen trust in JEA […] I would hope that the contract issues can be resolved equitably prior to the JEA Board meeting on January 28th,” Miller wrote in the email.

JEA said Friday that no senior leaders have met with the Office of General Counsel to date regarding their employment contracts.

“My understanding is that several members of the senior leadership team have said yeah, I want to keep my job. Take these extra benefits that I didn’t earn or shouldn’t have had,” said Diamond. “The process of getting control of JEA and their senior executives with JEA, and all their benefits and bonuses are finally starting to happen.”

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