JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When City Council President Scott Wilson announced a special committee would investigate JEA, there were many people on hand who have political ties to those involved.
Standing in the background of Monday’s news conference was Tim Baker, a political consultant who worked on Mayor Lenny Curry’s campaigns and whose name was recently attached to the JEA saga.
JEA has said that former CEO Aaron Zahn considered hiring Baker to help with a potential sale, that did not happen. Speaking with News4Jax, Baker said he’s not worried about the council’s investigation.
“I am a private citizen of Duval County, and I am not worried about myself whatsoever,” Baker said.
Incidentally, the man leading the special committee is Council Member Rory Diamond, a former federal prosecutor who hired Baker to run his campaign when he ran for City Council in 2019.
Asked if their previous business might present a conflict of interest, Diamond acknowledged that Baker is “very good at what he does” but said the committee’s work will be done in the open.
“The goal is to do everything fairly, do it publicly in the open,” he said. “If anyone has any questions about what we are doing, you’ll be able to see it for yourselves.”
Council Member Randy DeFoor, a committee member who also employed Baker during her run for office, said there is no conflict on her part. “I fired Tim Baker,” she said. “He’s not going to work for me.”
That’s not how Baker remembers things playing out. He supplied News4Jax a copy of his contract with DeFoor’s campaign that showed their business wrapped up in May.
Baker also is connected to the city’s chief administrative officer, Brian Hughes. Hughes, a political consultant before joining Curry’s staff, said he’s not concerned about the council investigation.
“I have no concerns about the investigation because the investigation is to get information to inform public policy,” Hughes said in a statement to News4Jax.
Another person with ties to Baker is State Attorney Melissa Nelson, who enlisted his services when she ran for election in 2016. Her office has handed over its investigation of JEA to federal investigators.