Political expert: JEA potentially one of the worst scandals in Jacksonville history

More fallout at the city-owned utility is expected as dual investigations continue

More fallout at the city-owned utility is expected as dual investigations continue.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – News4Jax political expert Rick Mullaney, former general counsel for Jacksonville, believes there is still much that hasn’t been revealed in the JEA investigation.

This week, city lawyers accused former CEO Aaron Zahn of lies, cover-ups and forged documents that led to his firing.

“This is potentially one of the greatest schemes to defraud the taxpayers in the history of our city,” said Mullaney, the Founding Director of the Public Policy Institute at Jacksonville University who has been following the JEA scandal closely.

Jacksonville has seen its share of scandals in the past.

In the 1960s the city was rocked with corruption that led to consolidation. Nearly a dozen city officials were indicted, and others were forced to resign, according to the Jacksonville Historical Society.

The sale of the Shipyard property in downtown Jacksonville and led a critical report by a local grand jury. Several City Council members were later arrested and convicted on fraud charges.

Right now former Council Members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown are awaiting sentencing on a fraud conviction. Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown is still serving time in prison for fraud.

Mullaney says once all the investigations into JEA are finished there will likely be more fallout.

“We have to get our facts straight,” Mullaney said Thursday. “Bottom line for the taxpayers, the scheme, this bonus plan would have resulted in an unconscionable bonus payment over $1 billion."

Mullaney said based on what is know and because of federal taxes, the city could have been out another $400 million or more.

While Zahn has been the only target so far, that may not be the case in the future. The federal government and city council are investigating others at JEA, including other members of the leadership team.

Sources have told News4Jax both investigations are also looking into City Hall’s involvement in the now-canceled JEA sales talks. During the Morning Show on News4Jax on Thursday, Jacksonville City Council President Scott Wilson talked about the upcoming investigation.

“I think any investigation that the City Council conducts going forward will provide more information," Wilson said. “I believe it’s important that the City Council and the mayor stay out of the JEA business and allow the independent board to operate JEA as they’re supposed to.”

News4Jax has reached out to the mayor’s office for comment. We are still waiting for a response.

About the Author:

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