Departing JEA board member: Mayor Curry never contacted me to influence decisions

Rev. Fred Newbill said he was asked by Mayor Lenny Curry to resign before Tuesday’s fateful meeting

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Now that the entire JEA Board of Directors is on its way out, one of the departing members is speaking to News4Jax.

“I think the new board will learn from us,” JEA Board of Directors Vice Chair Fred Newbill said Friday. “So I don’t think there’s a chance in hell of this happening again.”

Rev. Newbill said Mayor Lenny Curry told him before Tuesday’s meeting that he was going to ask the board to resign.

Several City Council members have said they think it’s the mayor’s office pulling the strings at JEA, but Newbill said that’s not the case at all.

At the end of February, this JEA board will be gone and eventually replaced with seven members appointed by the mayor and confirmed by City Council.

Newbill, who has been serving on the board for nearly two years, opened up Friday about his role on the board.

“I can honestly say that Mayor Lenny Curry has never ever called me,” he said. “I never met with him and he says ‘Reverend, this is what I’d like to see.’ He has never done that. Honestly, he has never done that.”

But, Newbill said the mayor did recently call him to talk about board members being replaced.

“I think that was a good move on the mayor’s part,” Newbill said. “I really do. You know you’ve got to find a way to start fresh. And whether this party is guilty or that party is guilty or somebody made a mistake, Jacksonville needs a fresh start.”

Although JEA board chair April Green announced her resignation at the end of the meeting Tuesday — a meeting which resulted in explosive accusations against former CEO Aaron Zahn — the public didn’t know about the JEA board resignations until hours after the meeting when the mayor’s office made an announcement.

Meanwhile, investigations by the federal government and the City Council will be taking place to look at who is responsible for the mess at JEA. Newbill said he does not believe the entire upper management at JEA needs to be replaced, but added that he feels that he was lied to.

“It makes me disappointed,” he said.

JEA will have to continue to operate, and with a completely new board that is going to be watched closely, Newbill said that will be difficult.

Newbill added that he and other board members will be there to offer help and background for the new members.

News4Jax asked Curry’s office about possible replacements and he was not available.

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