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City leaders propose changes to how JEA board is picked

Councilman Garrett Dennis is pushing a bill that would allow City Council to select some JEA board members.

VIDEO: A city leader is now pushing for a change to how the next JEA board will be picked.
VIDEO: A city leader is now pushing for a change to how the next JEA board will be picked.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City leaders plan to introduce a new bill that would allow Jacksonville City Council to pick JEA board members.

It’s currently the mayor’s responsibility to appoint every member of the board and those selections are approved by City Council.

The proposed bill comes after the entire JEA board -- except for Kelly Flanagan -- resigned last month amid growing criticism and investigations into the proposed sale of JEA. Flanagan is serving until her term expires on Feb. 28.

City Councilmember Garrett Dennis is behind the emergency resolution that would allow City Council to appoint three members to the JEA Board of Directors.

“I think right now, the situation that we find ourselves in with JEA, no one trusts the mayor,” Dennis said. “So, no one wants to give the mayor another bite at the apple to pick seven new people with his desire to sell JEA.”

Dennis also announced legislation that would let voters decide on the plan to have the mayor appoint three board members while three board members would be appointed by City Council and a representative for JEA employees would choose the last board member.

Curry said Wednesday if City Council wants to put that plan to a voter referendum, he would sign the bill.

This comes as new information is being released about the mayor’s ties to former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn, who’s been accused of wrong-doing by city investigators.

Pictures and testimony surfaced this week revealing Curry and City Council President Scott Wilson flew on a private jet provided by Curry’s political consultant Tim Baker to an Atlanta Braves playoff baseball game in October.

“I went to a playoff baseball game, which I’ve never done before, and I paid for with my own funds,” Curry said Wednesday.

As it stands now, Curry will appoint the board members soon, but Wednesday he wasn’t ready to say exactly who they will be.

“I would not want to put a citizen’s name out there,” Curry said. “Until we get an agreement and we’re ready to go with a bill to City Council. I wouldn’t want to do that to an individual. But I will tell you I’ve talked to a number of people. They are CEOs and have strong corporate backgrounds. So we are going to continue to move in that direction.”

The proposed city charter change was triggered by what some City Council members view as an untrained board making decisions about the future of JEA, decisions that ultimately ended in disaster.

Newly released city records suggest a former JEA board member, Alan Howard, began negotiations for his law firm to get paid for helping with the potential sale of JEA while he was still seated on the board. Later, he used his vote to approve looking into the sale of JEA.

According to the mayor’s office, the current JEA board, with the exception of one person, will stay on until the end of February.

If City Council doesn’t get the opportunity to appoint three members, Curry will appoint all seven board members and that board will eventually appoint the new CEO to replace Zahn.

Mayor Lenny Curry answering many questions about the JEA scandal.
Mayor Lenny Curry answering many questions about the JEA scandal.

About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.