22 subpeonas issued in City Council probe of JEA

Special Jacksonville City Council committee investigating failed privatization efforts

Special Jacksonville City Council committee also interviewed JEA executives, one former and one current

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Companies who submitted bids to purchase Jacksonville’s city-owned electric, water and sewer utility along with the investment banks awarded large contracts to handle the sale were issued subpoenas this week by a Jacksonville City Council committee investigating the JEA’s effort to privatize itself.

Rory Diamond, Randy DeFoor and Brenda Priestly Jackson were appointed to look into the flawed effort -- much of which took place in private and there are accusations that false information was given to both the JEA’s board and the public.

Committee Chairman Diamond said from the beginning of the probe earlier this year he planned to subpoena the bidders and find out who their lobbyists were.

Meeting via a Zoom video conference on Tuesday, The Rules Committee unanimously approved issuing 22 subpoenas.

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Council members have expressed their frustration to JEA lawyers that their public records requests from more than a month ago have produced zero documents so far.

“Honest to God, this is embarrassing to you and JEA,” DeFoor said last month. “It proves leadership doesn’t care about the public and transparency.”Following its first meeting last month, the special committee sent more than 80 public records requests to JEA, including a request that asks for communications between former CEO Aaron Zahn, Mayor Lenny Curry and former and current members of the mayor’s staff. The special committee is requesting documents created or distributed between December 2017 until the present.

Diamond, chairman of the committee, called the delay “nuts."

“If I wanted to drag this out, this is exactly what I would do,” he said Monday. “If they don’t roll out this week we will issue subpoenas ourselves. If not, we will get the documents ourselves.”

Many of the records requests have to do with the “PUP," the Long-term Incentive Plan known as the Performance Unit Plan presented to, and approved by, the JEA Board on July 23, 2019. The controversial and now-canceled plan could have netted Zahn and others payouts totaling hundreds of millions of dollars if a sale had gone through.

The committee plan to look through documents to see if JEA leadership started looking into the potential privatization of the city-owned utility before it was approved by the JEA Board of Directors.

“And we want the deposition of Melissa Dykes. She is the interim CEO and she’s the only one of the senior leadership team we haven’t heard from yet,” Diamon said at the previous committee meeting. “She needs to be deposed. We need to get this thing moving.”

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.