JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The JEA Board of Directors on Tuesday appointed Paul McElroy, the former CEO of the city-owned utility, to lead JEA until a permanent replacement is found.
The appointment comes after the JEA board voted last week to remove interim CEO Melissa Dykes. The senior leadership team that she was part of is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
McElroy, who has a 16-year history with JEA as the former CFO and CEO of the utility, is credited by many on the board with significantly reducing JEA’s debt. McElroy resigned as JEA’s CEO in April 2018, before former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn was hired.
During Tuesday’s special board meeting, McElroy explained that he came out of retirement to restore trust and ethics to JEA.
“Over the last two years, that’s been documented and a matter of public record and very disappointing to me,” McElroy said. “There was a core breakdown and I believe it’s more in the upper levels of JEA, it’s not in the rank and file and the folks that do the hard work within the organization.”
He shared similar sentiments in an interview he gave to attorneys who were assisting the special Jacksonville City Council committee investigating the failed attempt to sell of JEA.
In his interview on March 26, attorneys with Smith, Hulsey and Busey said, “Paul McElroy gave a precise, detailed and compelling rebuttal to the claim that JEA will fail unless it privatizes. McElroy also called the Performance Unit Plan disgraceful, greedy and entirely inappropriate for a public utility.”
The performance unit plan, or PUP, would have acted like a stock purchase plan. As City Council Auditor Kyle Billy found, it was uncapped and had the potential to award millions to investors in the event of a sale of JEA.
McElroy’s contract as a full-time employee will run for six months. According to the board, McElroy will get $280,183 for working six months from next Monday, May 11, to Nov. 8.
There is some concern around McElroy’s drawing from his pension while getting a salary. Chairman John Baker suggested there is an exception for a former employee to come back if it’s no longer than six months, which is why McElroy is only set to serve as the head of the utility for the limited amount of time. But the six-month contract puts JEA on a short timeframe to find a new permanent CEO.
The naming of McElroy wasn’t the only JEA development on Tuesday. Stephanie Burch, Mayor Lenny Curry’s deputy chief administrative officer, declined to testify for the Special Investigatory Committee on JEA.