JEA’s chief administrative officer placed on paid leave

Herschel Vinyard was a final link in leadership to the attempted sale of utility

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JEA Chief Administrative Officer Herschel Vinyard has been placed on paid administrative leave, the utility confirmed Tuesday.

Interim JEA Chief Executive Officer Paul McElroy wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon to other senior leadership team members that Vinyard had been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately. The email did not provide further information as to why.

“First of all, it’s no surprise that Herschel Vinyard is on leave, and quite honestly, I don’t expect him to be back,” said News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney of Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute.

Mullaney said he believes a decision is being weighed on firing Vinyard with cause or without cause.

Vinyard, who has served as the utility’s chief administrative officer since April 2019, was a final link in leadership to last year’s scuttled attempt to sell the city-owned utility and a terminated bonus plan.

A federal subpoena seeking records related to the attempted sale included 50 requests, some of which focused on specific JEA executives such as former CEO Aaron Zahn, former interim CEO Melissa Dykes, former Chief Financial Officer Ryan Wannemacher and Vinyard.

“Those were the top four. That was the top leadership, and they were very much in the mix when it came to the sale and to the bonuses. Those two items, of course, are under investigation by a federal grand jury,” Mullaney said.

The federal investigation is separate from a Jacksonville City Council probe spearheaded by Councilman Rory Diamond, a former federal prosecutor.

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