Interim CEO of JEA ‘pleased with the optimism’ during transition

Paul McElroy leading utility through time of scrutiny from investigations

Interim JEA CEO Paul McElroy is leading the utility through a time of scrutiny from local and federal investigations.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Interim JEA CEO Paul McElroy is leading the utility through a time of scrutiny from local and federal investigations.

McElroy was CEO until two years ago when he left the city-owned utility. Two weeks ago, the JEA Board of Directors brought him back to lead JEA until a permanent replacement is found.

Since his return, McElroy has been suggesting that the board make other leadership changes.

"What we are doing is building a team, and I brought in some retired executives to help during this period of time and to really make sure everyone is continuing to provide great service for our customers, McElroy told News4Jax on Wednesday. “An ongoing evaluation continues and you will hear more in the future.”

One of the changes involves suspended JEA Chief Administrative Officer Herschel Vinyard, who was part of the management team that is currently under investigation by the Jacksonville City Council and the feds surrounding the attempt to sell JEA last year and a plan that could have led to big bonuses for the management team.

WATCH: Jim Piggott’s interview with Paul McElroy | SPECIAL SECTION: Tracking the JEA saga

Vinyard is now on paid leave and has refused to resign until a deal is worked out with city lawyers and JEA and his attorney.

News4Jax received a statement from the city’s lead attorney, Jason Gabriel, which says: “We will be conducting a thorough, fair and impartial investigation of Mr. Vinyard on behalf of JEA.”

Due to the investigation, McElroy can’t talk directly about Vinyard. News4Jax asked him how he is addressing these types of issues involving employees and whether there is turmoil in the transition.

“I have been very very pleased with the optimism expressed by rank and file,” McElroy said.

Other concerns looming over JEA involve the matter of yearly bonuses JEA management and employees receive. And there is the question of the high paid severance packages some outgoing staff receive. That is being addressed by the City Council committee looking into the future of JEA.

“The City Council has two committees going on and certainly one committee looking at the future of JEA,” McElroy said. “This issue has surfaced out of that and there is some pending legislation that was introduced last week, and we will have continuing dialogue on that. I don’t think there is a decision at this point."

While many in Jacksonville who are preparing to get back to work as the city reopens from the coronavirus shutdown, JEA is hoping to open its doors again by the end of the month.

“The soft opening will be opening the facilities, but we’re not pulling everyone back in. Those that can continue to work some will stay in the remote telecommute mode. Others will come in and shift,” McElroy said.

JEA will hold a special board meeting on Thursday when board members will discuss the issue of the new headquarters that will be built downtown. It is expected to be scaled back somewhat.

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