DOJ asks JEA scandal investigators to stop interviewing key witnesses

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Department of Justice is asking city leaders to stop part of their investigation into the attempted sale of JEA fearing that the local investigation will interfere with the federal probe.

This comes as city leaders are facing a tough deadline to get part of their proposed rule changes for JEA on the ballot for November.

City leaders want to prohibit JEA from exploring or investigating any type of sale. But there’s confusion on whether a rule change like this has to be put to the voters. If it does, City Council members have a limited amount of time to get it on the ballot.

Attorneys working for the City Council members tasked with investigating JEA said they are closer to finding out what led to top executives standing to make millions off the sale of JEA.

“We think we know now what happened between 2015 and 2019,” said attorney Steve Busey.

It comes as the Department of Justice is requesting Jacksonville leaders not to interview key witnesses in the attempted sale of JEA. City leaders also worry about the mounting legal fees tied to their investigation. Already the law firm hired on to help said it has reached nearly $700,000 of its $1.8 million budget.

“As an attorney, I step back and look at the information we have and I see two holes. We haven’t interviewed anybody with the administration, and that’s a problem. Two, we haven’t interviewed anyone who was on the board when Zahn was hired,” said Randy DeFoor, City Council member.

Despite the request from federal investigators, the Special Investigatory Committee looking into JEA is requesting interviews with a handful of people, including the Chief Administrative Officer for the Mayor’s office.

DeFoor also plans to propose new charter changes tomorrow or next week prohibiting JEA from exploring and investigating a sale of the utility. She is trying to meet a July 28 deadline set by the Supervisor of Elections to get the charter change on the November ballot.

It’s still not clear whether the question needs to go on the ballot at all. City council members tell News4Jax it would be necessary if they were re-allocating power from the Mayor’s office, but they are not. They are requesting guidance from city attorneys.

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