Former city administrator: There was no plot to sell JEA

Testimony released Wednesday reveals what Mayor Lenny Curry and his staff may have known prior to the plan to try and sell JEA.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Testimony released Wednesday reveals what Mayor Lenny Curry and his staff may have known prior to the plan to try and sell JEA.

The new information was released from the City Council’s investigation into the scuttled and questionable sales attempt of the city-owned utility.

Curry’s former Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa was interviewed for that committee and he said there was no plot by the mayor to sell JEA outright.

Over 250 pages of statements made by Mousa reads like a history lesson into all the JEA drama.

SPECIAL SECTION | Tracking the JEA saga

Mousa was questioned by an attorney hired by the investigative committee looking into JEA. Mousa was asked what he knew about the sales plan and what the mayor might have known.

Mousa said Curry never said at any time that he was going to sell JEA.

Mousa laid out the background and events leading to the talk of the sale and he spoke about a very contentious City Council meeting in 2018 when he was asked to go under oath to talk about JEA and plans to privatize the utility — something he refused to do.

“I was insulted for all the years that I’ve worked for the city, and as many times that I presented to the city council, that they would dare to put me under oath," Mousa said.

It was months after that meeting when talk about selling JEA died down. It was also around the time when we started to see former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn enter the picture, first as a board member and then as CEO.

Mousa was asked if Curry planned that from the start.

“I don’t know if the mayor wanted Aaron to become CEO,” Mousa said.

Mousa went on to say that he did find it unusual that the JEA staff had been continuing to pursue privatization efforts subsequent to the May meeting where the board said put all the actions on hold.

Mousa retired from the Mayor’s office in June of 2019 and went on to work as a consultant. One of his clients was Florida Power & Light which was considered one of the lead contenders to buy JEA.

MORE | FP&L parent would have paid $11 billion for JEA

Mousa also said he was not aware of plans by JEA staff to make money off the controversial bonus plan called the PUP where top executives could have made hundreds of thousands of dollars if the sale went through. In fact, Mousa said had he known and was still at the mayor’s office, he would have marched across the street, sat down with Zahn and asked him what he was doing.

“I can’t make any conclusion," Mousa concluded. “I think I’ll leave that up to the federal prosecutors who are looking into the situation.”

The City Council committee hopes to wrap up its investigation soon and issue a final report either this month or in early October.

News4Jax reached out to Sam Mousa today for comment and he did not respond.

Two reports from the Inspector General of Jacksonville also came out regarding JEA and the sales bids.

One JEA employee was reprimanded for leaking some confidential documents to City Council members and JEA has made changes in how those documents are stored.

Another report came out on JEA contracts with bidders and making sure there is proper oversight.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.