JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A federal grand jury heard testimony Thursday from former JEA officials during the investigation into the attempted sale of the utility that could have landed management millions of dollars in bonuses.
The sale was halted, and major management changes began in December 2019
Now the grand jury and federal investigators are looking to see if anyone should be charged with a crime.
Some subpoenas have been issued to key players, and now some are starting to be questioned, including former JEA CEO Paul McElroy, who left the utility right before the sales talks began.
McElroy would not talk about what he said Thursday morning to the grand jury. But as he left the federal courthouse in downtown Jacksonville, he did comment on the process.
“I received a subpoena. I responded to that and answered a number of questions honestly, truthfully and accurately,” McElroy said. “And I’m going to respect the process at this point in time and have no further comment on that.”
McElroy was not the CEO when the attempted sale took place in 2019. He preceded Aaron Zahn, the CEO who was fired along with some other upper managers over the attempted sale. McElroy took that job over again for about six months last year before a new, permanent CEO was hired.
Former JEA board member Husein Cumber also testified Thursday. He did not want to talk about his testimony or respond to any questions.
A former JEA vice president who oversaw the electric operations, Mike Brost, was also questioned Thursday. Last year he told a Jacksonville City Council investigative committee looking into JEA that he believed Zahn and other management were selling a false story about JEA’s doom and gloom and why the utility should be sold.
When asked Thursday how he feels about the process, Brost said: “Well, the City Council had its involvement in its meetings, and I think it did some good work. But the federal process is the federal process, and it’s been pretty quiet.”
The reason it’s quiet is because grand jury testimony is secret. It’s part of the federal investigation into JEA. It’s expected the grand jury will look at the controversial bonus plan that could have made managers hundreds of thousands of dollars each and who knew what and when during the sales negotiations
The grand jury will decide, with the help of federal prosecutors, what charges, if any, would come out involving the attempted sale and if any of the former upper management would go to trial.
There’s no indication of how long this process will take.