Councilmember says JEA committee targeting mayoral candidate Cumber about ‘finding the truth’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A special Jacksonville City Council committee is moving forward with its investigation of councilmember LeAnna Cumber who is running for mayor.

She and fellow republican Danial Davis have been attacking each other over their involvement in the attempted JEA sale.

The council committee is looking to see if Cumber withheld information when she was questioned by the council in the past concerning her and her husband’s involvement in the JEA saga.

The new committee had its first meeting Wednesday morning where members laid out the ground rules.

It is unusual that the council is investigating one of its own and the city attorney said it might not be a good idea, but they can do it.

Many have said it’s all political since Cumber is running for mayor.

According to the Florida Times-Union, this follows an accusation that Cumber did not disclose to the committee investigating the failed attempt to sell JEA that her husband, Husein Cumber, was involved in advising a company that put in one of the bids. The T-U reported that Husein Cumber helped a private equity firm when it brought together a group of companies, JEA Public Power Partners, that offered to pay a concession fee for the right to manage JEA while the utility remained city-owned.

The committee is made of four council members, including Rory Diamond who is the chair.

“This is about finding the truth,” Diamond said. “I wish there was not a mayor’s race involved in this because this would be so easy for the public to understand. We are just trying to validate the investigation we did into JEA originally. We need to make sure the members of our council are honest in investigations in the future.”

Cumber was not at the first meeting on Wednesday and made it clear she is not going to cooperate with the committee, but they are going to ask that she show up. Cumber’s lawyer wrote to city attorneys saying her disclosure was accurate and went on to say the council president is not vested with the expressed authority to convene a committee to prosecute a council member or her family member.

The committee will meet again later this month and it could go on for some time even past the election.

According to Diamond, the information they gather will be turned over to the state ethics commission and what happens after that is unknown.

Councilman Rory Diamond during the first JEA meeting looking into councilwoman LeAnna Cumber. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

One member of the committee believes they should not be the ones looking into a fellow member.

City Council members Brenda Priestly Jackson and Randy Defoor attended a meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss the change, work and legislative recommendations results from the Special Investigatory Committee on JEA matters.

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Some members of the city council who support Davis want to see this investigation, while others claim the council is just getting caught in the middle of a political game.

Jackson and DeFoor called the meeting on Tuesday to basically explain that, suggesting the committee is taking the wrong approach. They headed up the original Special Investigatory Committee, which concluded more than two years ago.

In a nutshell, they don’t believe council members should be investigating other council members. They’re also concerned that the two members who made a complaint, Republican councilmen Diamond and Nick Howland, are leading the committee.

Council member Joyce Morgan, a Democrat, attended the Tuesday afternoon meeting.

“The most difficult part of this for me was that after allegations were lodged against one of our colleagues, the two people that lodged the allegations, that did not seem like that was the proper thing to do, and it did not seem that that would produce a fair and impartial outcome,” Morgan said.

It’s the same concern councilmember Michael Boylan expressed

“I am very concerned about our authority to do this not only from the vantage point of saying we can do that, but this is a can of worms that we want to open, because there are other options in pursuing the truth,” Boylan said.

A city lawyer was asked if this is something they really should be doing.

“We are not finding anything in our research that this can’t legally be done,” city attorney John Phillips said.

The board is going ahead with its investigation but it still is a concern for some like councilmember Sam Newby who is on the committee.

“It is looking like this is a witch hunt. I want to make sure it’s not a witch hunt because, I know it’s not, but sometimes perception is greater than reality,” Newby said.

Councilman Aaron Bowman sent a statement to Bowman that News4JAX obtained Tuesday night. It reads:

And while they laid out the groundwork on how to proceed on Wednesday, this committee could go on for some time. They are asking, not demanding, information from one company that Husein Cumber was involved with and asking for more information from JEA.

About the Author:

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