Bonuses offered to JEA managers rescinded

Upper management had been offered incentive to stay put if utility is sold

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With JEA discussing the possibility of privatization, there are concerns that a number of upper-management employees will jump ship before a sale goes through.

So the city-owned utility offered those managers a huge bonus to stay put if JEA is sold to a private company, but the offer was later rescinded. 

A letter dated Jan. 16 was sent to 67 upper-management employees, telling them that, if JEA goes up for sale and they stay with the utility, they will be given a bonus that could equal their yearly salary, plus regular pay. For some, that could be more than $100,000 -- if not more.

But JEA later told its top managers the offer was invalid.

On Friday, a new letter was sent out to upper management, saying the previous offer was "found to be non-binding and unenforceable under Florida law."

READ: Rescission of Retention Incentive Agreement Letters sent Feb. 2

If the 67 upper-management staffers has received a bonus, News4Jax learned, it could have cost the utility $15 million. 

The new letter came out after the mayor was upset to learn about the bonus offer and told reporters Thursday that he was going to deal with it from the top. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said the first letter was sent without the knowledge of city leaders. 

"The idea that 60-something people have been promised some sort of parachute is problematic," Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Thursday. "I'm not pleased with it and I have my team working to resolve it."

In the past, Curry has said he supports reviewing the idea of going private. But nothing has been set in stone.

RELATED: With eye on privatization, JEA chairman asks CEO to evaluate utility

The sale of JEA could mean a huge lump payment of millions of dollars to the city. But it also would mean changes in who controls electric and water rates. Any change would have a major impact on the more than 2,000 employees.

City staff said there is much to be debated in a possible sale because the city would lose the lump sum payment that JEA makes every year. 

After the first letters were sent in January, Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee Chair Garrett Dennis said he decided to hold a special meeting next week with council members to discuss the idea of selling JEA.

"Not just selling the most valuable asset that we have in our city but, also, there is a strong possibility that we could lose local control," Dennis said. 

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