JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The chairman of the Jacksonville Electrical Authority board said he was troubled by the allegations that a board member was pressured to support the mayor’s pension reform plan in order to stay on the board.
“If indeed this is the case, then it is troubling on multiple levels. I have been involved in this community since the early 1970s and I have never known anything like this to be so blatant,” said Mike Hightower, JEA board chairman.
Separately, the Duval County Republican Party asked Governor Rick Scott to call for an investigation into the claim by Peter Bower, who told his fellow board members about the incident on Tuesday. But the governor’s office is declining to get involved.
“This is a local matter not within the jurisdiction of Florida’s executive branch,” wrote Press Secretary Jackie Schutz in a statement to Action News.
Mayor Alvin Brown wants JEA to contribute an additional $40 million each year to the city, to help with the city’s unfunded pension liability. Brown has committed to help JEA find revenue and savings opportunities to offset the potential costs. JEA’s board would need to sign off on the plan.
City Council President Bill Gulliford said he will bring Bower's reconfirmation up for a vote on Tuesday even though a committee voted to defer it at the mayor’s request. The Mayor’s office later requested that Bower’s reconfirmation move forward.
“It doesn't have anything to do with partisan, Republican, Democrat or whatever,” Gulliford said. “It's about basic human character.”
Hightower told Action News that despite the controversy the board will give the mayor’s plan full consideration.
“They will look at it. They will do their due diligence. You can be sure it will done objectively and it will be by the numbers,” he said.
Bower was appointed as chair of the Finance and Audit committee for the board -- the same committee that will take the first look at the mayor’s plan.