JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is living free of charge in a home owned by JEA.
It's a prime piece of real estate overlooking the St. Johns River. A quick search of the property appraiser's website shows there's a backyard pool and even a fireplace.
But the person living there isn't paying rent.
JEA customers are stuck with the bill.
But JEA customers don't get to use the waterfront mansion they helped buy in 2011 for $590,000.
Instead, a JSO police officer, hand-picked by JEA, is living there, free of charge.
JEA spokesperson Gerri Boyce said JEA bought the riverfront property for a water project. After the sale, the needs of the project changed.
"We kept the piece of property to to ensure that if project had a hang up, we could use this piece of property," said Boyce.
Boyce told Action News last week JEA needed security to protect the property while the project was being finished.
Since May 2011, a JSO officer has been living in this half million dollar waterfront home, free of charge.
JEA customers paid $15,000 in utility bills for the last two years.
It's apparently legal. Representatives from JSO, the city ethics, and JEA all confirm this type of arrangement doesn't violate laws or policies.
A JSO spokeswoman said she wouldn't answer our questions on camera, only by email. Further, the JSO spokeswoman says she can't comment on where an officer lives because of a state law.
She did answer several questions about secondary employment, which is the kind of work officers perform at local banks and supermarkets.
Secondary work is governed by a JSO policy. Basically, it's OK as long as it doesn't create a conflict of interest with their jobs as police officers.
To customers, an officer living in a waterfront mansion for free is a conflict.
"If we're paying rent, they should be paying rent. Bottom line," said Jeramy Ford.
We asked JEA what they thought taxpayers would say about this plan.
"I think they'll be thrilled to know we did a cost analysis and this is the best way, and option for us to maintain the property and saving our customers money," said Boyce.
Per JSO policy, secondary employment is a privilege, not a right. The employee must be in good standing to be eligible for secondary employment jobs. JEA told Action News it is approaching the end of the water project. As soon as it finishes final tests on the system, JEA says the house will go up for sale.
JEA said this is the only property it owns where an officer lives rent free.