Committee investigating mayoral candidate Councilmember LeAnna Cumber starts its work

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville city council special committee is requesting more information on Republican mayoral candidate Councilmember LeAnna Cumber’s (R-District 5) failure to disclose her husband’s ties to a bidder during the attempted sale of JEA.


The investigation was sparked after Action News Jax obtained emails last month showing Husein Cumber was involved with a bidder pitching a concession agreement to operate the utility.

What the committee is asking for:

The committee is requesting JEA Public Power Partners update its response to a subpoena, issued during the initial investigation into the attempted JEA sale, where the bidder indicated it had not hired Councilmember Cumber’s husband Husein.

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The committee is asking Councilmember Cumber to update her conflict-of-interest disclosure form, where she indicated she had no conflicts regarding the attempted sale of the utility.

Councilmember Cumber is also being asked to appear before the committee to provide any additional information.

Finally, the committee is requesting JEA, the City of Jacksonville and the general public to provide any documents or information relevant to Husein’s involvement with JEA PPP’s bid.

Read: Jacksonville councilmembers raise concerns about investigation into Councilmember LeAnna Cumber

Committee Chair Rory Diamond (R-District 13) said he hopes the committee will be able to clear the air without issuing subpoenas, which is a possible next step if Councilmember Cumber or other parties don’t comply by February 20th.

“I wish she would. It would be so easy just to clear the air. Here’s what I did wrong, here’s what I did right, here’s what happened. And then we can all go home, but you have to be honest, you have to clear the air, you have to own up to it,” Diamond said.

Debate Over Investigatory Authority:

Councilmember Cumber’s attorney Daniel Bean made it clear she wouldn’t be complying with the request and has argued the committee doesn’t have the authority to conduct the investigation.

“City Council President is not vested with the power to direct a committee to prosecute another sitting Council Member or Council Member’s spouse or their purported actions or inactions with respect to a voluntary disclosure “request” that had no legal or ethical authority,” Bean wrote in a letter sent to the committee’s four members.

That argument was rejected by John Philips with the Office of General Counsel, who spoke before the committee Wednesday.

“There’s no legal prohibition on doing it, which once again is a completely separate question from whether this is a good idea or not,” Philips said.

Read: ‘Blatant weaponization of city hall:’ Mayoral candidate LeAnna Cumber decries council investigation

Committee member Michael Boylan (R-District 6) argued it’s not a good idea, due to political optics.

“The two gentlemen, with all due respect, who went to the media and said I want an investigation, are now the judge and jury in this process,” Boylan said.

Boylan pushed for the investigation to be handled by the ethics commission or the inspector general, but the request was rejected.

Diamond said the investigation may eventually be referred to an outside entity, but argued the committee should take the lead because the issue in question was directly related to the work of the original special committee investigating the failed sale of JEA.

“Now that work has been undermined by one of our members maybe. So, we are the appropriate entity to reignite the SIC, to go make sure that we got everything we were supposed to get and then turn it over to the ethics committee, then turn it over to the right investigatory bodies,” Diamond said.

Mayoral Race Optics:

The mayoral race is another factor playing into the question of ‘should’ the committee lead the charge on the investigation.

The JEA scandal has been a weapon wielded by both Cumber and her top-funded Republican challenger Daniel Davis.

Cumber claimed on Monday the city council special committee is also being used as a political weapon.

“This weaponization of government is, I would say, probably the dirtiest mayoral campaign in this city,” Cumber said in her Monday press conference.

The optics weren’t lost on Boylan either.

“We’ve got a mayoral race going on and you’ve got someone out there who’s being quote-unquote investigated,” Boylan said.

Diamond claims his motivations regarding the investigation have nothing to do with the mayoral race.

Read: LeAnna Cumber officially files paperwork to run for Jacksonville’s Mayoral Race

“I gave money to both LeAnna Cumber and Daniel Davis to be clear,” Diamond said.

Campaign finance documents show Diamond’s political action committee donated $20,000 to Davis’ PAC.

It’s the largest single donation made by Diamond to any candidate.

But records also show neither Diamond or any of his PACs ever directly donated to Cumber’s campaign.

Diamond later explained he donated $11,000 to two unrelated PACs, but the money ultimately went to Cumber’s JAX First PAC.

“Those PACs were raising money for Cumbers PAC so I donated in that effort,” Diamond said in a text message.

However, records show only one of those entities ever donated to Cumber.

It was a single $10,000 donation to the JAX First PAC made by Floridians for Economic Advancement one day after Diamond donated $5,000 to the group.

While Diamond hasn’t officially endorsed either candidate, Action News Jax obtained a flier advertising Diamond as a host of a Davis fundraising event scheduled for Thursday.

Who Knew What When:

On Tuesday, Councilmembers Randy DeFoor (R-District 14) and Brenda Priestly Jackson (D-District 10) called into question the timing of the investigation.

Both served on the original JEA investigatory committee and both claimed they were aware of Husein’s ties to JEA PPP during that first investigation.

“The anonymous bidders were not necessarily anonymous to us as we were doing the work,” Priestly Jackson said.

We asked Diamond, who also chaired the original investigatory committee, whether he was aware of Husein’s involvement with JEA PPP during the course of the investigation.

He chalked it up to rumor.

Read: Jacksonville City Council reopens special investigation committee on Cumber ties to failed JEA sale

“So, there’s lots of rumors about who’s on different bidding teams. We had no documents to show that anybody who was related to anybody on our council was on a bid team. So, we didn’t follow that path. Had we got a document like that, we would have gone down that path,” Diamond said.

But Priestly Jackson questioned why Husein’s involvement wasn’t made an issue until Cumber became a mayoral candidate.

“Should she have disclosed it? Absolutely. But should the question have come two years ago? Probably,” Priestly Jackson said.

At the end of the day, Diamond argues the citizens of Jacksonville have a right to get answers.

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“The JEA scandal was the biggest one in the history of the City of Jacksonville and if one of our own members was dishonest with the investigation into that scandal, that’s hugely problematic. I think the people of Jacksonville ought to know the truth,” Diamond said.