Duval County

INVESTIGATES: Councilmember Dennis offered job to resign, remove opposition to botched JEA sale

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — New details shed light on the botched JEA sale, now three years later. Jacksonville City Council Member Garrett Dennis claimed he was offered a lucrative job to give up his seat on the council and his objecting vote in mid-2019.

He told Action News Jax’s Robert Grant that Matrix LLC was behind the $250,000 job offer to travel the country advocating for marijuana. The only caveat was that he had to resign from his position on council, Dennis said.

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Dennis also claimed the Alabama-based political firm was consulting for Florida Power & Light, which offered more than $11 billion to purchase JEA.

In a statement to Action News Jax, a spokesperson for FPL said in part, “We believe these latest allegations that FPL acted improperly during the JEA sales process are part of a continuing misinformation campaign by Joe Perkins – a former consultant to FPL. Mr. Perkins has leaked documents and private communications to the media in a manner that provides an incomplete picture of actual events and to purposely mislead the public and the media in an attempt to disparage our company and our employees. Mr. Perkins is in a protracted legal dispute with ex-employees from his firm, Matrix, and we believe he has leaked these documents and communications to gain personal financial leverage. In July 2019, a Matrix representative working for Joe Perkins approached FPL about a plan to offer Garrett Dennis a job working to decriminalize marijuana. FPL flatly rejected the plan and communicated our lack of interest to Joe Perkins’ team.”

On Monday, Joe Perkins, the owner of Matrix, said FPL’s statement was false. “My company, Matrix, had nothing to do with this and we are taking former employees to court over the matter,” Perkins said.

A lawsuit is filed against former Matrix employees Jeff Pitts, Greg Gilbert, April Odom, and Abigail MacIver. Action News Jax’s Robert Grant asked if Dennis’ job offer came from any of these employees, but Perkins said he did not know.

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Dennis believes it connects to his opposition to the privatization of JEA. The deal needed approval from council’s 19 members.

“I was probably the most outspoken, staunch critic of the privatization of JEA,” he said. “And it’s unfortunate that they went to so great lengths to get me off council so they could sell JEA.”

A 132-page special investigative report released in December of 2020 on JEA found that the utility company looked to pay out millions to its board members.

‘JEA’s senior leadership advanced the sale effort with intentional misrepresentations and omissions regarding JEA’s financial health [and] would have provided senior JEA executives millions of dollars in compensation in the event of the City’s sale of JEA.’

“When you think it’s bad, as they unravel — it’s worse than what we ever could have imagined,” he said. “I was offered $250,000 plus to leave so they could sell JEA or buy JEA — and think about all of those people for it. What did they get? What were they offered?”

Dennis sponsored an ordinance, which was passed in October 2019, for a special counsel to investigate, which ultimately led to the deal’s fallout.

In a statement, a JEA representative said, “Jay Stowe began as JEA Managing Director & CEO in November 2020 after working throughout his career in public utilities. He has built a team dedicated to public utilities and building community. They are committed to serving Northeast Florida and working daily to earn the community’s trust through transparency and ethical leadership. JEA’s 2,000 employees have not stopped working to serve our customers with excellence.”

The Department of Justice and FBI continue its criminal investigation into the failed JEA sale.