Jacksonville city council committee to investigate failed JEA sale

Investigation into JEA sale

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In the next two weeks, the Jacksonville City Council committee to investigate the failed sale of JEA is expected to meet for the first time.

Council president Scott Wilson announced the new committee Monday, vowing to leave no stone unturned.

JEA ratepayers like Daryl Gottlieb are pleased to see an investigation led by the City Council.

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“As long as it gets done, and there’s true accountability for those folks who were involved,” Gottlieb said.

“I am forming a special council committee to investigate every aspect, turn over every rock, look behind every curtain, and bring all that we do not know and what we deserve to know, into daylight for everyone to see,” Wilson said.

Wilson will serve as needed on this four-person committee, chaired by Rory Diamond, a former federal prosecutor.

Randy DeFoor and Brenda Priestly Jackson, both also lawyers, are also members.

“Our job is to see if anything unethical happened, bad policy, bad choices, bad leadership, and it’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Diamond said.

A tumultuous month at JEA has seen its then-CEO Aaron Zahn fired over a controversial bonus program that could’ve cost taxpayers $300 million.

JEA was also ordered to stop seeking bidders in a sale, and the utility is the subject of a federal investigation.

City Council has no charging power, but Wilson said the committee’s goal will be to produce a public report about what happened and who may have been responsible within the next 90 to 120 days.

Wilson said this committee will have subpoena power for witnesses and documents through the rules committee.

“Jacksonville sort of has a reputation of kind of old school, local politics, so any extra degree or oversight would, I think, be welcome,” Gottlieb said.

JEA released this statement Monday in response to the announcement of the committee.

‘We appreciate City Council President Wilson’s decision to move forward with the investigation and JEA looks forward to working side-by-side with him and his colleagues to provide any and all information pertinent to their review. Additionally, Interim CEO Melissa Dykes will be adding a discussion item to the JEA Board meeting agenda next Tuesday, January 28th that will seek to ensure that any future conversation concerning structural changes in the operations of JEA which require legislative consideration, are done in cooperation with the City Council and community. We are looking to set a course where JEA leaders work collaboratively with the City Council and Administration. CEO Dykes has already said there will not be any privatization effort during her tenure but requiring future JEA leaders to work step-by-step with the City Council, Administration and community stakeholders will be another measure to increase transparency. Additionally, CEO Dykes will be holding town hall meetings in every City Council district in the coming weeks to seek community input and rebuild community trust through open public meetings.’