Duval County

Jacksonville Mayor, ousted JEA CEO have had more than 50 phone calls

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Action News Jax investigation reveals Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and ousted JEA CEO Aaron Zahn exchanged more than 50 cell phone calls in a 14 month period during the now halted process to sell the public utility.

RELATED STORY: Emergency JEA board meeting scheduled after Jacksonville Mayor says invitation to negotiate ‘needs to be pulled’

The calls came as the Mayor publicly praised the JEA board for exploring privatization, but he never, at least publicly, took an official position on an actual sale.

Action News Jax requested phone records from JEA. Our investigation found a pattern of calls on or near dates of JEA news related to the proposed sale, board meetings and the utilities new headquarters

Here is what our investigation revealed:

  • 51 calls between Curry and Zahn August 2018 and October 2019
  • Curry called Zahn 23 times
  • Zahn called Curry 26 times
  • 2 call waits

August 21, 2018 JEA board meeting

  • August 20, 2018 Zahn called Curry

September 18, 2018 JEA board meeting

  • September 17, 2018 Zahn called Curry

September 21, 2018 JEA procurement appeals board hearing for RFQ 94262 drone-based storm damage assessment for transmission systems

  • September 21, 2018 Curry calls Zahn

September 27, 2018 JEA request for proposal meeting to award contracts

  • September 27, 2018 Curry calls Zahn, Zahn calls Curry
  • September 26, 2018 Curry calls Zahn

November 27, 2018 JEA Board meeting Zahn named CEO

November 28, 2018 City Council passes a measure to approve any sale of JEA

  • November 24, 2018 Zahn calls Curry
  • November 28, 2018 Zahn calls Curry twice
  • November 29, 2018 Curry calls Zahn once and once call wait
  • November 30, 2018 Curry calls Zahn

December 4, 2018 Dupont report released on valuation of JEA

  • December 4, 2018 Zahn calls Curry

December 20, 2018 JEA request for proposal meeting to award contracts

  • December 20, 2018 Curry calls Zahn

January 1, 2019 Unknown

  • January 1, 2019 Zahn calls Curry twice

January 17, 2019 JEA request for proposal meeting to award contracts

  • January 17, 2019 Two calls from Curry, one call from Zahn

February 21, 2019: JEA awards committee reviews formal bids and proposal awards documentation to approve contract awards

  • February 21, 2019: Zahn calls Curry, Curry calls Zahn

April 2, 2019 JEA new building vote

  • April 3, 2019 Four calls between Zahn and Curry

May 28,2019: JEA board meeting

  • May 28,2019: Zahn calls Curry twice

August 2, 2019 JEA solicitation package goes out

  • August 7, 2019 Curry calls Zahn

August 13, 2019 Progressive design-build services for the highlands water treatment plant (wtp) advanced treatment system

  • August 13, 2019 Zahn calls Curry

August 21, 2019: JEA building designs submitted to downtown development review board

  • August 19, 2019 Zahn calls Curry
  • August 21, 2019 Four calls between Zahn and Curry

September 4, 2019 Zahn and Curry news conference about Hurricane Dorian

  • September 4, 2019 Zahn calls Curry twice

October 11, 2019 St. Johns County is requesting information to consider taking over JEA utilities within its boundaries.

October 14, 2019 JEA announce how many companies will advance to the negotiations phase.

  • October 12, 2019 Curry calls Zahn
  • October 14, 2019 Curry calls Zahn and Zahn calls Curry
  • October 15, 2019 Curry calls Zahn

October 23, 2019 City council approves a bill that sets aside nearly $2,000,000 to help understand the process of potentially selling JEA

  • October 23, 2019 Zahn calls Curry
  • October 24, 2019 Zahn calls Curry twice and once call wait

Action News Jax has submitted a request with JEA for phone records of Aaron Zahn from October 25, 2019 until present time.

Action news Jax emailed the Mayor’s office to comment on if the Mayor did not support privatization of JEA, why were there so many calls between he and Zahn, and secondly if the Mayor and Zahn are personal friends. Mayor Curry appointed Zahn to the board in February 2018.

A spokesperson for Mayor Curry sent Action News Jax a statement:

“No idea if that number is accurate, we haven’t examined the records… but that averages out to less than four calls a month. Mayor Curry runs the City of Jacksonville while Aaron Zahn operated the city owned utility. It’s important for them to speak from time to time to have basic conversations about city operations. That includes hurricane preparedness and a number of other things.”

JEA’s Interim CEO Melissa Dykes released this video on the company’s YouTube page ahead of the emergency board meeting.

In it, Dykes says invitation to negotiate process started for the right reasons, but acknowledged concerns from the public.

“Our role as a community owned utility should be to unite our community around essential services that touch all our lives not to divide. So the process must now end for the right reasons by ending the ITN and focusing on what’s truly important for our utility,” explains Dykes.