Jacksonville City Council president: I won't rush the sale of JEA

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Mayor Lenny Curry has called for a special Jacksonville City Council meeting Wednesday to talk about the possible sale of JEA.

City Council President Anna Brosche said the mayor asked for “emergency legislation” to move forward with selling the utility.

As many JEA employees worry about their futures and customers question possible rate hikes, Action News Jax has obtained a letter from JEA CEO Paul McElroy to Brosche.

In the letter, McElroy asked for a special City Council meeting on Wednesday. JEA is expected to distribute its final report on the valuation.

“I’m not going to be a part of rushing it,” Brosche said.

On Monday, Brosche denied the request, calling the action "premature" and stating, "the City Council will be deliberate and transparent in its due diligence."

“The mayor’s office requested that I consider emergency legislation to approve next steps to actually go to market and receive bids, and Mr. McElroy happened to request the form of a meeting in which that would be allowed to take place,” Brosche said. “I was a little bit surprised that Mr. McElroy knew exactly what kind of meeting to ask for."

Curry said Brosche is being irresponsible and making false accusations by saying he is pushing for the sale of JEA.

“The idea or suggestion that my administration would try to do something of this magnitude -- anything, frankly -- without input from the public, is irresponsible for the council president to make that allegation,” Curry said.

Part of the problem for the City Council is that there have been no answers about how the process will work -- even if the city has the authority to sell the utility without a public referendum.

City Councilman John Crescimbeni said he asked the Office of General Counsel for those details in a public records request two months ago.

“I submitted mine on the 6th of December, and I’m still waiting for a response,” Crescimbeni said.

Action News Jax submitted a similar request to the Office of General Counsel in the last two weeks, and we’re still waiting too.

Action News Jax was the first to tell you about letters that JEA sent to employees in leadership positions, offering incentives if they stay on after a sale. The Office of General Counsel responded immediately, forcing JEA to rescind those offers.

Curry bypassed the authority of the council president and called his own City Council meeting for Wednesday. He said the purpose of Wednesday’s special meeting is to go over the final report from JEA.

Curry said that, in addition to the range of valuation for JEA, the report will also include the positives and negatives of the potential privatization of the company.

Since the report will be made public, the mayor said he wants to make sure the taxpayers and City Council all get the information at the same time.

“The idea that there’s next steps or some kind of rush is being created by certain people for whatever the agenda,” Curry said.