JEA leaders deny ‘coup’ in CEO change amid OIG investigation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A JEA leader is denying that the series of events that led to an interim CEO at the utility was a coup, amid a City of Jacksonville Office of Inspector General investigation first reported Monday by Action News Jax’s Ben Becker.

The JEA board of directors approved a one-year, $560,000 contract for interim CEO Vickie Cavey on Tuesday to replace former CEO Jay Stowe. It’s as questions remain about the hiring process, including possible Sunshine Law violations and Charter interpretations.


There are also separate questions about Cavey’s resume and her involvement with the troubled Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant.

Becker first reported Monday that multiple sources told him the Inspector General is examining the actions of the JEA board.

“I’ve spoken to people who describe this a coup, what do you say?” Becker asked JEA Board Chair Joe DiSalvo.

“No completely false,” DiSalvo said. “Stowe did nothing wrong. We had a difference of opinion on capital projects, simple as that. You can make a big deal out of it, but it was as simple as that.”

RELATED: Sources: OIG investigating hiring of JEA CEO for possible state and local violations

“How did she become a candidate if there were no discussions beforehand?” Becker asked.

DiSalvo said he had no knowledge of prior talks before Cavey was first offered the position on April 15, but later, Cavey did admit board member Bobby Stein came to her to gauge her interest in the job. The Inspector General will delve into who knew what and when.

Cavey spent 32 years at the utility, including as Director of Strategy Development and Execution, and came out of retirement in March to serve as a liaison to the board.

RELATED: JEA CEO Jay Stowe resigns, Vickie Cavey selected as interim CEO

Her resume from 2001-2012 said she was “responsible for negotiation and management of all purchased power agreements” for JEA. It would appear to include the Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia. The contract did not have a cap and turned out to be seven years behind schedule and will cost JEA customers approximately $5 billion.

Cavey: “I did not negotiate Vogtle.”

Becker: “According to your resume you did, is your resume not accurate?”

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Separately, the Inspector General will also examine her hiring as it relates to a city council ordinance that passed in 2020. It changed JEA’s Charter requiring a Managing Director/CEO to have five years of executive experience with a utility.

Cavey’s resume indicates she has never held an executive title at JEA like Vice President or Chief.

A JEA organizational chart from 2016 shows she had no direct reports.

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“She has the right experience to do this job,” DiSalvo said.

Becker pressed Cavey for answers as she was leaving the meeting.

“Vickie, I would like to know how you are eligible for this position if you have never had executive-level experience?” Becker asked. Cavey never responded as she walked away into a restricted area.

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