Sources: City leaders want to use JEA as ‘piggy bank’ to help pay for stadium renovations

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax’s Ben Becker has learned some city leaders want to use JEA as a “piggy bank” to help pay for part of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium renovations, which could result in layoffs.

It comes as Becker has learned the mayor’s office and members of Jacksonville City Council are pushing JEA to increase its annual contribution to the city General Fund by $15 million, going from $123 million to $138 million per year. The money is supposed to go towards the day-to-day operations of the city.


The mayor’s office denies asking for the additional money for the stadium.

But sources at JEA and the city tell Becker various city leaders want the money to help defray Jacksonville’s massive share of the $1.4 billion price tag to renovate EverBank stadium. That share could be up to $1 billion.

The city is expected to announce its tentative stadium agreement with the Jaguars to city council on May 14.

RELATED: Government financial watchdog gives Jacksonville D grade; questions if city can afford new stadium

Becker obtained internal emails between former JEA CEO Jay Stowe and Jacksonville’s Chief Financial Officer Anna Brosche. Stowe offered to increase JEA’s annual contribution over the next three years as part of a new formula based on revenue.

It would start with an additional $357,138 in FY2024-25, then $6,271,220 in FY2025-26, followed by $13,247,439 in FY2026-27, but it appears the city wants more money and a lot sooner.

A day after Stowe announced he was leaving the utility on April 15 in what was publicly called a “mutual decision,” Brosche responded on April 16 with disappointment, not with him leaving, but his offer. “You mentioned when we met that the number would be small to start. I don’t think we were expecting it to be this small.”

RELATED: Jacksonville City Council approves $10 million for stadium designs and cost analysis

It should be noted Becker learned Stowe had decided to resign at least two weeks prior to his contribution offer to the city.

Stowe was immediately replaced by interim CEO Vickie Cavey, who stated during the introductory news conference her goal is to become “administratively lean.”

Becker is told the utility could slash up to 7% of its workforce, which is about 150 jobs to cover the potential $15 million per year increase.

RELATED: Jacksonville pension tax spared by state lawmakers, pension-funded stadium deal still on table

“We’re shorthanded now,” Ronnie Burris, the union leader for water and sewer workers at JEA, said. He’s hopeful it’s not blue-collar workers who will be taking the hit.

“I believe it’s more of the higher-level positions,” Burris said. “I’m not sure, there’s no guarantees of anything.”

Burris said he met with Cavey about her quick ascension to interim CEO and wonders about any connection to the new stadium.

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“I asked her at the last meeting, and she admits it looked funny for them to all of sudden to appoint her,” Burris said. “Kind of like they did with Aaron Zahn.”

“That gives you cause for concern?” asked Becker.

“Always,” shot back Burris.

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City Statement on JEA contribution:

“JEA’s annual contribution has never been discussed as a funding mechanism at any amount for the stadium renovation.”

City Statement on Becker public records request for all electronic and written notes/minutes during the Deegan and Curry administrations from stadium negotiation sessions/meetings from January 1, 2022-present:

“We have investigated this and there are not any official notes or minutes from either administration for stadium negotiation meetings. Personal notes, of course, are not public records.

Personal notes, which are neither shared with anyone nor filed as a permanent record, are not public records. “[U]nder chapter 119 public employees’ notes to themselves which are designed for their own personal use in remembering certain things do not fall within the definition of ‘public record.’” (e.g.) The Justice Coalition v. The First District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission, 823 So. 2d 185, 192 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002). Accord Coleman v. Austin, 521 So. 2d 247 (Fla. 1st DCA 1988), holding that preliminary handwritten notes prepared by agency attorneys and intended only for the attorneys’ own personal use are not public records; Inf. Op. to Trovato, June 2, 2009 (to the extent city commissioner has taken notes for his own personal use and such notes are not intended to perpetuate, communicate, or formalize knowledge, personal notes taken at a workshop or during a commission meeting would not be considered public records). These include notes made at a meeting that are kept by the individual solely for later recollection. However, if these non-circulated notes are placed in the file “to perpetuate knowledge,” they become public records and are subject to disclosure.”

JEA statement on city contribution negotiations:

“JEA and City leaders have not reached an agreement on an interagency contribution. Productive and collaborative discussions are continuing. Whatever terms are reached, it is not anticipated that a final agreement will result in any layoffs at JEA.”

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