Audio recordings and thousands of pages of transcripts from interviews with the JEA senior leadership team, both former and current, have been released over the past several days, shedding new light on the controversial plans that were being prepared by former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn behind the scenes.
The documents make it clear Zahn wanted to keep plans from being "leaked" to the public.
At a City Council hearing, former JEA CFO Ryan Wannamacher is questioned by council members about the failed bonus plan, which was dubbed "PUP" for 'Performance Unit Plan'.
Wannamacher worked closest with Zahn on a day-to-day basis.
"Just so we’re clear, I’m with the CFO of JEA, we’re at a hearing to talk about this enormously expensive plan and the problem with recapitalization, and your response to me on the math here is – they haven’t done the math yet?" asked City Councilman Rory Diamond. "You still haven’t done the math that this could cost 300 million dollars if you get the sales price right?"
Diamond asks at least three times in a row if Wannamacher understood how much money the PUP would cost ratepayers.
"Did you ever plug the numbers in to see how much money this would be?" asked Diamond.
"It's pretty easy math," said Wannamacher.
In a written transcript of an interview with city attorneys from the Office of General Counsel, Wannamacher explains how Zahn was trying to hide more than just the bonus plan, but also the rushed sale of the utility and massive layoffs for the utility. Wannamacher says Zahn wanted to quickly get through the documents and draft and pass the plan before public records could be requested.
He tells investigators, “Aaron was concerned about leaks” … “he was concerned that the longer we took, the more likely it was that, you know, somehow the information would get out about the work we were going."
He goes on to say they had “WARN notices” at the ready in July of 2019 with a list specific JEA employees who would be laid off, at the same time as they were presenting their bonus plan to earn JEA leaders possibly millions of dollars.
Ultimately, Wannamacher says Zahn wanted to have control over the narrative.