The influential business executives who make up Jacksonville's powerful Civic Council are sounding the alarm on JEA, again, as they call for change to how JEA leaders are collecting bids to sell the city's public utility
Michael Ward, the former longtime CEO of CSX, and the co-chair for the Civic Council’s JEA subcommittee, says recent actions by JEA leaders have left him "outraged".
Particularly, the bonus plan intended for employees, which he says could have landed millions of dollars in the pockets of JEA higher-ups, instead of being invested back into the community. However, it was flagged by city auditor Kyle Billy.
"Once the details became public, everyone was appalled," said Ward. "It looked to be a scheme to enrich a few at JEA at the cost of ratepayers and taxpayers."
Ward was part of the letter sent to council members on Thursday, insisting JEA’s “invitation to negotiate”, or ITN, bidding process was not a transparent approach to selling the utility.
"We think the ITN needs to be stopped and there needs to be a Request for Proposals, if there is a need to sell JEA."
Their letter was sent the same day Mayor Curry sent a letter to JEA board members, which urged the JEA board to complete sales talks by next month and to give more power to city council in the process.
Ward thought it was out of place.
"It was surprising. The tone of the letter appeared to be more like a chairman of a board giving a directive to his handpicked board members," he said. "It looked like it was an acceleration of this non-transparent head rush to sell JEA. He moves the deadline up to January."
Ultimately, Ward says JEA’s actions are far from typical for a public company.
"Municipal utilities do not have these type of plans."
Mayor’s Curry’s office said he would not be commenting further on his letter to JEA.