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New JEA Board Unanimously Votes To Oust Interim CEO Melissa Dykes

Melissa Dykes speaking at a desk, next to a small coffee mug
Via Jacksonville Daily Record
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Caren Enders, the VP and GM of JEA Energy will take on the responsibilities of Dykes while JEA finds an interim replacement.

JEA’s new board of directors removed interim CEO Melissa Dykes at its first meeting Tuesday, giving her a 30-day termination notice.

In the meantime, she’s been placed on administrative leave.

“It's just my view that she was the president and COO during an administration so filled with improprieties that there is a certain degree of taint that’s on her, whether warranted or unwarranted,” said board chair John Baker. 

As the FBI issued a grand jury subpoena surrounding Dykes and other executives, Baker said it wouldn’t be appropriate to keep Dykes aboard. “We would lose all credibility, certainly with the employees who would say it’s just more of the same.” 

The board voted unanimously to move on from Dykes. 

In the meantime, Caren Enders, and Vice President and GM of JEA Energy, will take over CEO responsibilities temporarily.

The board also discussed bringing in former JEA CEO Paul McElroy as an interim CEO. He ran the utility from 2012 until 2018. 

The board will hold a special meeting to hire a search firm to help find a permanent CEO.

“I think he would give us a steady captain of the ship during the coronavirus issues where we're working from home, and we really need somebody that knows their way around the organization,” Baker said. “I think he would provide that.” 

Board member Robert “Bobby” Stein said that while he believes Dykes has done a good job running the public utility, it was the board’s responsibility to “make a statement”.

“It's just the right thing to do to show that we as board members, I believe, are showing that we are looking at righting this ship,” said board member Joseph DiSalvo. 

Terminating Dykes without cause allows her to get an additional 20 weeks of pay and serve as a consultant for JEA for the next six months.

If the FBI introduces information that would justify firing Dykes with cause, the Office of General Counsel said it would terminate the clause for receiving severance. 

Dykes was given the chance to deliver her CEO report after the decision to terminate her. She said she “would’ve enjoyed working with each of” the board members. 

“While leading JEA through this transition, I have fully cooperated with all investigations,” Dykes said. “In late 2019, I reached out to the State Attorney's Office and told them I was willing to assist in its investigation. In January, I did the same with the US Department of Justice, the United States Attorney and the FBI. I am proud that I have fulfilled that commitment without wavering.”

Dykes said there were signs she should’ve left at other opportunities, but she said she trusted in her faith to guide her. 

“I wish all of my 2,000 teammates at JEA all the best into the future,” Dykes said. “You have so much to be proud of.”

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.