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Potential conflict raised for law firm in botched JEA sale

The JEA tower in downtown Jacksonville.
Will Dickey
Florida Times-Union
The JEA tower in downtown Jacksonville.

In late 2019, a lawyer in the Jacksonville office of Foley & Lardner provided legal guidance to employees at a Florida Power & Light consulting firm who were drafting a strategy to filter campaign contributions through a series of nonprofits, an idea those consultants hoped would to obscure the origins of those donations, according to a cache of secret documents sent to the Orlando Sentinel last month and shared with the Florida Times-Union.

At the same time, Foley attorneys in that Jacksonville office were billing JEA ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees working on the controversial effort to sell the agency to a private operator. That work included helping former JEA executives craft a bonus plan that could have paid out millions of dollars in compensation if the utility had been sold to a private operator, an issue that appears to be at the heart of an ongoing federal investigation.

Former JEA executives attempted to sell the public utility through a formalized process called an "invitation to negotiate," which is more secretive than traditional public procurement processes and requires almost every party involved to adhere to a strict "cone of silence" intended to prevent conflicts of interest.

Read the rest of this story at WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union.