Councilman Carlucci Says JEA CEO Zahn Should Step Down, City Should Keep Utility

Dec 2, 2019

The debate continues to intensify over the possible sale of JEA.

First Coast Connect host Melissa Ross and Councilman Matt Carlucci are pictured outside of WJCT's Studio 5 Monday.
Credit Heather Schatz / WJCT News

Jacksonville At-Large Group 4 City Councilman Matt Carlucci said on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Monday that it’s time for JEA CEO Aaron Zahn to step down.

Carlucci said Zahn should resign because the utility has lost the public’s trust.

As JEA explores privatizing, questions continue to be raised about the motives behind the rush to sell the utility to a private company such as Florida Power and Light, or another player in the energy industry.

JEA is considering nine bids after initially receiving 16.

Related: Listen to the full interview with Carlucci

Carlucci said a proposed bonus scheme that was expected to result in a greater payout to executives in the event of a sale was the final straw for him.

“I think Aaron Zahn has been trying to push towards privatization from the beginning. I may be calling for his job, and I don't like that. But there's gonna be a lot of other jobs lost if privatization happens. So we're talking about jobs here. We're talking about people. So this is all about Jacksonville to me,” Carlucci said.

JEA’s senior leadership had proposed a profit-sharing plan that would have issued performance units or “shares” to employees that opted to stay with the utility and choose to take part in the program.

The highest paid executives that would have likely participated stood to gain the largest benefit.  JEA has since shelved the idea.

Meanwhile, JEA’s board of directors continues to stand by Zahn. The City Council, for its part, is conducting hearings to learn more about what selling off the utility might mean for the city, while some community leaders are urging the Council to hold a no-confidence vote in JEA’s leadership.

“Personally, I think he’s a nice gentleman. But I don’t think this is where he needs to be. I think that we need to keep this utility public,” Carlucci said.

JEA Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Kerri Stewart is scheduled to appear Tuesday morning at 9 on First Coast Connect to address questions surrounding the potential sale of Jacksonville’s public utility.

- WJCT's Bill Bortzfield contributed to this story

Melissa Ross can be reached at mross@wjct.org, 904-358-6382 or on Twitter at @MelissainJax.