Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond is asking the JEA board to hold off paying some outside firms that are billing the city-owned utility $13 million for work on its failed attempt to privatize.
In a letter to the JEA board Monday, Diamond requested that payment be withheld until city attorneys can determine if three of the contracts were awarded legally.
Diamond said JEA was allowing non-competitive bids, called “sole source contracts,” which must have a special exemption and are usually only allowed under special circumstances. The main type of contracts used are called competitive bids.
Issuing sole source contracts are more expensive, according to Diamond.
“If you do a sole source contract, meaning you just go out and hire the person you want, then you can oftentimes pay a lot more than you need to,” Diamond said. “In this case, we paid $13 million for outside vendors, including a whole bunch of sole source contracts, meaning only one group had a chance to get the business and we paid way too much.”
Diamond chairs the council’s Special Investigatory Committee, which is looking into the possible illegality of the formerly proposed JEA sale.
“If one of these outside vendors was involved in making sure they had a sole source contract, meaning they're part of the corruption, and I think we have a good argument not to pay,” Diamond said.
The JEA board is expected to vote this Thursday on whether to ratify the contracts.
“If JEA just decided they’re going to go ahead and pay all these contracts, then we’re going to have a lot more to say,” Diamond said.
In a written statement to WJCT News, the utility said “JEA has received a copy of the letter sent by Councilman Diamond to members of the JEA board. We are in the process of reviewing the letter and the Councilman’s request at this time.”
Diamond said there is no update on the timeline on the Investigatory Committee, and that the committee is still waiting on the utility to send requested documents.
“It just seems to be, you know, the never ending story of corruption and problems that go on and on,” Diamond said. “And the longer we look, the worse it gets. But at some point, we will get to the bottom of it all.”
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.