Jax Civic Council Says JEA's Privatization Process Lacks Transparency

Nov 6, 2019

JEA is not heading toward a financial “death spiral,” and city leaders need to stop the public utility’s “head-long” rush to privatize in order to conduct a thorough and transparent analysis of whether to sell the city’s most valuable asset, according to a letter the Jacksonville Civic Council sent Tuesday to city officials.

WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union reports the letter summarized the findings of the group’s 18-month analysis of the issue. Among them: disagreement with JEA officials’ assertion that the utility faces a certain financial crisis that requires an urgent consideration of whether to privatize -- and a sharp rebuke of how JEA has gone about doing so.

“The Jacksonville Civic Council is neither for or against the sale of JEA at this time,” according to the letter. “However, the disposition of our city’s largest taxpayer-owned asset is far too important to be considered in legally flawed, closed-door negotiations that contradict current nationwide trends and could potentially result in negative consequences for the community, including higher prices for ratepayers with little opportunity for redress.”

The group, which is made up of more than 80 city business leaders, also said JEA’s months-long effort to explore a sale has “lacked transparency” and that utility officials have shown a “disregard” for Florida’s public records law by failing to provide financial documents despite repeated requests.

“Based on our conclusions listed above ... our belief in the need for rigorous oversight of their actions in this matter has only increased,” according to the letter.

JEA spokeswoman Gina Kyle said in a written statement that the utility “welcomes and appreciates” feedback as it considers its future.

“This journey still has many roads to travel, including further review by JEA’s board, the Jacksonville City Council and Duval County voters,” she said.

An expanded version of this story is at Jacksonville.com.