JEA Board Ousts CEO Aaron Zahn

Dec 17, 2019

The JEA board voted unanimously Tuesday to suspend Managing Director and CEO Aaron Zahn with pay indefinitely while the Office of General Counsel continues its investigation into Zahn.

The Office of General Counsel was also given seven business days to renegotiate Zahn’s current employment contract to rescind the retention agreement he signed and to cut his consulting contract from 12-months to one.

At the end of that negotiation, Zahn is expected to be terminated without cause.

Chief Operating Officer Melissa Dykes will take over as the interim CEO as JEA continues discussions for a poential sale.

“My first priority is to work with members of the board to craft a plan to restore that trust both by changing how we do business at JEA and changing how we communicate with the community,” said Dykes.

Zahn admitted Monday he made an "error in judgment," during prepared remarks he delivered at a Jacksonville City Council hearing. Zahn was referring to a controversial employee incentive plan that was later shelved and formally cancelled at Tuesday's board meeting.

Related: JEA CEO Aaron Zahn Calls Employee Incentive Plan 'A Mistake'

Among those calling for Zahn to leave was at-large City Councilman Matt Carlucci. Carlucci is also calling for a grand jury investigation into JEA before it’s allowed to privatize or otherwise change its structure.

Appearing Monday on WJCT's First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, Carlucci said, “It's clear to me that looking at this process, it’s broken. Millions of dollars are being moved around. Perhaps to other people involved in the process. I don't know. I don't know, but there's lots of money involved here.”

Tuesday, District 10 City Councilwoman Brenda Priestly-Jackson appeared on First Coast Connect to talk about JEA's future.  That interview can be heard here.

- WJCT's Bill Bortzfield contributed to this story

Contact reporter Cyd Hoskinson at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 and on Twitter at @cydwjctnews.

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