State Attorney 'Looking Into' JEA; Civic Council Wants Grand Jury Investigation

Dec 18, 2019

The Jacksonville Civic Council wants State Attorney Melissa Nelson to convene a grand jury to investigate the actions of the JEA board and senior management.

Nelson responded Wednesday, saying, "We have heard the concerns of the community over the past several months. This office is — and has been — looking into matters involving JEA. We will not be commenting further."

The council, which is made up of prominent business leaders, voted unanimously Tuesday to make the request. The vote was taken on the same day JEA’s board voted to oust General Manager and CEO Aaron Zahn.

The council is also calling on Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council to direct JEA’s board to have the city’s inspector general, a City Council committee, or other appropriate external entity investigate Zahn’s actions as a public employee.

The council doesn’t want the board executing or agreeing to any severance package with Zahn before an investigation takes place.

The council also wants the board to start a search for a new CEO that excludes any internal candidates, such as Chief Operating Officer Melissa Dykes, who was appointed interim CEO on Tuesday.

The group of business leaders wants the bidding process for JEA halted and all efforts to sell the public utility to be stopped.

“As the Civic Council has previously stated, JEA is in no immediate danger of collapse or insolvency, and there is time to strategically evaluate the options and take action in a thoughtful, transparent manner,” the council wrote in a letter it sent to WJCT News.

Zahn was suspended indefinitely Tuesday while a termination package is negotiated.

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

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

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