City leader wants to change JEA board appointment process

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There’s a plan in the works to strip the mayor of his exclusive power to appoint the entire JEA Board of Directors.

The call comes amid at least two investigations into ousted CEO Aaron Zahn and the controversial effort to sell the public utility.

As Action News Jax Courtney Cole explains one council member says it’s time to rebuild the public’s trust.

“I think the board needs to resign, every last one of them. It’s time for a clean slate,” said Councilman Garrett Dennis of District 9.

Council President Scott Wilson feels differently.

“I don’t think that we should just wipe them out completely like that. I think we should talk to them and understand where they’re coming from—and what they want to see JEA be in the future— before we make those kind of decisions,” said Wilson.

But Dennis says it's time for a change.

On Monday afternoon—he gathered his City Council colleagues, and their outside counsel, to discuss an ordinance proposing to change the way the JEA Board members are appointed.

Dennis hoped to introduce it this week—but some of his colleagues say they need to do their homework before they can vote on it.

“If it takes a few months for them to get fully engaged, then I’ll wait. It’s the right thing. Hearing from my constituents, hearing from the voters, hearing from the rate payers,” Dennis told Cole.

The ordinance proposes changing the City Charter to give city council the power to appoint half of the JEA Board.

Mayor Lenny Curry would still have the power to appoint the other half of the board.

Right now, onlythe mayor has the power to appoint all of the board members.

“It’s a balance of power. I mean Look at every other board. JTA half appointed by governor, half by the mayor. The airport authority—half by the governor half by the mayor,” Dennis said.

Dennis told Cole regardless of how much or how little support he receives from his fellow council members, he’s planning to move forward with legislation on April 8th.

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After the bill is introduced on April 8, if it’s passed at the end of May it would go on the ballot in November for voters to decide. “This is a long process. This is the beginning of a process that probably will not be completed until Nov. 3, 2020, with the general election—and probably even beyond that,” said Wilson. While some attention has shifted to the JEA board, Wilson said the public utility’s main focus right now should only be on one thing: “What JEA, in my opinion, really needs to focus on is getting a permanent CEO and beginning to develop a management team they need to guide our electric authority moving forward.” We’re going to have to wait two more weeks to learn just how much former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn could walk away with in severance pay. The Office of General Counsel said it needs the time to conduct “several more critical interviews” and review additional documents to complete a “fair, adequate, and thorough” investigation. Cole reached out to learn who the interviews were with and what documents are still up for review, but she’s still waiting to hear back. STAY UPDATED: Download the Action News Jax app for live updates on breaking stories

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