JEA changing gym oversight, following employee arrests

Jacksonville, FL — Another JEA employee has been arrested in connection to the alleged mismanagement of employee-owned gym membership dues. Amid all of this, JEA says they’re now in the process of shifting from employee-owned to JEA-managed gyms.

This latest report from the City of Jacksonville’s Office of Inspector General came out of an October management review of six employee-owned gyms. That study found the possible misappropriation of funds from the Southside Gym bank account, which was controlled by Linemaintainer Ronald Milligan. According to the OIG Report, Milligan had volunteered to manage the gym for around nine years, which involved controlling the bank account and making purchases for the gym.

Between January 1, 2015, and June 30, 2018, the OIG found what they believe to be at least 35 occasions where money from the gym’s bank account was used for non-gym expenses, with a total of $1,424.48. JSO was notified about the suspected theft, and the OIG Report says JSO’s investigation found $11,627.83 from the gym’s bank account was spent instead for Milligan’s personal use. Those purchases included transactions at a gas station, video gaming company, e-book retailer, and more.

According to the OIG report, Milligan says he never used the account for personal expenses. He says he would sometimes take out cash in order to buy gym equipment from individual sellers he connected with online, or directly purchase or provide members the debit card to purchase nutritional supplements, at their request. The report says he did not maintain any receipts or records of purchases.

The bank account for the gym is comprised of $5 bi-weekly dues automatically deducted from employee paychecks. Milligan told investigators there was no formal process for how he got approval for purchases, and rather he made purchasing decisions on behalf of the gym members, according to the report. He allegedly said he would use the money to buy what the members wanted to purchase, including equipment, gym wear, cable television service, and more.

Court records show Milligan was arrested mid-April for grand theft, and he has pleaded not guilty. He was terminated by JEA May 23rd, according to the OIG report.

This arrest is the most recent of three that have happened in the past year and a half, in connection to misspent gym funds.

In December 2017, St. Johns River Power Park Planner Analyst Dwight Samuel was arrested for grand theft, after allegedly admitting to stealing $8,500 from that gym’s bank account for his personal use. The OIG investigation started with an anonymous tip. Samuel retired in January 2018 and court records show the State Attorney’s Office ultimately declined prosecution, once Samuel completed a pre-trial intervention program.

In August 2018, Community Engagement Associate Michelle Petty was arrested for grand theft, for allegedly stealing from the Downtown gym. The OIG found a little more than $3,000 in gym funding sent to her personal account, while JSO found the theft could be as high as nearly $12,000 overall. Petty was accepted into a Pre-Trial Intervention Program.

Petty’s husband- another JEA employee who actually managed the Downtown gym- was also investigated by the OIG. He was found to have used his JEA computer and email for personal matters, but there was no criminal allegation brought forward.

The OIG report says JEA is now in the process of moving from employee-owned gyms to JEA-managed facilities. JEA has also created a “Benefits Manager” job position, which includes managing oversight of the gym facilities.

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