Community Engagement

JEA board cancels process tied to potential privatization of utility

In an emergency meeting held on Dec. 24, the board of directors of Jacksonville, Florida, public power utility JEA voted to cancel an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) related to the potential privatization of the utility, as well as reject all replies submitted in response to the ITN.

The vote occurred after Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry asked JEA Board Chair April Green to end the ITN process.

Prior to the board’s vote, Curry told reporters that “missteps led to an erosion of the public’s view of the process” and that it was time to stop the ITN process.

The JEA board is “committed to transparency and we are committed to regaining the trust, first and foremost” of JEA employees “who have gone above and beyond to continue to provide the quality of service in this community,” Green said at the Dec. 24 meeting.

Along with terminating the ITN process, the JEA board approved a proposal put forth by Board Member Henry Brown.

The proposal directs Melissa Dykes, JEA’s Interim Managing Director and CEO, or her designee, to immediately release to the public all information related to the ITN including all replies from ITN respondents.

JEA received 16 bids in response to the ITN, which was issued during the summer of 2019.

Dykes named as interim CEO

The JEA board on Dec. 17 voted to remove Aaron Zahn as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of JEA and named Dykes as JEA’s Interim Managing Director and CEO.

At that meeting, the board voted to place Zahn on paid administrative leave indefinitely. The board also directed the Jacksonville Office of General Counsel to negotiate an amended employment agreement with Zahn with the following changes: terminating Zahn’s employment without cause, reducing a consulting agreement from 12 months to one month and making him ineligible for a retention agreement.

Dykes also serves as President and Chief Operating Officer at JEA.

JEA executives depart

In other news, JEA on Dec. 27 confirmed that Chief Financial Officer Ryan Wannemacher has departed from the utility, the Florida Times Union reported.

Two other members of the senior leadership team also recently departed: Lynne Rhode, chief legal officer and Sherry Hall, vice president of government affairs.