Community Engagement

JEA board places Zahn on leave, names Dykes as interim CEO

The Board of Directors of Florida public power utility JEA on Dec. 17 voted to remove Aaron Zahn as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of JEA and named Melissa Dykes as JEA’s Interim Managing Director and CEO.

At the 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.

JEA Board Chair April Green initially called for the board to terminate Zahn’s employment with cause, meaning he would have received no compensation as part of his exit from the utility. Green cited several issues surrounding Zahn, which she said have become “major distractions” for JEA.

After the board voted to name her JEA’s Interim Managing Director and CEO, Dykes said that “it’s clear from the conversation today and the conversation over the past few weeks that we have work to do to restore trust with the community.”

Her first priority will be to work with board members 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,” she said.

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

The board named Zahn CEO and Managing Director of the utility in November 2018. In July 2019, the board voted to authorize Zahn to explore the privatization of the utility. JEA received 16 bids in response to an Invitation to Negotiate issued over the summer related to the potential privatization of the utility.

Scott Wilson, president of the Jacksonville City Council, on Dec. 19 said “he will tell the JEA board it should end negotiations over a potential sale of the utility, making him the highest-ranking official at City Hall to say it’s time to halt any more consideration of selling JEA,” the Florida Times-Union reported.