In 2018, Eye on Jacksonville was formed to Promote Integrity and Transparency and Expose Corruption and Cronyism in our city leadership. There were signs forming that an entity such as Eye was needed. With the help of a former Editor of the Florida Times Union, Lloyd “Scoop” Brown, we started writing about some of those “signs” and while we had no financial support for what we did, we did it because we cared about our city and we cared deeply about integrity in politics. Something that is hard to find in the political world.
This week it appears a lot of our writings and exposure of some shady dealings at JEA and in the administration – have come to light. It wasn’t just Eye who did a lot of calling out — we must applaud the efforts of Nate Monroe of the Florida Times Union. He was a bull dog about exposing the secrets and dark dealings of the JEA deal gone bad. Congrats to Nate for a job well done.
There will be many moments in the next few months where we will wonder how so much corruption could take place right in front of us. We will be disgusted. We will be mad. We will be calling for heads to roll. And roll they should.
Everyone in city leadership who had or has anything to do with JEA needs to be scrutinized and they need to personally look in the mirror and change their ways:
Mayor Lenny Curry — He has vacillated between “No we are not going to sell JEA to we MUST sell JEA to Stop the sale of JEA.” He has been all over the place with JEA – and other issues in our city. We question who is pulling his strings and how he makes decisions. He stays clear of controversy as much as possible and sends his unqualified Chief Administrative Officer and former campaign consultant, Brian Hughes, out to do his talking and dirty work. His lack of leadership started when he threw out the entire former JEA board and put his friends and donors on this prestigious and important utility. By throwing out the old, he threw out those who had institutional knowledge and back ground information on the utility. His new board has been ineffective and unprofessional and their loyalty to him has superseded their ability to make good decisions for us.
JEA Board Members – They have taken on a very important role and each member needs to ask, “Am I really qualified to sit at this table or am I here for self-serving reasons?” When they accepted the role, each took on a big responsibility to serve the ratepayers – not the Mayor. Who have they served? Who will they serve moving forward? Should they serve? Each member of the board will be held to a higher level of scrutiny because they spent $10 million of our hard-earned dollars and for what? $10 MILLION!! Where did that money go? Who will do the accounting for us? It started when they hired Aaron Zahn as the CEO and he clearly was not qualified or the best one for the job. This entire debacle falls into the lap of each board member and all should be held accountable to their decisions.
JEA Senior Leadership Team: Not sure what happened here. When I was a consultant to the JEA Board and the Executive Team, the Sr. Team was comprised of strong, opinionated people who knew the industry and were experts in their roles. Where were they when the board decided to run wild? Were they afraid to speak up? Were they bullied into not speaking? When you are on a leadership team, you lead. Maybe they need some mirror work too and could they have stopped this mess in its tracks? Only they know the answer to that.
City Council – Let us not forget that JEA Board Members are appointed by the Mayor and CONFIRMED by the council. That means each member on the board — including Aaron Zahn — were approved by the city council. With the news coming out that Zahn was fired from his previous job, did they not perform their due diligence before confirming Mr. Zahn? It’s known in circles across the city that the Mayor has a stronghold on the city council members and bullying tactics are used to get his agenda passed. Each City Council member needs to take a good look in the mirror and ask, “Who am I serving? The Mayor? My constituents?” And then they need to ask this question, “Why am I afraid to stand up to the Mayor and speak boldly against some of his requests?” If you are indeed “beholding” to the Mayor, you are no leader. You should be “beholding” to us and if you can’t do that, you need to resign or grow something that will help you be courageous. Let me note – there were some city council members who reared up and questioned what was going on. We thank them and hope others on the council will follow suit and begin serving those who elected them.
Jacksonville Civic Council: The Jacksonville Civic Council leverages the combined talents, experience and influence of a diverse group of business and civic leaders to accomplish goals that no individual or organization in our community can achieve alone and make it the best city it can be. Those are their words and you can find them on their website here: http://www.jaxciviccouncil.com/ They did great work in researching the potential JEA sale and they came out swinging against it. But let us remember this too — the Jacksonville Civic Council has hand-picked and supported every Mayor since their establishment. Mayor Lenny Curry was their chosen one in both elections and they put their full leverage and influence behind him. Many people whisper throughout our city about this council and how much influence they have over local elections. There are way too many qualified candidates who will not run because they know the Civic Council will not support them. The Civic Council has done good work on the JEA issue but their man caused this issue. They should take a step back as a group themselves and look in the mirror before the next election. Will they entertain candidates who are not in their circle the next time around? Will others inside the Civic council who have not agreed with some of their “friends” stand up and boldly say, “Enough!! Let’s stop putting puppets in and let’s support a leader who will stand up to our way of thinking too.”
It’s mirror time in Jacksonville and we hope each entity noted in this post will actually stand and face their mirror today. Because…Jacksonville is better than this. The people who live here, work here and play here are disgusted with this mess. It’s a stain on our city. It’s a drain on our city.
We applaud everyone who sounded the bugle and warned us about the nefarious dealings at JEA such as former Mayor Jake Godbold and quiet whistle blowers at JEA and the city who called us about information we should print. We printed their warnings and we appreciate their help.
Eye will continue to serve, research and write on behalf of our neighbors. Together we can make Jacksonville Great Again because she deserves to be great – doesn’t she?