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When Mayor Curry was running for re-election he stated, “I will not be introducing legislation to sell the JEA.” Hear him speak here:

It’s true, he didn’t do that yet he did what other politicians do — he had another way to do it. He used his influence and his hand-picked CEO to do it for him.

Yesterday after months of secret talks, manipulation of city council members, double talk and promises that the people would have a say in the sale — sixteen bids in big file boxes were shown to the media. JEA is now officially on the chopping block. Come hell or high water — politics and politicians are going to get their way. Like it or not.

And yet maybe it will be a good deal for all of us at the end of the day. You never know. Our angst could be for naught but…

The problem isn’t IF we should sell. The problem is HOW our city leaders have gone about the process. It stinks and because it stinks, no one trusts anyone involved who wants this sale to be approved.

We have lost trust in those who lead.

And we have good reasons for losing trust.

We have a Mayor who says what he thinks will get him votes and pats on the back. He double talks — one minute he is for looking into a sale and the next he says it’s not going to happen. He’s as good a politician as you can get.

Let us not forget the JEA CEO, Mr. Zahn who served as a board member, resigned after the CEO suddenly quit and then was awarded over $500,000 a year to run the utility. He was handed the job after highly qualified candidates in the utility industry were sent packing. We didn’t need their expertise because we had Mr. Zahn. And shortly thereafter, Mr. Zahn needed help so JEA hired outside consultants with huge contracts to help him run it. Nice gig, Mr. Zahn.

Mr. Zahn then shared this message with all of us: “We must sell JEA or lay off employees and raise rates.”

When someone makes $500,000 a year, we expect him to rebuild things — not tear them down.

So yesterday 16 bids for JEA showed up. Either JEA is so broken that 16 bidders think they can fix it — or why else would they buy it? Or those 16 bidders knows the utility is a prized possession and they want in on it.

Sixteen bidders. Let that sink in to the doomsday story set up by Mr. Zahn and our Mayor.

And this morning…another reason showed up to remind us of why we don’t trust anything going on at JEA or in the Mayor’s office.

The former JEA board Chair, G. Alan Howard, was handed a lucrative contract with JEA to help in the legal aspects of this potential sale. He was a non-paid board member who is now going to be paid to assist in the sale.

Reminds me of the Sam Mousa story. You know the one. Sam “retires” from the Mayor’s Administration and comes back six weeks later with a lucrative contract to assist the Mayor. Double dipping isn’t illegal but it sure does stink.

We have lost trust and don’t believe much of anything they say. The way I see it, JEA will be sold to the bidder who probably already has a deal behind the scenes. (Want to take bets on who that is?) All the other 15 bidders just wasted their time.

Unfortunately all the shenanigans we have watched has created an atmosphere of “I don’t trust you” and guess what — the politicians don’t care.

They really don’t. It’s too lucrative for them to care.

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Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives

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