Jacksonville Republicans aren’t ready to let go of the JEA scandal just yet. They are asking the governor to seek a statewide grand jury investigation.
A federal grand jury has indicted two former JEA employes, but the Republican Executive Committee voted unanimously this week to probe further.
The resolution asks Gov. Ron DeSantis to request the Florida Supreme Court to empanel a grand jury that will do its own investigation.
One significant feature is that this is not a Democrat Party witch hunt, which gives it a special cachet.
This is the local Republican Party asking the Republican governor to probe into a matter that began with and swirled around a Republican mayor.
Mayor Lenny Curry installed his chum Aaron Zahn on the JEA board and Zahn, as chairman, pushed the request for bids on the sale of the city-owned electricity, water and sewer utility.
In the process, the JEA created a “performance pay plan” that was merely a cushy bonus to top management of the utility to come from the proceeds of the sale, which fell apart under scrutiny.
It has been described as “potentially one of the greatest schemes to defraud [Jacksonville] taxpayers in the history of our city.”
Federal grand juries only investigate federal crimes, do not issue reports on their findings of malfeasance or wrongdoing that are not criminal in nature, and never announce when their work is concluded.
A statewide grand jury therefore might be able to present a more complete picture of the scandal, even if it does not issue any additional indictments.
Thus, the new grand jury “should also report on the actions of those public officials, private individuals, and business entities who intentionally misled the citizens of Duval County regarding the proposed sale of JEA, who concealed material facts regarding the proposed sale, or who attempted to improperly influence the valuation process and the Invitation to negotiate,” the Republicans said.
There is nothing inherently wrong in selling an asset, but how city officials went about that process and why has raised many questions, not all of which have been answered.
Some may be answered at the trials of the two accused men, Zahn and former financial officer Ryan Wannemacher, but the more light shed on this shady business the better.
Although the matter probably will be an issue in this spring’s mayoral election, the trials will not take place until after the election, so voters would not have the benefit of what is disclosed during them.
Republicans are right to press the issue.