Aaron Zahn is out, but hold back your tears.
He was named CEO of JEA last year, despite having no qualifications other than being a friend of Mayor Lenny Curry.
He pretty much screwed up what apparently was his No. 1 job – selling the JEA.
Despite that, he will walk with more than $1 million in his pocket after 13 months on the job.
That’s how government works.
But JEA is an independent authority and the reason for creating independent authorities when the city and county governments were consolidated in 1968 was to have entities that were not departments of the city but would be run like businesses, without political influence – so much as that is possible.
It worked pretty well for 50 years. So well that citizens were irate when they found out there was a move afoot to sell the electric and water utility.
Exactly how much damage has been done by this fiasco is yet to be determined. At least one city councilman is calling for a grand jury investigation.
At the very least there are people guilty of overzealousness.
Selling the city’s golden goose seemed like a good idea to a few in City Haul. They planned to use the money to wipe out debt and hand out lollipops all around.
But they never quite explained how they would recoup the lost revenue.
A recent audit of JEA showed how the sale proponents may have strayed from reality in their claims of gloom and doom.
JEA was in a “death spiral” from dwindling revenues, they said.
Yet, JEA’s bottom-line profit increased by 56 percent last year. Most other utilities would love to see numbers like those.
Also, debt service coverage ratios increased by 22 percent for electric and 8 percent for water. Again, not too shabby.
The contribution to the city treasury of $133 million was a record, and doesn’t even include the franchise fees it has been paying of late.
Sales and revenues from operations increased in 2019, while the utility was supposed to be in a death spiral.
It would be interesting if the City Council auditor would compare the independent audit’s findings with JEA’s claims.