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Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 29, 201805:20 AM EST

City finds $12,000 misappropriated from JEA fitness center

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Employee placed in Pretrial Intervention Program after Investigation by the Office of Inspector General and the JSO.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Investigations by the city Office of Inspector General and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office determined that a JEA employee misappropriated for personal use nearly $12,000 from the Downtown JEA employee gym’s bank account.

Michelle Petty, who has been employed by the utility since October 2006 and was one of the volunteer managers of the gym since 2012, is on unpaid leave while her continued employment is being reviewed, said JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, Petty has entered the Pretrial Intervention Program.

The program is sometimes available for first-time adult offenders. Participants sign a deferred prosecution agreement with specified requirements, such as restitution, community service and reimbursing the city for investigation cost.

Upon successful completion of the program, charges are dismissed. Failure to complete the conditions required in the program contract results in prosecutorial review and appropriate legal action.

An administrative investigation of Petty began when the inspector general received an anonymous complaint alleging that she might be operating a business, selling clothing to co-workers during business hours, and also not working all of her scheduled hours.

Based on records reviewed and statements obtained from supervisors at JEA, the allegation that Petty wasn’t working her required hours was not substantiated, but it was determined through her own admissions that she was selling clothing and cosmetics to colleagues during business hours in violation of JEA’s Secondary Employment Policy.

Then the investigation shifted to Petty’s activities with JEA’s employee-owned fitness facility. She and her husband, Eric Petty, who also is a JEA employee, managed the gym at 421 N. Laura St. on a volunteer basis.

The center is on the ground floor in JEA’s parking garage across Church Street from the Downtown customer service center. Employees who wish to use the exercise equipment or class space pay monthly dues through payroll deduction. That revenue is used to purchase new equipment and cover the cost of supplies, but there is not a paid manager or staff.

Michelle Petty was the sole authorized signer on the gym’s bank account. As part of the investigation, the inspector general reviewed 12 months of bank account records. It was determined that $3,088.74 in electronic payments had been sent from the gym’s bank account to her personal Discover card.

The information regarding personal use of gym funds was referred to  JSO, which expanded the scope of the bank records review. That investigation determined that a total of $11,985.73 was withdrawn from the account by Petty for personal use.

In August, after an arrest warrant charging theft was issued, Petty surrendered to police.

This isn’t the first case investigated by the inspector general and JSO  involving theft from an employee fitness facility related to JEA.

A report published in May stated that an employee of St. Johns River Power Park, the decommissioned electric generating plant co-owned by JEA and Florida Power and Light, admitted to embezzling for personal use $8,500 from the on-site gym owned and operated by employees.

The employee was arrested and then entered a Florida Felony Pretrial Intervention Program Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

He agreed to perform 100 hours community service by February 2019, to restore the $8,500 to the gym members and to reimburse the city and state for the investigation and court costs – a total payment of  more than $15,000 was remitted to the state Department of Corrections.

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