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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 30, 202009:00 PM EST

Council committee plans to subpoena bidders, investment banks in JEA probe

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JEA CEO Melissa Dykes accused of "dragging her feet in every way possible.”
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

A City Council special committee investigating JEA will subpoena the private companies that bid in the city utility’s failed invitation to negotiate.

It also will subpoena the investment banks that advised JEA senior leaders in the sale attempt. 

Council member and Special Investigatory Committee chair Rory Diamond said March 30 the three-member panel will issue subpoenas next week for the names of the lobbying firms hired by nine private companies.

The companies include Duke Energy Corp., Emera Inc., IMF Investors PTY Ltd., NextEra Energy Inc., American Waterworks Co. Inc., American Public Infrastructure LLC, the consortium JEA Public Power Partners and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Inc.

“Who are their lobbyists and who were they paying to push this thing through?” Diamond said during a committee meeting March 9. “I think that an unspoken part of this is there were many people in Jacksonville who were working at selling JEA and we don’t know who they are. I don’t know how you do an investigation if you don’t know who the players are.”

The committee’s intentions to issue subpoena when Council resumes first appeared in a news release March 30 by OurJax.com, a is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization led by concerned citizens, business leaders and labor unions. Formed in January, Florida statute allows OurJax to fundraise, lobby and seek legislation related to its goals.

Diamond said subpoenas to financial firms J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC will request all documents related to the failed push to privatize, including value letters that the firms were contractually required to generate as part of their work for JEA. 

The documents will show what the investment banks estimated JEA would be worth in a sale.

JEA interim CEO Melissa Dykes

J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley’s contracts with JEA could have secured the companies more than $10 million each had the utility been sold. 

In a March 30 phone interview, Diamond said he expects the committee to meet virtually to issue the subpoenas after regular Council business resumes April 6. 

Council President Scott Wilson put meetings on hold from March 15 through April 5 to comply with state and local social-distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Council members have been training with the videoconferencing tool Zoom and Diamond expects the committee to use the same application allowing news media and public participation.

The committee has threatened to issue subpoenas to JEA itself. Diamond said March 30 the committee has received about 15% of the documents in its 84-point public records request to the utility.

Diamond said interim CEO Melissa Dykes is “dragging her feet in every way possible.”

The Council’s outside attorney, Steve Busey with law firm Smith Hulsey & Busey LLC, is seeking Dykes’s sworn deposition. Diamond said that interview had not taken place as of March 30.

Dykes did not respond to a Daily Record request for an interview March 30, but she did address the pending deposition in an emailed statement.

“We have 2,000 employees and close to a half million customers dealing with a global pandemic emergency. I am sure that the Council will agree that there will be a more appropriate time to deal with this,” Dykes wrote.

Dykes has retained attorney Hank Coxe of Bedell, Dittmar, Devault, Pillans & Coxe. 

In a phone interview March 30, Coxe confirmed he’s representing Dykes. He added they’ve only discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, but did not indicate in what context.

Any subpoenas issued by the committee will need approval by the Council Rules Committee. If the firms or individuals refuse to comply, the subpoenas will be enforced by a judge with the 4th Judicial Circuit Court.

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