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Jax Daily Record Monday, Sep. 28, 202011:40 AM EST

Council president extends JEA probe; Rory Diamond resigns from committee

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The Special Investigatory Committee has been probing the attempt to sell the city-owned utility since February. 
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

A City Council committee investigating the attempt to sell JEA last year has more time to complete its work.

Council President Tommy Hazouri issued a memo Sept. 25 extending the Special Investigatory Committee through Dec. 31 and announcing that past Chair Rory Diamond resigned from the group.

“The committee and I am committed to seeking the truth, as the people and city council will not stop until we have exhausted every effort in our investigation,” Hazouri said in the memo. 

The committee’s work was to expire Sept. 30. Council independent attorney Steve Busey of the Smith Hulsey & Busey firm said in August that a final report could be complete by the end of October.

Diamond said Sept. 28 he is confident in the committee’s work and if a report was issued today, it would give a good explanation of the effort to sell the city-owned utility. 

“It was time to jump off,” Diamond said. “I’ve put nine months of work in this, probably more work than all the other people combined. It’s time to hand it off to the other members of the committee to bring them in for a landing.” 

Rory Diamond

Diamond was named chair when former Council President Scott Wilson formed the committee Jan. 20. The panel includes District 10 member Brenda Priestly Jackson, a Democrat, and District 14 member Randy DeFoor, a Republican, who are attorneys.

Diamond partnered with Council member Ron Salem in December to chair public hearings on the canceled bonus plan where he questioned former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn, former CFO Ryan Wannemacher, former Chief Administrative Officer Herschel Vinyard and others.

Hazouri named Priestly Jackson to chair the investigative committee when he extended its work June 21.

He will not replace Diamond on the committee, according to the memo. 

Hazouri intends to fill the spot held by Wilson, who is leaving the Council following the Nov. 3 election.

The Council voted 17-2 on Dec. 10 to hire Busey’s firm with a budget capped at $1.8 million.

The law firm was hired to guide the committee’s investigation and assist the city Office of General Counsel lawyers with interviewing witnesses under oath.

The probe has focused on information about the sale provided by JEA’s former senior leadership team to the public and an abandoned Long-Term Performance Unit Plan that would have split more than $600 million among JEA executives and other employees had the utility been sold. 

The committee also is examining the possible involvement of people close to Mayor Lenny Curry.

From August through September, Busey and his team interviewed Curry’s former political consultant, Tim Baker; former city Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa; The Dalton Agency P.R. and Social Media President Michael Munz; former JEA board member and attorney Alan Howard; and Foley & Lardner LLP partner Kevin Hyde.

Florida Power & Light Co. parent NextEra Energy Inc. listed Mousa Consulting and public consultancy firm Bold City Strategic Partners LLC, co-founded by Baker, as lobbying firms the utility employed as it took part in the invitation to negotiate. 

Records show NextEra planned to offer $11.05 billion to buy JEA.

Busey and city attorneys have deposed JEA’s former senior leadership team, including Zahn.

Zahn was fired by the JEA board Jan. 28 for cause.

The committee is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Sept. 28.

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