The Jacksonville-based law firm will provide expertise related to JEA’s possible sale.
Mayor Lenny Curry signed a bill Dec. 16 hiring Jacksonville law firm Smith Hulsey & Busey to advise City Council in the possible sale of JEA. Public Affairs director Nikki Kimbleton confirmed via email that the mayor approved the legislation, adding “less than one business day after we received it.”
City Council voted 17-2 to approve the emergency bill Dec. 10 — a veto-proof majority of the 19-member Council. Members LeAnna Cumber and Aaron Bowman voted no.
Council wanted outside representation to provide industry expertise as it moves through six months of JEA fact-finding hearings.
Council member Michael Boylan leads the meetings to examine examining JEA’s strategic planning and its invitation to negotiate with nine companies bidding to purchase the utility.
Boylan expressed urgency Dec. 10 in hiring Smith Hulsey.
The Jacksonville-based firm’s focus is business growth ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies in education, financial services, government, health care, manufacturing, sports and technology.
Council approved a decision in October to hire outside counsel. Council President Scott Wilson, with guidance from city General Counsel Jason Gabriel and Carla Miller, director of the city’s Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight, chose the firm.
He said he that in addition to Smith Hulsey’s knowledge of the Jacksonville Charter, he selected the firm because it was the only applicant that presented a financial cap of $1.85 million — the amount Council appropriated in October for the hire.
Cumber said Smith Hulsey’s lack of water utility and energy expertise caused her to vote no.
Thirteen firms applied for the job to advise the Council.