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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May 12, 202006:11 PM EST

JEA Chief Administrative Officer Herschel Vinyard put on administrative leave

The utility also is bringing back executives Cavey, Boyce and Hiers temporarily.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

JEA Interim CEO Paul McElroy placed Chief Administrative Officer Herschel Vinyard on administrative leave and rehired three former utility officials as special assistants to the CEO.

 McElroy emailed JEA’s senior leadership team May 12 through his executive staff assistant to notify the utility’s remaining executives that Vinyard’s leave was effective immediately.

Herschel Vinyard

The Daily Record obtained the email through a public records request.

On May 13, JEA Media Relations Manager Gina Kyle confirmed Vinyard is on paid administrative leave. His salary is $350,000 per year.

 McElroy also announced in an internal staff email May 12 that he plans temporarily to bring back former JEA executives Vickie Cavey, Gerri Boyce and Angelia Hiers as special assistants to the CEO.

 Vinyard was hired by former CEO Aaron Zahn in April 2019 to handle JEA’s corporate compliance, legal, environmental and government affairs, in addition to serving as a strategic adviser to JEA’s senior leadership team.

 Vinyard was among four JEA’s executives negotiating with the nine private companies that bid on the failed push to sell the city-owned utility. 

 Vinyard, then-JEA President and Chief Operating Officer Melissa Dykes, Economic Development and Real Estate Director Jordan Pope and then-board Secretary Camille Lee-Johnson were replaced in the negotiations in December by three members of Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration. 

The JEA board voted to fire Zahn for cause Jan. 28, after city attorneys accused him of willful misconduct, gross negligence/gross neglect of duties and/or breach of fiduciary obligations following an investigation. 

 Dykes, who fired JEA CFO Ryan Wannemacher on Dec. 27 after she was appointed interim CEO, was fired without cause by the JEA board April 28 after board Chair John Baker II said she had “a certain degree of taint” after serving as Zahn’s second in command.

A federal grand jury subpoena demanding communications from JEA’s senior leadership team mentions Vinyard by name. 

Federal investigators want all emails, handwritten notes and electronic communications linked to the utility’s failed stock-style employee bonus plan, the invitation to negotiate a possible sale and transitioning the utility to a cooperative or making an initial public offering for JEA.

 Vinyard was Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection secretary from 2011-14. He was counsel for international law firm Foley & Lardner LLP before joining JEA.

In the email about the rehiring of Cavey, Boyce and Hiers, McElroy write that “to meet the Board’s, Council’s, employee’s and customer’s expectations it has become clear that we could use some additional support in several key areas.”

The memo did not say how long they will be at JEA.

McElroy said initially he has identified three areas in which to focus additional temporary resources:

• External strategic affairs

• External communications

• Human resources

Cavey will handle external strategic affairs; Boyce external communications; and Hiers human resources.

Cavey spent 30 years at JEA in several management positions including strategic planning development and execution from 2013 until she retired in 2017.

Boyce was employed at JEA for 20 years and was the utility’s director of media relations until her retirement in 2019.

Hiers was JEA’s chief compliance officer from 2013 through April 2019.

McElroy said Cavey and Boyce will start May 13, and Hiers will return May 18.


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