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Jax Daily Record Friday, Dec. 20, 201912:30 PM EST

JEA Vice President and Legal Officer Lynne Rhode resigns

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She faced criticism for her answer to the board about utility’s employee incentive program.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

JEA Vice President and Legal Officer Lynne Rhode is out at the city-owned utility.

Rhode submitted her letter of resignation to the City Office of General Counsel effective Dec. 19, according to City Assistant Director of Public Affairs James Croft. City Deputy of Government Operations Lawsikia Hodges will fill Rhode’s position on an interim basis.

She is the second executive out of a position at JEA this week.

The JEA board of directors voted Dec. 17 to fire Managing Director and CEO Aaron Zahn without cause. 

The departures come as the city-owned utility faces criticism related to its push toward possible privatization and a now-repealed employee incentive program. 

Rhode was employed by the city Office of General Counsel, but her office was at JEA where she advised the public utility’s board members. 

Croft said he has requested a copy of Rhode’s resignation letter and is waiting for a response from city General Counsel Jason Gabriel. The city spokesperson said he has not been told the official reason or the circumstances for Rhode’s departure.

Rhodes faced criticism for her role in the Long-Term Performance Unit Plan. The plan was designed similar to a private sector stock-option program as a way for JEA employees to invest in the utility as an incentive. 

Before the JEA board approved the plan July 23, then-JEA board member Alan Howard asked if it had been reviewed by the general counsel’s office. Rhode told Howard: “Yes sir.”

City Council Auditor Kyle Billy, in a Nov. 18 memo to Council analyzing the plan’s possible financial liability, said it could have cost JEA ratepayers more than $600 million if the utility is sold.

Gabriel wrote in a Nov. 12 memo that, at the time of the JEA board’s July 23 vote, his office understood the plan “in general conceptual terms as an employee incentive program.”

Rhode’s July 23 statement faced criticism from City Council members in early December. The criticism peaked Dec. 16 when she was questioned during a Council hearing on the employee incentive plan.

Council member Rory Diamond tweeted Dec. 20 that the general counsel’s office “took swift action” in response to the “bonus scandal and those involved in the Dec. 16 meeting, 

Diamond also called for JEA CFO Ryan Wannemacher to leave the utility for failing to provide the Council hearing’s panel or the Council Auditor internal JEA calculations it requested about the plan.

He relied on calculations from outside consultant Willis Towers Watson showing the plan’s cost at $3.4 million annually. 

“There are still JEA execs collecting taxpayer funded paychecks who knew or should have known about the disgusting plan. What are you waiting for?” Diamond tweeted. 

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