Stowe was recently asked if JEA board had lost confidence in him

The question was raised after the board moved to hire its own consultant.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 7:17 p.m. April 11, 2024
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
JEA CEO Jay Stowe.
JEA CEO Jay Stowe.
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JEA board chair Robert Stein recently faced questions about whether the board had lost confidence in JEA CEO Jay Stowe’s leadership after it hired its own consultant to inform and advise board members on $4 billion worth of proposed capital improvements being sought by the JEA administration. 

Stowe is stepping down, according to reports April 11 from Jacksonville Daily Record news partner

Robert Stein

The board made that move during its March 26 board meeting, in which administrators said the improvements would help the utility meet future demand for electricity, water and sewer service in the region.

In a gathering with reporters after the meeting, Stowe was asked whether he saw the move as a lack of trust in his leadership. 

“We want to be sure that we’re making good decisions and as the board understands the decisions and the recommendations that we’re moving forward with,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that’s gone into this up to this point. And it’s important that the community and the board understand exactly what we’re talking about, because that impact to our customers is what we’ve done. We’ve got experts, and our employees are experts in what they do every single day, and they keep the system running and operating well.”

Stein, when asked whether the board had lost confidence, compared the hiring of the consultant to a heart patient getting a second opinion from a medical provider. He said the recent trial of former JEA executives Aaron Zahn and Ryan Wannemacher was a factor in the board’s decision.

“What we’ve learned (from the trial) is that the board was not totally informed on the decisions that they were asked to make,” Stein said. Likening the consultant to a doctor giving a second opinion, he said he suggested making the hire in order to show the community and City Council that the board was exercising due diligence in its decision-making.

Zahn and Wannemacher were charged with conspiracy and wire fraud in what prosecutors said was an alleged scheme to siphon tens of millions of dollars of undeserved bonuses for themselves from a sale of the city-owned utility. 

On March 15, Zahn was found guilty, and Wannemacher was acquitted.



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