District 11 Council Member Danny Becton garnered attention at the February 14 special meeting on the valuation of JEA called by Mayor Lenny Curry, suggesting that JEA might have gotten the “cart before the horse” based on the statement of Alan Howard, JEA Board Member and Chair, that “nothing would go forward unless the City Council agreed”. This caused CM Becton to question the wisdom of JEA having spent approximately $100,000 to conduct the valuation study, stating “Should the JEA Board have been more well served to ask the policy question, do we even want to sell JEA, no matter what the price, first? He noted that such policy discussions occurred 123 years ago when the city created the municipal utility.
This special meeting of City Council was initiated in controversy from the beginning. On February 9th, CEO Paul McElroy requested a special city council meeting to be convened on February 14th to have a presentation by JEA consultant Public Financial Management Inc. (PFM) on an evaluation of the privatization of JEA. This request was denied “as premature” from City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche. Overriding Council Brosche’s objection, the Mayor using Council Rule 4.103 called for the meeting anyway.
At this meeting, a presentation was given by PFM that by city council reflection was a valuation of JEA’s assets not an evaluation of the pros and cons of selling. This prompted the question, is PFM certified to give such a valuation?
CM Becton compared the proposed JEA sale to that of a homeowner selling their home. Sure, the market may be good, but there are other factors that go into such a decision. The frugal homeowner wouldn’t spend the money for an appraisal without first rationally deciding if the sale would be in the family’s best interests. A profit may be made, but at what cost?
JEA CEO Paul McElroy admitted that in hindsight the JEA Board may have had the sequencing of events out of alignment by commissioning the study before properly vetting the policy questions. CM Becton said by commissioning the study before a decision to research a sale, employees and customers are now upset and concerned about their jobs.
In response to this meeting, CM Becton has been chosen as one of five council members to serve on the newly created Special Committee on the Potential Sale of JEA. The group has been formed by Council President Anna Lopez Brosche, who will also serve on the committee. It will be chaired by Council Member John Crescimbeni with council members Garrett Dennis and Joyce Morgan filling out the group.
President Lopez Brosche stated in the founding document that the committee’s charge is to understand all aspects and implications of a potential JEA sale and to understand the role the participating parties will play in such a transaction. The committee will hold meetings and hearings to gather relevant facts to provide the pros and cons of a JEA sale.
The committee will make recommendations to ensure a transparent and open process for the city’s citizens by making regular progress reports at regularly scheduled City Council meetings. The committee’s first meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8 in the City Council Chambers.