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Jacksonville, FL (January 28, 2020) — After facing multiple deterrents and debate, City Council amends and passes Councilman Becton’s Resolution 2020-042, 18-0. The initial resolution urged the JEA Board to take all necessary actions to renegotiate, rescind, cancel and/or terminate JEA’s golden parachute benefits approved during the July 23rd, 2019 JEA Board, which Senior Management and the Unions would have received if a recapitalization occurred. The amended version excludes the Unions from the resolution’s request.

Councilman Becton introduced Resolution 2020-042 as an Emergency on January 14th and requested Council President Wilson and the rest of City Council to move on the legislation immediately.

Councilmember Becton’s stating the following:

“Colleagues, I rise to ask that we take up Bill 2020-42 as an emergency in the same spirit that we admonished the failed Performance PUP Plan and how it would reward employees and non-employees of JEA. In that spirit of making integrity our #1 priority of our discussions regarding JEA, I am offering this resolution to communicate to JEA and its Board, that we equally admonish the ‘Golden Parachute’ benefits provided on July 23, 2019 during the Strategic Planning Process and approval of the ITN.

To add to this need of a directive from Council to JEA, I would like to provide you this letter dated January 9th, 2020 to Melissa Dykes from Board Chair April Green and Carla Miller, which needs our support.”

 Since City Council does not have the authority to mandate these actions, Councilman Becton’s Resolution would only provide an advisory recommendation from Council to the JEA Board. However, Council Members were concerned for the impact that this resolution might have on the Union agreements, and as a result, the emergency was denied, which pushed the bill to council committees the following week.

After two weeks of hurdles, the City Council ultimately approved Councilman Becton’s Resolution, 18-0, on January 28th, 2020, but it was amended with a modification that Councilman Becton did not support. Th approved amendment removed all references and excluded the Union benefits by adding language to the Bill that stated, “except for any previously negotiated collectively bargained benefits approved by the Council.”

 Jax Business Journal reported, “the resolution was controversial because the original version included reopening collective bargaining agreements in order to remove language regarding retention agreements from all employee contracts.” There were Council Members who disagreed, but this did not change or hinder Councilman Becton’s “notion that making a unilateral move would provide the public with a fresh start that it needed.”

“The idea here has never been to renegotiate the Union agreements,” stated Councilman Becton. “Just to simply take out the language of the golden parachute benefits, just so everyone’s perception is to have a level playing field going forward.”

According to the Original Bill Summary of 2020-042, the bill urges the JEA Board to take or refrain from four actions:

1) Take or initiate all actions necessary to renegotiate, rescind, cancel and/or terminate all executed non-CEO employment agreements between JEA and senior leadership employees approved by the JEA Board at its July 23, 2019, board meeting in connection with Scenario 3 (Non-Traditional Utility Response), subject to the consent of affected senior leadership employees as may be required by law;

2) Direct the Interim JEA CEO to reopen collective bargaining negotiations and renegotiate applicable JEA collective bargaining agreements to remove from the agreement terms any JEA employee retention payments that are contingent upon a Recapitalization Event;

3) Refrain from including as a condition to a Recapitalization Event or JEA reorganization that JEA employees, non-JEA employees, or JEA customers receive grants, refunds, rebates or other cash or in-kind incentives in any JEA proposed Recapitalization Event (as defined in Section 120.201(HH), Ordinance Code) or JEA proposed reorganization to be approved by Council;

4) Fully engage and inform all stakeholders, ratepayers, and other interested parties in any strategic planning process and/or decision-making process regarding the future of JEA to enable such stakeholders, ratepayers, and other interested parties to participate in any strategic planning process and/or decision-making process regarding the future of JEA to the greatest extent practicable.”

When the resolution was first introduced on January 14th, Councilman Becton told New4Jax reporter, Kelly Wiley:

“I believe, it’s incumbent upon the Council to improve the integrity of the process and people’s perception that certain benefits that were given during that July 23rd board meeting were provided as Golden Parachutes in the event of a recapitalization of JEA.”

The fiscal impact of the benefits for which this resolution addressed were estimated at nearly $545 million for the retention payments, incentives and customer rebates. Councilman Becton believes that the passing of the Union agreements with the golden parachute benefits back in November was one of several decisions whereby public perception began to feel that people were being influenced and more importantly, public trust was being broken.

In previous legislation at the November 26th, 2019 City Council meeting, Councilman Becton was the only Council Member to vote against the five JEA collective bargaining agreements which contained the retention bonuses. These bonuses ultimately became known as the “golden parachutes,” benefits for which Councilmember Becton objected. Bills 2019-726, 2019-727, 2019-728, 2019-729, and 2019-730 all passed 18 to 1. Councilman Becton being the only council member to vote no.

During the meeting, Councilman Becton explained why he could not support the correlating legislations and hoped Council Members would ultimately understand the obvious red flags and reasonings to deny the bills’ passage.

“Everything that we do regarding JEA in our current environment should always have the outcome to IMPROVE the perception of Transparency and Integrity at all costs,” Councilmember Becton stated during the November meeting. “Our constituents are paying attention to not what we say, but more importantly, what we do. In that regard, it is the actions for which we are going to take on these next five legislative bills tonight that the voters of Jacksonville will be watching. To that end, it is my contention that the approval of these five Labor Contracts diminishes these values by placing this Council in a position of approving bills with a ‘retention bonus’ that was never discussed, never debated nor agreed to prior to these bill filings.”

The following two months only supported Councilman Becton reasonings as he had warned, as layers of the JEA saga unfolded, and became more and more deceitful and the perception of fraudulent actions of the former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn and Senior Leadership Team emerged. Uncovering, the recapitalization scheme and those who would profit from it.  During an interview with the Florida Times Union regarding his emergency resolution 2020-42, Councilman Becton said the decision to give written agreements to non-CEO executives casts a cloud over JEA’s decision to seek offers for the utility. He said that with the “golden parachute benefits” intact for senior executives and employees, these benefits will only add to their impartiality that will distort a “thorough and objective discussion” about JEA’s future.

During his presentation to Council, Councilman Becton read a letter from JEA indicating the utility was moving in the same direction that has been requested in his resolution in regard to employment agreements with the Senior Leadership team.

“Dear Ms. Dykes,

 Under Chapter 602.621 the Ethics Director has the following duties for the Consolidated City of Jacksonville:

 a) Encourage compliance with the spirit and letter of ethics laws, and provide advice and training to departments and agencies;

b) Develop policies, programs and strategies to deal with all ethics-related matters.

 Carla has been researching the issues related to JEA’s cancelled ITN, attended numerous negotiation meetings and written summaries of those sessions. She has also been following and researching other JEA issues, specifically the employment contracts for the ‘Senior Leadership Team’.

 Two of these contracts have been or will be resolved: Aaron Zahn’s and Ryan Wannemacher (CFO). JEA’s OGC counsel has resigned. There are 11 additional contracts that need to be scrutinized in light of recent developments, including your contract.

 What is recommend is that the 11 members of the ‘Senior Leadership Team’ be given one week (until noon Jan. 17th) in which to voluntarily agree in writing to cancel their “Employment Agreements” and ‘Separation and Transition Agreements’ executed last year after the July 23, 2019 JEA Board meeting. The staff would continue to receive their agreed upon salary with regular employee benefits until any further review of their position by JEA management or the Board.

  • By doing this, they would forfeit the following:
  • Car Allowance {$850);
  • Business Allowance (dinners, etc.) ($750-1600 per month);
  • Termination pay (20 weeks with benefits);
  • Post-employment consulting contracts (3-6 months in addition to the 20-week benefit).

 By doing this, the staff have an opportunity to increase citizen trust in JEA. Please forward the written agreements to Ms. Green’s office by 12 noon January 17, 2020.


Carla Miller.”

Jacksonville Business Journal reported some of the union workers’ stance on the resolution. According to JBJ’s article, Union representatives Valerie Gutierrez from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 2358 and Ronnie Burris, business manager for Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 630, said that “while they understand why the golden parachutes of executives should be taken away, their contracts were negotiated in good faith and that they were the ones that came to us with this language; we didn’t go to them saying we want that.”

Contrary to Gutierrez’s, Burris’s and Council Members’ initial opposition., Councilman Becton received a great amount of support for his resolution through phone calls from residents, thanking him for his initiative to redact the benefits that were underhandedly discussed and approved by the JEA Board, and for standing by his promise to always act in the public’s best interest.

During the January 28th City Council Meeting, Councilman Becton rose from his seat and shared the following declaration:

Tonight, this Council finds itself following, not leading. The JEA Board today passed a motion to ask the Senior Leadership Team to open discussions regarding their employment agreements as of July 23,2019 and the benefits for which this resolution addresses.”

“While the JEA Board has moved on this, it is important now that we show our support of their action. The residents of Jacksonville want an objective unbiased conversation. One that removes the manipulative benefits that were provided to management and employees. It was discussed and pointed out today that JEA’s image and customer service has taken a hit. JEA has spent millions of dollars building that image over the years and it is my contention that getting us back to July 22nd would be priceless” in achieving improvement to that end.”