Utility ends privatization effort, despite $10 million spent

December 25, 2019 GMT

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The board of directors of a city-owned utility in Florida has pulled the plug on a privatization plan, even though the process has cost taxpayers $10 million.

The board of directors of the city-owned utility in Jacksonville this week cancelled ongoing negotiations with bidders competing to buy JEA.

The Florida Times-Union reports the cancellation is the latest fallout to come from a series of controversies that have beleaguered JEA’s leadership. Those include a now-canceled employee bonus plan that could have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars if JEA was sold and an undisclosed business partnership between ousted CEO Aaron Zahn and a JEA lobbyist.

The newspaper reports that JEA’s privatization efforts have been shrouded in controversy since July, when Zahn told the board he would be forced to begin laying off 573 of the utility’s 2,000 employees if his team wasn’t allowed to immediately pursue privatization.

Zahn said privatization would be one of several options JEA would consider to adapt to declines in electricity consumption that threatened its current business model.