Transparency, Integrity and Accountability

Press Release: Counsel Busey shares how the failed attempt to sell JEA happened

JEA Downton

Dear OurJax Members:

Please see below a press release we are sending this morning.

Sincerely,

Michael J. Ward, President

Counsel Busey shares how the failed attempt to sell JEA happened,
Baker refuses to produce documents, Committee may subpoena

JACKSONVILLE, FL – Unless the City Council Special Investigative Committee (SIC) votes at its Monday, September 28 meeting to subpoena political operative Tim Baker for documents he has refused to produce, special counsel Steve Busey says he will submit a draft committee report by the end of October.

Busey interviewed Baker under oath on Tuesday, September 8. According to a memorandum from Busey to the SIC, Baker “objected to our document requests on several grounds, including unspecified privileges and constitutional rights.” Busey wrote Baker did not provide “significant document production.” He declined to provide his consulting contract with Florida Power & Light (FP&L) or answer “material questions about his relationship with FP&L.”

Other information Baker failed to provide includes polling information regarding JEA privatization and whether FP&L promised him a success fee.

“If the committee chooses to challenge Mr. Baker’s claims of privilege, the committee will need to subpoena the documents and his testimony,” Busey wrote.

In an exclusive interview with OurJax, Busey said, “The committee has to determine if it wants to fight that battle.”

Busey told OurJax he does not intend to interview Mayor Lenny Curry, or re-interview Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes. “We have a good handle on it after talking to Tim (Baker), Sam (Mousa), and Brian.”

After several months of investigation that included reviewing thousands of documents and records, as well as interviewing former JEA board chair Alan Howard, Foley & Lardner attorney Kevin Hyde, public relations consultant Michael Munz, Baker, Mousa and Hughes, Busey says he knows the story of what happened.

“They (Curry, Baker, Mousa, Hughes and Munz) were trying to push the sale through because they thought they controlled the council and could pass the referendum by offering every ratepayer $1,000,” Busey said. Curry wanted “less transparency as possible to avoid public outcry. That’s what’s wrong with it.”

When Curry was elected mayor, “he wanted the money. He knew it wasn’t going to pass unless they made a special effort. So, they loaded the board. He had the train running, and he got (Aaron) Zahn to run it,” Busey said, referring to the fired JEA CEO.

“What he (Curry) wanted to do was put $7, $8, or $9 billion on the table at the city council so they couldn’t say, ‘No.’ He controlled most of the votes because Tim and Brian had run their campaigns.”

Curry thought he was doing the right thing for Jacksonville, said Busey. “He was trying to do it with less than transparency. That’s the wrong way to go about things in this community. Thank God Aaron Zahn screwed it up for him.”

The plan might have succeeded, Busey said, “if it hadn’t run aground on Aaron Zahn’s greed trying to get the bonus plan through.”

Busey was referring to Zahn’s scheme to award himself and other JEA executives’ bonuses from the proceeds of JEA’s sale that have been estimated to be worth over $1 billion. It was called the Performance Unit Plan (PUP).

Zahn first revealed his plan in early July 2019 during a secret three-day meeting with investment bankers, lawyers, consultants, and utility officials at Club Continental in Orange Park. It has been reported that some of those in attendance objected to the plan as being illegal and dumb politics.

Busey said his deposition with consultant Michael Munz on September 15 was, “very enlightening.” Munz, he said, “gave us a good insight of the Club Continental meeting.”

Munz said under oath that when he arrived at Club Continental, “he didn’t know what was going on or why all of those people were there.” The lavish bonus plan was discussed. According to Busey, during his deposition, Munz said he told Zahn, “that was a stupid fxxxxxg idea.” Munz said Zahn took him outside and said, “If I said that again he would cancel my contract.” Zahn and JEA were paying Munz’s firm $25,000 a month.

Busey said he doesn’t think Curry, Baker, Mousa or Hughes, “knew about the order of magnitude of the payouts of the PUP until council auditor Kyle Billy blew the whistle. They also said, “Oh my God. That’s stupid. It’s going to torpedo the whole thing.”

Busey said that when the investigation is complete, he will submit a report to the SIC with a two-page executive summary, 40-page report, and 200 to 300-page chronology.

Note: This interview is exclusive to OurJax and if used in media or other reports should be cited accordingly.

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