JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In his first major step since taking over JEA, provisional CEO Paul McElroy last month put the majority of the utilities leadership team on paid management leave.
On Monday, JEA confirmed that nine executives had been fired for no reason, according to JEA. Executives will receive 20 weeks of compensation and health benefits, JEA said.
“JEA is focused on rebuilding the trust of the community, its customers and employees,” said JEA.
McElroy first informed eight executives about the move last month and said that employees, city council and community no longer trust their leadership, a utility spokesman told News4Jax I-TEAM.
“Individually or collectively, real or perceived, you were complicit or implicit in the (invitation to negotiate) or benefit plan, or just a direct beneficiary,”
“I have come to the conclusion that, as individuals and as a group, you have lost the trust of management, staff, the city council, the media and the community.”
[SPECIALSECTION:[SPECIALSECTION:[BESONDERERABSCHNITT:[SPECIALSECTION:Pursuit of the JEA saga]]
Executives who have resigned include: Caren Anders, VP / GM Energy Systems; Deryle Calhoun, VP / GM Water / Sewage Systems; Shawn Eads, Chief Information Officer; Jon Kendrick, VP / Chief Human Resource Officer; John McCarthy, VP / Chief Supply Chain Officer; Steve McInall, VP / Chief Energy & Water / Wastewater Planning Officer; Paul Steinbrecher, VP / Chief Environmental Officer; and Kerri Stewart, VP / Chief Customer Officer. The move follows the suspension of Chief Administrative Officer Herschel Vinyard last month. He was fired for no reason, JEA confirmed on Monday.
“The termination of the senior leadership team appears to be part of JEA’s efforts to regain public confidence and start over. Some leadership team members may have done the best in difficult circumstances and done nothing wrong, ”said Rick Mullaney, political analyst at News4Jax. “Termination without a reason supports this conclusion. However, the public arena often requires changes when public trust is lost. “
The shock comes when JEA is scrutinized by the Department of Justice and a special committee of the City Council. The Department of Justice typically does not comment on active investigations, but has asked the council not to interview key witnesses of the submerged plan to offer JEA for sale.
City councilor Rory Diamond, who leads the investigation by the city council committee, said he was surprised by some of the names listed. He speculated that McElroy, a former JEA CEO tapped to get the utility back on track, is taking steps to prepare the utility for its permanent replacement.
[RELATED:[RELATED:[VERBUNDEN:[RELATED:McElroy “pleased about the optimism” of the transition]]
“They have people there who have essentially worked their entire lives for JEA and some very good people there,” said Diamond. “This list is the best indication so far that Paul McElroy is essentially doing a clean sweep and restarting JEA.”
The research comes from the ITN (Invitation to Negotiate), a plan to bring potential applicants to justice who are interested in buying or operating all or part of the city’s utility. The JEA board of directors canceled these plans last year in response to public backlash and fired what was then CEO Aaron Zahn, who is now being sued by the city of Jacksonville. The repressed CEO of JEA shot back earlier this month in response to the city utility’s lawsuit against him, and is fighting for a private meditator to settle contract disputes.
It’s also about the Performance Unit Plan (PUP), which is essentially a stock purchase plan that executives and others could benefit from if JEA is sold.
Over the next 20 weeks, these executives will continue to collect large paychecks. Records received from I-TEAM show that their salaries, including Vinyard’s, range from $ 184,000 to $ 350,000 a year. In other words, they earn $ 88- $ 168 an hour to sit on the sidelines.
|Staff Name||title||Hourly rate||Basic salary|
|Caren Anders||VP / GM Energy||$ 141.8||$ 295,000|
|Deryle Calhoun||VP / GM water / waste water||$ 105.8||$ 220,000|
|Shawn Eads||VP / Chief Information Officer||$ 132.2||$ 275,000|
|Jon Kendrick||Chief Human Resource Officer||$ 98.6||$ 205,000|
|John McCarthy||Chief Supply Chain Officer||$ 88.7||$ 184,000|
|Steve McInall||VP / Chief Energy / Water Planning||$ 96.2||$ 200,000|
|Paul Steinbrecher||Chief Environmental Services Officer||$ 88.7||$ 184,000|
|Kerri Stewart||VP / Chief Customer Officer||$ 113.3||$ 235,500|
|Herschel Vinyard||Chief Administrative Officer||$ 168.3||$ 350,000|
“The thing that bothers me the most about what we learned on the committee is how consistent and with all the effort that Aaron Zahn has made to get these ridiculous bonuses. For me it is without a doubt the biggest scandal in Jacksonville history when it comes to money. It could have been over $ 1 billion – that’s outrageous, “said Diamond.
The effects of the controversy over ITN and PUP were far-reaching.
In addition to Zahn, this led to the resignation of former Chief Legal Officer Lynne Rhode and the dismissal of former CFO Ryan Wannemacher. In February, the JEA Board of Directors resigned. In April, the Board’s successors unanimously voted to remove interim CEO Melissa Dykes, a long-time executive who served as JEA’s chief operating officer during Zahn’s tenure. More recently, Vinyard has been on leave last month.
City Councilor Matt Carlucci said he doesn’t think everyone who has been suspended deserves the blame.
“I just can’t help but feel bad for some people trying to stick to their jobs,” Carlucci told News4Jax. “You had three years before retirement and then it comes – Aaron Zahn comes and pollutes the whole thing.”
The list of findings does not include Chief Legal Counsel Jody Brooks, Provisional Chief Government Affairs Officer Kurtis Wilson and Provisional Chief Financial Officer Joseph Orfano who will take on this role until his successor Brian Roche takes over on June 22, from this date Orfano changes to the utility company’s treasury team.
In the same step, seven people will temporarily join the utilities management team:
- Stephen Datz, Interim Chief Information Officer
- Bruce Dugan, Interim Chief Communication Officer
- Ricky Erixton, Interim General Manager, Electrical Systems
- Angie Hiers, Interim Chief Human Resource Officer
- Alan McElroy (no relationship), Interim Chief Supply Chain Officer
- Hai Vu, Interim General Manager, Water / Sewage Systems
- Wayne Young, chief environmental officer
McElroy announced last month that Hiers, along with two others, would temporarily be among his executives. Other members include Vickie Cavey, a long-time JEA executive who led the strategic planning and development of the utility company from 2013 until her retirement in 2017, and Gerri Boyce, another long-time employee who served as spokeswoman until she retired in 2018 acted by JEA.
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