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Fla. state attorney seeks federal investigation of JEA's privatization inquiry

Florida's state attorney is asking federal investigators to review how Jacksonville, Fla., municipal utility JEA decided to explore privatization and pursued negotiations with potential suitors.

Florida State Attorney Melissa Nelson, who serves the state's Fourth Judicial Circuit, said in December 2019 that her office was initiating an investigation into JEA's recently terminated attempt to restructure the utility, according to The Florida Times-Union. On Jan. 13, Nelson said her office has examined all pieces of evidence and determined that the investigation requires more outside resources.

"After thorough review, the State Attorney's Office has determined that the appropriate venue to continue this investigation is the federal justice system," Nelson said in a news release. "We have referred our investigation to our federal partners, who will take the lead moving forward and have the full support of this office."

JEA has been entangled in controversies resulting from its solicitation for proposals to change its status as a government-affiliated entity. JEA's board of directors voted to fire then-Managing Director and CEO Aaron Zahn over several ethics violations before deciding to end negotiations for alternative ownership structures.

JEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. JEA's board of directors is scheduled to have its next meeting Jan. 28.