Editor’s note: With the newly released report from a Jacksonville City Council special committee officially connecting Mayor Lenny Curry and his administration to the abortive effort to sell JEA, The Jaxson is revisiting an editorial originally published on February 6, 2020 that considers the evidence for and against Curry’s involvement and comes to an unusual conclusion. Find The Florida Times-Union’s coverage of the developing story here and read the report for yourself here.

Image courtesy of Eon Productions and Wikimedia.

An exhaustive analysis of Lenny Curry’s actions vis a vis the controversial push to sell JEA has led me to identify two scenarios. Either Curry is in fact the driving force of the sale, or he is instead a mindless ocean animal with no ability to comprehend this or any other matter. There are no other reasonable possibilities. Let’s take a look at the evidence:

1. In 2015, Curry replaced the entire JEA board with loyalists

In a highly unusual move, shortly after his inauguration in 2015 Curry successively removed all sitting members of JEA’s governing board who had been appointed by his predecessor, Alvin Brown. He reappointed one member friendly to him, Husein Cumber, and replaced the rest with his own supporters and loyalists. Notably, he appointed one of his biggest backers, Tom Petway, who made the public call for JEA to pursue privatization just before leaving the board in 2017.

Curry might be the mastermind because:

At first glance, these moves would suggest that Curry was intentionally exerting his power over JEA’s governing board. It stands to reason that, as the person who chose every single member of the board who has served since that time, that he intentionally picked people who would carry out his vision for the utility.

He might be a sea cucumber because:

Sea cucumbers lack developed sensory organs and have only rudimentary methods of locomotion, so it’s possible that Curry simply crawled across his office’s “fire the JEA board” button (such a button existing in this scenario). As sea cucumbers do have a sense of touch and have some ability to detect the presence of light, he could have then chosen their replacements from the people who happened to be standing closest to him without realizing the implications of what he was doing. You can’t blame a sea cucumber for being a sea cucumber.

2. CEO Aaron Zahn was Curry’s personal friend and appointee

Disgraced CEO Aaron Zahn is an old friend of Curry’s. He served on Curry’s mayoral transition team in 2015, and Curry later handpicked him for the JEA board. Zahn had no experience in the utility industry, but this didn’t raise eyebrows at the time as few if any of Curry’s other appointees had any such experience either. But then in April 2018, the JEA board picked Zahn as interim CEO of the utility over longtime JEA employee Melissa Dykes. In a widely criticized move, the board doubled down on Zahn that November when it hired him as permanent CEO over other more qualified candidates.

Curry might be the mastermind because:

A board made up entirely of Curry’s handpicked loyalists hired his inexperienced buddy to oversee the nation’s eighth largest public utility, and then did it again.

He might be a sea cucumber because:

Lacking a brain, sea cucumbers have no memory. If he were a sea cucumber, Curry would not have remembered who Zahn or any of his other board appointees were. In this scenario, the board may have felt empowered to hire one of their own given that the city was being run by a brainless sea cucumber.

3. Curry telegraphed for years that he himself favored the sale

Possible candid photo of Mayor Curry at a ribbon cutting. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

In December 2017, Curry’s close advisor Brian Hughes, now the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, told Sunshine State News that the JEA privatization push was “very real. There will be a serious look at it… Lenny is a former accountant who was an entrepreneur. He’s a free market Republican. It’s consistent with his ideology.” In the same article, Curry praised (and passed the buck to) Tom Petway for suggesting the sale, saying he “welcomed” the idea and would work with City Council to explore it. In 2019, after the board voted to move forward with exploring privatization, Curry praised his board’s “wisdom and expertise” and called Zahn a “visionary” CEO. He also repeatedly and publicly expressed his support of the sale plan, going so far as inviting citizens to “imagine being a debt-free city” with all the money generated by the sale.

Curry might be the mastermind because:

He’s essentially been saying it himself for three years.

He might be a sea cucumber because:

Many sea cucumbers have excellent camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. Curry was surrounded by people who wanted to sell JEA for their own gain. Trying to fit in with them would just be a natural adaptation.

Next page: More compelling evidence