A special committee will assemble Wednesday to begin looking at whether City Council member LeAnna Cumber and a public consortium misled investigators after the failed sale of JEA in 2019.
The City Council members who will serve on the committee will be Rory Diamond as chairman; Nick Howland as vice chair; and Sam Newby and Michael Boylan.
Council President Terrance Freeman announced the Special Investigatory Committee on JEA Matters on Wednesday, saying he revived it in response to multiple council members’ requests. The committee originally investigated the pursuit to privatize JEA.
New information has emerged since then that raises questions about whether Cumber’s husband, Husein, was involved in the potential sale, and whether she was honest about his role, Freeman said. Cumber is now a Republican candidate for mayor.
Emails recently obtained by the Florida Times-Union, a WJCT News partner, showed that Husein Cumber met and communicated with people working to move forward a proposal from a consortium of companies that became known as Public Power Partners.
Public Power Partners offered to pay a multibillion-dollar concession fee for the right to manage JEA, the Times-Union reported. That was a form of privatization that would have kept JEA under the city’s ownership.
The investigative committee later asked all City Council members to disclose “whether you or your immediate family member had any interaction with any person or entity connected in any way with JEA or the city.”
Cumber turned in a statement in March 2021, after the committee had released its final report, stating that she had “no conflicts regarding JEA” and the sale process. The statement did not mention her husband.
Cumber attorney Daniel Nunn called the revived investigation a “manufactured controversy” that “exposes the lengths to which Mayor [Lenny] Curry and his chosen successor will go to win.” He characterized the investigation as a political plot to benefit one of Cumber’s opponents, JAX Chamber President Daniel Davis.
“As a lawyer who investigated the JEA scandal, I found no misconduct by any member of the City Council,” Nunn said.
He also suggested that the reformed committee should explore the non-disclosure statement by Councilman Aaron Bowman, who is senior vice president of business development at the JAX Chamber. Nunn also proposed that the committee look into Councilman Garrett Dennis.
Bowman responded to that statement in an email Thursday issued from his City Council office, saying that a colleague’s legal representation “has implied that I was involved in behind-the-scenes activities … and selling of JEA to interested parties.”
“There’s nothing in my activities or family’s background that would show any communication or interaction with any suitor of JEA,” Bowman said. For Cumber’s attorney to attack his family and professional career is “despicable and painful,” he said.
“Unfortunately, politics bring out the worst behavior in people trying to get in positions that they are not well suited,” Bowman said. “I am frankly appalled and discouraged by those activities and is one of the reasons I am closing the chapter of my elected official life on July 1 of this year.”
Along with investigating Cumber and Public Power Partners, the special committee could propose legislation to ensure that deception never impedes the work of future investigatory committees, Freeman wrote.
The committee’s first meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall.