[Updated: 4:43 p.m.]
Peter Bower is one of the more powerful people on the JEA Board. He serves as Vice Chair and Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee. He also has a history of contentious statements since taking that position, including broadsides against the man who appointed him.
Bower was appointed by Jacksonville mayor Alvin Brown on December 12, 2012 for an unexpired term that expired February 28, 2014 and was then reappointed for a term which expires February 28, 2018.
Before the May election, during the heat of the legislative session, Bower sent an explosive email to state legislators Janet Adkins, Travis Cummings, Lake Ray, Jay Fant, and Charles McBurney.
The subject? “Florida House of Representatives Performance.”
“I find your performance on this session on behalf of the citizens of Florida to be despicable,” Bower began, striking a distinctly ad hominem tone in this brief-but-blistering missive. “Do you represent anyone other than yourselves?”
“If you cannot represent all the citizens,” Bower continued, “not just special interest groups that serve your personal political and financial interests, then resign.”
After seemingly calling for the legislators to resign en masse at his direction, Bower’s tone pivoted to yet another command.
“Get back to work and get healthcare for those who need it and complete a budget,” Bower added.
Bower, who gave $1,000 to the campaign of Bill Bishop in June of 2014, contends that he was within his rights to send this email, and that it has nothing to do with his service on the JEA Board.
“My concerns as to the dead-lock in the Florida legislature represent my views as a citizen. I have every right to voice concerns, they have nothing to do with my public service. Any attempt to make a connection is disingenuous and will be challenged. I was not the only citizen that thought the actions of the house this legislative session went far beyond reasonableness,” Bower told us.
Of course, this isn’t Bower’s first brush with controversy.
As Folio Weekly observed in February 2014, “according to Bower, Brown’s chief financial officer, Ronnie Belton, asked him before a JEA meeting last week to vote in favor of the mayor’s proposal … or else. Bower refused, then declined Belton’s alleged request to resign, then whined to the Times-Union about Brown’s “strong-arming.”
“I was told I should resign,” Bower said, according to the T-U. “I’m not going to be anybody’s puppet.”
Then, Bower told the paper that “I’m very disappointed in a few people,” Bower said. “I think they’ve lost their moral compass, and I don’t think this is a good way to run a community.”
He got his reappointment, but then he maxed out to the Bishop campaign.
With the JEA and the city of Jacksonville at loggerheads on certain issues, and with the Lenny Curry administration looking closely at the composition of boards, the open question is one of whether city government shares Bower’s contention that he has “every right to voice concerns” that “have nothing to do with [his] public service.