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Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry speaks, with former administrator Sam Mousa looking on.

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‘They didn’t lobby me’: JEA sale scheme darkens Lenny Curry’s doorstep

Mayor says his hands are clean.

Though advocacy for selling JEA wavered at times from Jacksonville’s Mayor before he let the dream die, allies of his were close to the effort.

But the Mayor said Monday neither they nor anyone else lobbied him on the sale of the utility.

The Florida Times-Union was first to report documentation of a connection between one prominent bidder and two members of Lenny Curry‘s inner circle.

NextEra, the parent of Florida Power & Light, confirmed that it had employed former Curry administrator Sam Mousa and Curry campaign consultant Tim Baker.

(Baker had also offered counsel to JEA, the T-U reported. However, Baker noted that he did not work on the sales process or the strategic future of JEA or any issue for FPL, and that he terminated his deal with FPL “more than a month” before the formal invitation to negotiate.)

On Monday, Curry addressed the news, saying “the important thing” is that neither Mousa nor Baker nor anyone else lobbied him or his administration.

“Consultants were representing some of the bidders,” Curry said, including “consultants that maybe worked on my campaign, other people’s campaigns.”

“None of these people lobbied me,” Curry added, saying “they were engaged by private companies.”

Perhaps to deflect or perhaps because of coincidence, Curry alluded, twice, to two consultants involved in the sale push who were outside of his sphere: former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney, of Rogers Towers; and Chris Hand, former chief of staff for one-term Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

FPL was perceived by many as a natural front-runner in the process, and had it gone forward, Baker and Mousa would have been useful advocates.

While many prominent lobbyists and former politicos were involved in sale proceedings one way or another, Mousa and Baker are notable because they comprise part of Curry’s innermost political circle.

The Mayor, who had called a Monday evening press conference to address the latest stage in Jacksonville’s seemingly-perpetual reopening, was charged with addressing this JEA mess, likewise seemingly-perpetual since key backer Tom Petway suggested privatization nearly three years ago.

Curry had once argued that selling the utility could make the city debt-free throughout the so-called “invitation to negotiate” process.

However, a performance unit plan that would have enriched the C-Suite at public expense showed that the only parties guaranteed to be debt-free made over six figures per year.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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