JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The scandal surrounding the failed attempt to sell JEA took a new turn on Friday.
Nate Monroe, a prominent Jacksonville columnist for the Florida Times-Union, was apparently put under surveillance by a consulting firm working for Florida Power and Light. It was more than two years ago when FPL was in the lead during the outrageous attempts to sell JEA.
Monroe was keen to tell many stories regarding the troubled sales plan, and some of her stories were at times critical of FPL’s involvement.
There have been a lot of questions about this whole ordeal, and I want to be clear: JEA says it has nothing to do with it. FPL says he is not involved either.
We have reported many stories about JEA’s failed sale attempt. The Florida Times-Union took the lead on many of these stories, and Monroe was front and center. He recently received a batch of documents from an anonymous source showing that he was under surveillance by an Alabama political consulting firm – Matrix – hired by FPL, which was bidding on JEA.
I spoke with Monroe on Friday and asked him what his reaction was to learning he was under surveillance.
“It was obviously surreal. You know, I think a viewer can probably imagine what it’s like to open up a batch of tapes that I felt were about the JEA controversy and find out actually there was stuff about me in there,” Monroe said.
He says the information was very personal, such as his full social security number, driver’s license and a list of friends dating back to childhood – information that is not readily available as a public record. There were also photos of him, including one taken while he was at the beach.
“And really, the only thing that’s obvious is that they were watching me, they interfered in my personal life and, for a time, this political consulting company – or the employees of this political consulting company – collected surveillance on me,” Monroe said.
There’s a lot of finger pointing from those possibly involved.
Matrix responded to questions about the surveillance with a written statement, saying the surveillance was carried out by a malicious operation by employees who were no longer with the company, but it also suggests that FPL was also involved.
FPL sent this statement:
“The FPL did not monitor the media or commission reports or investigations of members of the press. We do not condone this type of surveillance of journalists, and believe that the information was selectively leaked to create the impression that the FPL acted improperly. »
“And what the documents show is that I was being watched,” Monroe said. “There is a hot potato game being played between the different parties here. Nobody wants to be caught holding this thing.
Although it appears no laws were broken, News4JAX political analyst Rick Mullaney said there were plenty of ethical questions.
“You have to ask a very basic question: what the hell are you doing monitoring a personal investigation of a reporter because of a major deal going on with the city?” Mullaney said. “I’ve never seen anything like it here in Jacksonville.”
This question – and who is ultimately responsible – remains unanswered.
I asked Monroe if that would keep her from reporting. “Certainly not,” he told me – and he plans to have more reports on the documents he received in the future.
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