Contracts for dismissed JEA executives have an unusual benefit that entitles them to draw as much as one year of consulting fees, a golden parachute that other independent authorities don’t offer to their top leaders.

When the JEA board meets Tuesday to discuss ousted CEO Aaron Zahn’s severance package, the board will face a decision that’s unique to JEA compared to how the city’s other independent authorities hammered out employment agreements with their top leaders.

The agreement approved by the JEA board in July for Zahn includes not only a severance payment equal to 20 weeks of base salary — the maximum number of weeks of payout allowed by state law — but also says he will be hired for a year by JEA as an outside consultant for several hundred thousand dollars.

The fee paid to him for consulting services “from time to time” would be the same as his annual compensation as CEO, making the consulting fees the biggest portion by far of the $842,000 in benefits Zahn stands to get based on his employment contract if the board dismissed him without cause.

In contrast, employments agreements for the top executives of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, the Jacksonville Port Authority and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority do not have any provisions for awarding consulting contracts when those executives are on the way out the door.

They just would get severance pay equal to 20 weeks of compensation if their departures are without cause for dismissal.

The limit on severance pay being no more than 20 weeks of the employee’s compensation has been state law since 2011 after the state Legislature enacted the restrictions on the financial cost of severance packages in government employee agreements across Florida.

Heading toward the Tuesday meeting of the JEA board, attorneys for the city Office of General Counsel are examining whether the consulting contract in JEA’s agreement with Zahn is legally valid.

If attorneys determine it is allowed by state law, that would open the door for executives at other independent authorities to also seek consulting contracts on top of 20 weeks of severance pay as part of their employment agreements.

General Counsel Jason Gabriel wouldn’t say whether his office had begun reviewing the legality or enforceability of Zahn’s consulting contract by the time the board discussed terminating him at a Dec. 17 meeting. Gabriel said “we are and have been looking into all aspects of the issue, and that’s been going on for some time.”

Zahn’s consulting contract was a major point of discussion among board members at the Dec. 17 meeting. But none of the three city attorneys, including deputy general counsel Lawsikia Hodges, who attended the meeting ever mentioned they were still determining whether it was legal or enforceable.

During the meeting, a JEA official told the board that terminating Zahn without cause would result in a $842,000 severance, including $634,000 from the consulting job. Board Chairwoman April Green zealously pushed the board to fire him with cause, saying it would be an outrage to allow Zahn to leave the utility in disgrace with such a large payout.

None of the other board members supported Green’s move to terminate him with cause, which would have eliminated any severance pay for him. But board member Henry Brown expressed an interest in negotiating a severance with Zahn that didn’t include the consulting fees.

Zahn’s attorney attended the meeting and said Zahn was asked whether he’d accept a reduced consulting agreement equal to six months of pay. The board asked Zahn to accept just one month of consulting pay.

The board then instructed city attorneys to investigate whether there was cause to fire Zahn and continue negotiating a less expensive consulting agreement in exchange for being fired without cause.

None of the board members said during the meeting that city attorneys told them they were reviewing the legality of the consulting agreement.

Among other CEOs of independent authorities, Mark VanLoh’s contract at the Jacksonville Aviation Authority entitles him to severance pay equal to 20 weeks of compensation and benefits if he is terminated without cause.

Eric Green at the Jacksonville Port Authority and Nat Ford at the Jacksonville Transportation Authority would each get 20 weeks of base pay as their severance if those boards terminated their employment without cause.

No other employees at those three agencies have written employment agreements, which is another contrast to JEA.

When the JEA board approved an employment agreement with Zahn in July, the board signed off on employment agreements with 12 other members of the utility’senior leadership team. Those agreements also contain provisions for consulting contracts of varying lengths if employees lose their jobs without cause.