Tonkel letter departs from reality


“Councilman Randy Old has explained that he will entertain a $47 million offer, but that he cannot in good conscience agree to a deal that is going to disadvantage the customer of Vero Electric and the taxpayer of Vero Beach just to benefit the Shores. To do so, Old said, would be a breach of his fiduciary responsibilities.”


Laura Moss, J. Rock Tonkel
Laura Moss, J. Rock Tonkel

Among the many misstatements of fact in a letter J. Rock Tonkel, (Grand Harbor), wrote to the Press Journal is his claim to be a resident of Vero Beach. As published, Tonkel signed his letter, “J. Rock Tonkel, Vero Beach.” Tonkel is not a resident of the city.

That untruth was preceded by a number of far more significant departures from reality, as the Grand Harbor resident argued for the election to the Vero Beach City Council of three candidates, (Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Norman Wells), who are supported by, and will apparently be heavily funded by residents in Indian River Shores.

Like Utilities Commission Chairman, Laura Moss, Tonkel makes much of the fact that the Commission “unanimously” advised the City Council to accept Florida Power & Light’s offer to buy Vero Electric’s Shores customers and infrastructure for $30 million. What neither of them will acknowledge is that FPL placed such a short deadline on acceptance of the offer that it could not be vetted by the Finance Commission.  To be sure, the Finance Commission, and not the Utilities Commission, is best equipped to assess the likely financial impact of accepting FPL’s offer.

Tonkel’s letter also makes no mention of the fact that a team of five utility experts determined it will take $47 million, not $30 million, to carve up Vero Electric without adversely impacting the remaining customers. Councilman Randy Old has explained that he will entertain a $47 million offer, but that he cannot in good conscience agree to a deal that is going to disadvantage the customers of Vero Electric and the taxpayers of Vero Beach just to benefit the Shores. To do so, Old said, would be a breach of his fiduciary responsibilities.

In his letter to the editor, Tonkel argued that somehow Moss, Sykes and Wells will “improve the likelihood of negotiating a solution.”  This claim is not only untrue, it is pure nonsense.  Even FPL officials admit they have no suggestions for how to find a willing and qualified party to assume Vero Beach’s long-term contractual commitments to the Florida Municipal Power Agency.

Another point of departure from reality in Tonkel’s letter is his claim that, absent a partial sale for the Shores, Vero Beach leaders will increase the annual transfer from the electric run to the general fund to “underwrite unfunded liabilities.”  If the City were to use proceeds from any partial sale in this way, rates for the remaining customers of Vero Electric would surely rise.  Any suggestion that the money can and should be used in this way is pure foolishness. Not being a resident of Vero Beach, Tonkel may not realize the Council, with support from typically anti-tax members Pilar Turner and Harry Howle, approved a tax increase to fund a trust to specifically address post employment benefits.

Planting himself squarely in La La Land, Tonkel wrote, “Our citizens remain in the midst of an electric rate crisis.”  In truth, Vero Electric rates are lower than rates approved by the Florida Public Service Commission for three of the state’s investor owned utilities. More importantly, Vero Electric’s rates continue to decline, and will likely come down even further in the near future.  Tonkel should know this, for he is a member of the Utilities Commission, representing county residents on what he describes as “an unregulated monopoly.” Tonkel should also know FPL’s rates are going to rise, as the utility giant is seeking approval for a $1.3 billion rate increase.





  1. Too often people claim to live in Vero Beach when in fact they do not live in the city of Vero,but the unincorporated area outside the city limits. To claim to live in the city and write about any sale of Vero Electric is a sneaky way to gain votes or influence others. Whether one resides in or out of the city makes a difference. Anyone writing to a news outlet, or speaking at city council meetings must state ,honestly, where they actually live. Certain people with ” ax to grind” have gotten away with this deceitful tactic for too long.

  2. Grand Harbor is in a census community designated as Gifford, a sub division of the Vero Beach/Sebastian SMA, an unincorporated portion of Indian River County. For the Rock Tonkel to assert he is from Vero Beach is disingenuous and certainly inaccurate.

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