The Vero Beach City Council this evening voted to direct the Finance Commission to no longer review or assess the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to Florida Power & Light. The motion was made by Harry Howle, and supported by Laura Moss and Lange Sykes.
Council members Tony Young and Richard Winger strongly objected to muzzling the Commission. They argued that the Council could benefit from more analysis and input. They also pointed out that the Commission has so far never reviewed the proposed sale, because, at least until recently, key information about Vero Electric’s Shores customer base was not yet available.
Howle, Moss and Sykes all said they are clear about what they want to do regarding the Shore’s request for a partial sale, and are no longer in need of input and advice from the Finance Commission. (Howle, Moss and Sykes support the sale at $30, despite recommendations from a team of utility experts who advised it will take no less than $42 million to downsize Vero Electric without causing higher rates and higher taxes for the remaining customers of Vero Electric and for the taxpayers of Vero Beach. The Troika also continues to press for the partial sale despite the increasing likelihood that the entire system can now be sold.)
In the recent election, Moss received 70 percent of her campaign contributions from Shores residents. Sykes took in 90 percent of his campaign funds from the Shores, and a political action commission funded by Shores residents and by FPL supported both Moss and Sykes. Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot also identified moss and Sykes as “members of the Shores team.”
That Howle, Moss and Sykes are pressing ahead without a review of the deal by the Finance Commission has some wondering who is looking out for the people of Vero Beach. Former councilman Ken Daige addressed the Council this evening, pointing out FPL has executives looking out for its interests, and Shores residents have elected officials looking out for them. “We want to know that you are looking out for our interests,” Daige said.
The Howle-Moss-Sykes Troika’s muzzling of the Finance Commission was followed by a heated discussion of the mayor’s authority relative to other council members. Last week, without approval from the full council, Moss pressured Finance Commission Chairman Glenn Brovont to cancel a meeting scheduled for Feb. 20. By acting unilaterally, Moss was acting beyond the scope of the City Charter, since the mayor’s position does not come with extra authority. “You are not the chief executive of the city,” Winger said to Moss.
Earlier in the the meeting, the Council hear from Florida Municipal Power Agency General Manager Jacob Williams. Williams laid out a plan and a timeline for enabling Vero Beach to end its membership in the power agency, thus paving the way for a sale of Vero Electric to FPL. Given that a sale of the full system now seems to be a real possibility, some wonder why Howle, Moss and Sykes are pushing ahead with a partial sale for the Shores, when a sale of the full system would bring rate relieve, not just for Shores residents, but for all 34,000 customers of Vero Electric.