“The utilities commission shall meet at least once every quarter.”
“…Howle, Moss and Sykes continue to insist a partial sale at $30 million would be a good deal for the City. Just this week though, Finance Director Cindy Lawson released a report projecting that a partial sale will lead to a 1.9 percent rate increase for the remaining customers and a tax hike on City residents of 9 percent to 12 percent.”
“With Howle, Moss and Sykes in the majority at City Hall, and with Brian Barefoot and Bob Solari behind the scenes pulling their strings, Vero Beach is quickly becoming like Venezuela, a failed democracy.”
In what appears to be a clear violation of City of Vero Beach Ordinances, the City’s Utilities Commission has gone dormant. Indian River Shores Town Councilman Robert Auwaerter, who just happens to also be Vice Chair of the Vero Beach Utilities Commission, has yet to call a meeting of the Commission in 2017. Auwaerter assumed responsibility of the Commission when the previous Chair, Laura Moss, was elected to the Vero Beach City Council.
Vero Beach City Ordinances require the Commission to meet to elect a new Chair. According to City Clerk Tammy Bursick, her office has inquired with Auwaerter monthly about convening the Utilities Commission. Each month he has declined to do so.
Auwaerter is a ally of Moss, who won election with overwhelming financial support from Indian River Shores residents and from a political action committee that raised more than $100,000 exclusively from Shores residents and Florida Power and Light. (Shores residents graced Moss with 70 percent of her campaign contributions. Lange Sykes took in 90 percent of his funds from the Shores.) One has to wonder if, in failing to convene the Utilities Commission, Auwaerter is taking direction from Moss, who appears to be receiving her marching orders from Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot and from FPL.
Along with Councilmen Harry Howle and Lange Sykes, Moss has twice voted to muzzle the Utilities and Finance Commissions, forbidding them from discussing the implications of the proposed partial sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to FPL. As of this past Tuesday, the Commissions are now also forbidden to consider the likely impacts of the proposed sale of the full electric system to FPL, or just as importantly, to consider the viability of FPL’s latest offer.
Councilmen Richard Winger and Tony Young have both expressed concerns that Howle, Moss and Sykes are willing to accept FPL’s initial offer without any vetting or negotiating. Winger this week warned his fellow Council members that he would not support the sale if they fail to negotiate the best deal possible for the City. In expressing his own concerns, Young said, “Who is looking at the financial implications of this deal? It is not being done.”
During Tuesday’s Council meeting, Moss argued that each Council member “is responsible for doing his or her own due diligence.” This idea borders on the absurd, for Howle, Moss and Sykes lack the financial expertise to thoroughly assess the likely impact of the sale on the City’s finances and operations. Further, given that Howle, Moss and Sykes are so heavily beholden to their Shores patrons and to FPL, it is all but impossible to expect them to conduct an impartial analysis.
For example, Howle, Moss and Sykes continue to insist a partial sale at $30 million would be a good deal for the City. Just this week, though, Finance Director Cindy Lawson released a report projecting that a partial sale will lead to a 1.9 percent rate increase for the remaining customers and a tax hike on City residents of 9 percent to 12 percent.
By shutting down the City’s citizen advisory boards, Howle, Moss and Sykes are shirking their fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach. With Howle, Moss and Sykes in the majority at City Hall, and with Brian Barefoot and Bob Solari behind the scenes pulling their strings, Vero Beach is quickly becoming like Venezuela, a failed democracy.