“Shut down,” “censored,” and “muzzled” are a few words being used to describe the state of Vero Beach’s Utilities and Finance Commissions. As Press Journal columnist Larry Reisman wrote this week, “In 3-2 votes two months apart, the council majority of Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Harry Howle muzzled their advisory commissions from meeting to analyze the latest details of a possible sale.”
One community leader who is deeply concerned over the decision of Moss, Sykes and Howle to press ahead with the proposed power sale without conducting due diligence is Finance Commission Chairman Glen Brovont.
Brovont wrote and distributed an email yesterday raising as many as a dozen concerns about where the deal stands and where it may be headed. The scathing email is written in code, so as not to violate the Council majority’s dictate forbidding discussion of the Orlando Utilities Commission, the Florida Municipal Power Agency or Florida Power & Light. Code or no code, it does not take a counter intelligence expert to read between the lines of Brovont’s message. Clearly he does not believe any meaningful negotiations are taking place between the City and FPL. Rather, it appears Moss, Howle and Sykes, all of whom were heavily supported in their campaigns by FPL, are simply accepting the utility giant’s opening offer.)
In addition to expressing concern about the the lack of due diligence and the apparent absence of any meaningful negotiations, Brovont questioned whether Council members are fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility to the City. He also questioned if the negotiations and surrounding communications are taking place in compliance with Florida’s open government laws. (In late April, Laura Moss received email communication from the City’s special utility council on her private email account. Despite public records requests for the documents having been made on May 2, May 6 and May 8, Moss claimed the information was “proprietary,” and refused to turn the records over to the City Clerk’s Office until May 10 at 3:00 p.m. May 10 just happened to be the date when FPL was prepared to make public the terms of its proposed letter of intent to acquire Vero Electric. Moss’s deliberate delay in releasing what should have been easily accessible public records may well be a violation of the Florida Sunshine Law.)
The full text of Brovont’s email appears below. In deciphering his memo, it is helpful to note that the “Stalking Lion” stands for Florida Power and Light, the “Elephant” for the Orlando Utilities Commission and the “Rhino” for the the Florida Municipal Power Agency.
To: Finance Committee Members 06/28/2017
From: Glen Brovont (individual; written as non-member of finance committee, & in keeping with Censorship Rules)
Re: Questions, issues, & thoughts.
Elections have consequences. This past year’s city election will certainly have consequences. The city council has for several months indicated it is negotiating with Stalking Lion on a full sale of Vero Beach’s electrical utility for $185,000,000 and/or a partial sale of Indian River Shores clients for $30,000,000. Clearly, this is not the case. For all intense purposes, it appears 3 of 5 city council members have agreed to the proposed prices and communicated it to the public & participating parties. For effective negotiations an alternate buyer is necessary, but no known alternate buyer exists! Further, no point person has been appointed by the city council to represent the interest of city’s rate & tax payers, and the city council has prohibited any discussion of the proposed deal by either the utility or the finance committee. Why? Have not all the issues been put on the table? Is the proposed deal so bad, it will dissolve under Sunshine? Under the latter, is democracy working for rate & tax payers?
Essentially since limited financial issues have arose, it appears the city hired transaction attorneys are only negotiating legal terms; doing so without, perhaps, all the financial issues resolved between the parties. With others to follow, here are a few questions:
- Why spend money on legal fees without first clarifying a $30,000,000 difference of opinion on the price for terminating the Elephant contract? In a mediation case, both parties usually expect to give a little, how much, above $20,000,000, is VB willing to feed the Elephant to exit the deal?
- What can the Elephant give VB, and why should it give anything?
- Isn’t the Elephants financial waistline bigger than VB; so why will it give anything in mediation?
- Doesn’t wasting VB’s time in court allow Elephant to continue to eat high cost VB’s greens?
- Doesn’t the additional Elephant appetite make the partial sale proposal a more appealing meal?
- How much in time & legal fees is the city prepared to spend in clarifying this issue?
- What is Rhinos’ advantage to this deal; other than to take “Political Heat off it”; let one or more of the other cities, be the “deal killer”; or demonstrate to other member cities: it’s ability to bring excruciating financial pain (apparently acceptable cost to VB) to other members considering an exit?
- How much time, money, and which city official is going to interact with 15 member cities or is VB prepared to accept Rhino’s sales efforts & results?
- Can Stalking Lion elect the partial sale without first trying to get Rhinos’ members to take on additional power? If this city’s 5 elected officials cannot agree on a full or partial sale, what are the odds of 15 Rhino’s pals unanimously agreeing on the proposed deal; particularly when: the state has excess electrical power, natural gas is under cutting nuclear power, coal is non- competitive, cheaper solar power is in the near future, and, lest you forget, Rhinos’ ability to cause “excruciating financial pain”?
- If Stalking Lion elect the partial purchase, which maybe likely, what is city’s cost of reconfiguring the substation?
- If partial purchase is elected, what is plan, if there is one, for satisfying the other 16,000 county rate payers?
- Assuming the partial sale is pursued, if, how much & when will Stalking-Lion pay for the remaining clients; the full $185,000,000 less $30,000,000? Or something less?
- Which elected official is handling the issues, and what, if any, are his/her qualification & experience for doing so? Or is the city manager handling it all; therefore the unintended ultimate “fall-guy” if the deal implodes?
- With limited due diligent input, if any, the city officials are accepting from anybody are they meeting the fiduciary requirements for their positions?
- Are the negotiations being handled within the Sunshine laws, and if so, are they being handled within the intent of the Law? Are recording or minutes of the meeting being kept for later public scrutiny & review; so as not to have the same public mistrust created by prior ”less than Open Historical Disclosures”?