Meter at City’s outside utility counsel running – now $136,757

MARK SCHUMANN

The City has not yet received an invoice from its outside utility counsel for work done in June. But the bill is now in for May, and it totals $73,051. Through the end of May, the Tampa based law firm of Carlton Fields has billed the City a total of $136,757 for crafting a letter of intent with Florida Power and Light, and working on contractual obligations the City has with Florida Municipal Power Agency and the Orlando Utilities Commission. These legal fees are ultimately paid by the City’s electric customers.

At some point, if the City is to be released of its long term obligations to the FMPA, all of the agency’s member cities will have to agree to the terms of just over $100 million.  One veto, presumably, will kill the deal.

On the OUC front, FPL had allowed for $20 million in its total offer of $185 million to settle the City’s wholesale power contracts. The OUC, however, has put Vero Beach on notice that the actual damages it will suffer could far exceed $20 million, perhaps as much as $50 million.  Resolving the difference could require expensive mediation, and perhaps even more costly litigation.

In negotiating the now defunct and shelved 2013 purchase sand sale agreement between FPL and Vero Beach, the law firm of Edwards Wildman charged more than $1 million. Edwards and Wildman was replaced by Tallahassee utility counsel Schef Wright. At half the hourly rate of Edwards Wildman, Wright defended the City against a lawsuit pursued by the Town of Indian River Shores. Wright also negotiated a revised agreement with the OUC that shortened the length of the contract and cut City’s wholesale power bills.

In dismissing Wright and hiring attorneys with Carlton Fields, Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, again signed the City up with a $500-an-hour attorneys.

 

2 comments

  1. Such a large amount of money is going to $500 an hour attorneys who have not actually shown us a reason for their replacing Mr. Wright. Schef Wright-for half the hourly fee- gave us reason to believe we might have a chance against the big guys with their unlimited funding. I am beginning to think we citizens represent a slot machine with big pay-outs—to the $500 an hour attorneys. The machine does not have a bottomless supply of money in it. If this ‘deal’ doesn’t work out, the prudent thing to do would be to unload three council members, quickly!

  2. Mark,
    COVB has been through at least three exercises regarding exit from power agreements and/or sale of the utility. The first go ’round resulted in nothing but a several $M legal bill. If memory serves it was in excess of $5M. Might be an informative exercise to look back at these past actions by various Councils and tally the total amount of City funds flushed. I think you’ll find the total exceeds $10M. The current escapade will likely lead to another $5+ M bill, and maybe higher given the likelihood of litigation due to present Council’s questionable activity.

    Bob Swift

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