To prepare the previous and now defunct purchase and sale agreement between Vero Beach and Florida Power & Light, the City paid more than $1 million in legal fees. That contract, which was signed by Tracy Carroll, Craig Fletcher and Pilar Turner, failed to address and account for the City’s contactual obligations to the Florida Municipal Power Agency and its bond holders.
In the latest push to sell Vero Electric to FPL, the new council majority of Harry Howle, Laure Moss and Lange Sykes, all elected with significant support from FPL, has run up an additional $337,386 in legal and consulting fees. Since May of this year, the law firm of Carlton Fields has charged the City $332,710. And additional $4,675 has been paid to the firm of Nabors Giblin and Nickerson for counsel on bond issues.
Any sale of the full system must still receive unanimous approval from the member cities of the FMPA’s All Requirements Project. As it is being written, the current purchase and sale agreement will commit the City to sell the Indian River Shores portion of the electric system, even if one or more FMPA ARP members block the full sale.
As a candidate for re-election last fall, then City Councilman Randy Old said he believed a sale of the full system at the price proposed would not be good for the City, its residents, or the remaining customers of Vero Electric. To approve the partial sale at the price offered by FPL, Old said, would be a violation of a Council member’s fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach.
Old was defeated for re-election, loosing by 27 votes to Lange Sykes. Sykes received 90 percent of his campaign contributions from Indian River Shores residents. During the election, as he was seeing support for Sykes among wealthy Shores residents, Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot described Sykes as “a member of the Shores team.” Sykes was also supported by a political action committee that received half of its $100,000 in contributions from FPL.
This year Harry Howle is running for re-election. Like Sykes, he too was first elected with support from a political action committee funded in part by FPL.
As a candidate this year, Old now supports the partial sale. If the retired banker was right last year, then the legal fees now being passed on to the customers of Vero Electric will prove just a fraction of the negative impact on rates that will result from handing Shores portion of the system over to FPL.