“I insist that the Finance Commission be allowed to do their job.” – Richard Winger
Including the $50,000 Florida Power and Light recently gave to a political action committee supporting candidates Harry Howle and Val Zudans, the company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars sponsoring City Council candidates who will agree to its every demand as it seeks to takeover Vero Electric.
FPL’s investment is paying off. Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, all of whom occupy seats on the Council that were essentially “bought” by FPL, seem determined to speedily accept without any negotiation on the City’s behalf, and without any review by the Finance and Utilities Commissions, a new purchase and sale agreement of some 500 pages.
Howle, Moss and Sykes are pushing through the power sale exactly as FPL would want them to, without serious negotiation and without public review. They are serving FPL quite well, but their actions raise questions about whether they are also serving the people of Vero Beach.
Why the rush to sign the contract before the Nov. 7 Council election? Why the absence of any serious negotiations? Why the determination to prevent the members of Finance and Utilities Commissions from reviewing and discussing the terms of the contract in public?
Yesterday, Finance Commission Chairman Glen Brovont wrote his fellow Commission members, “Given what she (Laura Moss) indicates, I frankly fail to understand why the committee’s public meeting impacts the deal. Unless, of course, there is something within the documents that reading them might highlight. The document will be available on Wednesday. I suggest if you have time, review them as private taxpayers. The public meeting will be the following week.”
Clearly concerned that FPL’s representatives on the Council are about to commit the City to a contract that without full and careful review, Councilman Richard Winger yesterday wrote the following email to the City Clerk.
For the record, other than the original letter of intent, which Mr. Howell and Mrs. Moss said would be negotiated, so far I have received nothing on this sale. I believe this Commission (Finance) is in the same position, and this would be their first look at this sale beyond the LOI and the verbal announcement at City Council that the substation was to be moved across the street.
Therefore, I must protest this, and point out the acting mayor has no authority to prevent a Commission from meeting and vetting what is perhaps the most important financial contract this City will ever have. I insist that the Finance Commission be allowed to do their job.
Please pass this to City Council first thing in the morning.
Despite the concerns raised by Brovont, Winger and others, FPL’s representatives of the Council – Howle, Moss and Sykes – are pressing ahead with plans to sign the contract before Nov. 7. They seem confident the public is either not paying attention, or does not care. Judging from how few members of the public are attending Council meetings to raise concerns about the process, it appears that the FPL-sponsored majority may be exactly right in its assessment of the public’s apathy and/or ignorance about how they and their City are about to be railroaded by the state’s largest investor owned utility.
Moss flits around Vero Beach from event to event acting like a monarch, and claiming to have magically brought the power sale together. Far away in Tallahassee and Orlando a very different story has been developing.
Why is the Florida Municipal Power Agency now willing to release Vero Beach from its contractual obligations for a fraction of its original cost estimates. Could it be that some months ago a leader in the Florida Legislature passed the word to the FMPA that it needed to find a way to “solve the Vero Beach problem,” or the Legislature would do it for them.
Another hurdle to the deal was the Orlando Utilities Commission’s insistence on enforcing a provision in its contract with Vero Beach that would have added another $30 million in cost to the deal. Why did the OUC suddenly agree to accept $20 million, rather then the nearly $50 million it was due? Could it be that Gov. Rick Scott placed a call Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer insisting that he persuade the OUC to find a way to help make the deal happen?
FPL spends millions of dollars each year contributing to the campaigns of local and state leaders and to the political action committees supporting them. When it comes time to call on the state’s most powerful leaders to do some arm twisting, FPL gets what FPL wants.