Editor’s note: The following commentary was issued today as a statement by The Civic Association of Indian River County.
On October 24, 2017, the City Council of Vero Beach committed fraud on its citizens, exuded malfeasance in its actions, and proved a complete lack of regard for its fiduciary duties to the taxpayers.
This Council threesome has been on a dangerous path since Laura Moss declared herself “queen” — no really, that’s what she said — and nobody stopped her usurping the power of the entire City. She took over all contact with both Florida Power & Light and the Florida Municipal Power Authority, in spite of her complete lack of expertise of any kind. She improperly issued a gag order on all city employees who, should they have spoken out, lived in fear of losing their job. This is in spite of the fact that she, by City Charter, should not have any role in who is fired and hired other than the three Charter officers. She did the same to the advisory committees and boards, all of whom are there to assist in city business. Many on those committees have served for years, have deep and educated expertise to offer. We would hope that all citizens would be alarmed by this blatant disregard for sunshine.
Thereby ignoring the law, rejecting legal procedures, and walking blindly to the instructions of FPL [who had fully funded their election to the Council], the majority managed to sell our valuable asset for pennies on the dollar.
This parade of insults and indignities has been viewed by our Board and membership with deep dismay, and many citizens are expressing anger that the Council and City Manager allowed this to occur. If this was a good deal and a beneficial contract, it would have been open to the public in every way, widely applauded by experts, and it would have survived close scrutiny by financial teams. It would have been an open, legally sound process used to bring it to fruition.
The public relations tsunami from FPL, who has spent millions and millions of dollars outside of the contract in order to get it completed, is a miracle of unprovable claims and unverifiable promises.
We would like to remind everyone that the Civic Association, back in the 1980s, supported a sale of our utility if a good deal could be accomplished. We stand by that position today. Not one iota of evidence exists, however, to show how the City will survive a more than 25% cut in income. The county residents should care about this, but many believe they will get lower electric bills and so care nothing about the details. There is not one line, not one word, in that contract that guarantees lower bills, nor anything that prevents FPL from adding all those expenses back onto our utility bills as added fees even if the base rate is lower that what we now pay.
We in the Civic Association are aghast that anyone living in our city, much less anyone in our area, wouldn’t want this deal to be scrutinized and the people involved, residents and ratepayers alike, protected.
We are concerned, we have critical questions about our future, and we are outraged that all legalities were dismissed through sham promises backed by absolutely no facts nor proof.
What now will be possible, or what can residents do who feel that our existence as a city, as a clean, tree-lined and well-looked-after town, is uncertain. We will be contemplating that question, and wondering if once again three pretenders will have been allowed a train wreck on their watch.