Have Indian River County Republicans fallen for Moss’ and Frey’s scare tactics? 5


“If anything is a threat to home rule for Vero Beach, it is that outside interests are essentially buying seats on the City Council. In the election to be held Nov. 7, FPL has already invested $50,000 to support Harry Howle and Val Zudans.”


To listen to Vero Beach City Councilwoman Laura Moss and activist Phyllis Frey, you’d get the idea that the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and the Seven 50 planning group, under the direction of United Nations “bureaucrats,” authored recently proposed revisions to Vero Beach’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. According to other member of the City Council and of the Planning and Zoning Board, nothing could be further from the truth.

But Moss and Frey are not going to let facts get in the way of their grandstanding. Sadly, the Indian River County Republican Executive Committee appears to have falling for this nonsense. Just today, the IRCREC sent out an email inviting people to attend a luncheon on October 26 at which Moss will peddle the bizarre conspiracy theory she and Frey have cooked up. More…

FPL pours another $50,000 into a Vero Beach municipal election 4

Supporting Harry Howle and Val Zudans, FPL seems determined to “buy” two more seats on the Vero Beach City Council.


“In addition to selling Vero Electric, Zudans and Howle have expressed support for handing the City’s water and sewer utility over to the County. Zudans has also advocated turning responsibility for public safety within Vero Beach over to the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. To get elected, both candidates may cynically, but only temporarily, backtrack from these positions.” 


During the most recent legislative session, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board described the Florida Legislature as “a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida Power and Light.”  Sadly, the same may soon be said of the Vero Beach City Council.

A flood of political post cards funded by FPL began arriving in local mail boxes today. Supporting candidates Harry Howle and Val Zudans, the mailers were prepared and paid for by Clean Sweep for a Brighter Tomorrow, a political action committee that recently received a $50,000 cash infusion from FPL. More…

Council set to pull trigger on full or partial sale of Vero Electric Reply



The hypocrisy Vero Beach City Council members Laura Moss and Lange Sykes displayed in Tuesday’s meeting was shocking. Moss and Sykes made it clear that, if allowed, they would spend months pouring over every detail in a non-binding proposed Comprehensive Land Use Plan, yet even though they do not yet have in hand the proposed purchase and sale agreement for the sale of Vero Electric, they are determined to approve the contract by election day. More…

Who will benefit from electric sale? Certainly not the people of Vero Beach! 1

Editor’s note: Vice-Mayor Harry Howle recently asserted that the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light will leave the city in a “damn good” position. The following analysis, almost surely beyond Howle attention span, if not over his head, confirms that he, and all those now supporting the sale of Vero Electric, are dead wrong about the supposed financial benefits of the deal. In truth, the sale of Vero Electric will seriously damage the City financially, while yielding only marginal of benefits to the customers of Vero Electric. 

Even more damaging that a sale of the full system would be a partial sale, in which the Indian River Shores portion of the system would be carved off and sold to FPL. Tomorrow, InsideVero will publish an analysis of the likely negative impacts of a so-called partial sale.

“Netting the lost fund transfers, franchise fee and net interest income effects, the resulting $4.1MM in net reduction in City revenues may be financed by a combination of (1) increased water utility rates, (2) reduction of General Fund service levels, or (3) increase in ad valorem taxes. (Sale of city assets is not included as a potential revenue source, as suggested, because by definition of prudent financial management practice, non-recurring gains or revenues are never used to fund recurring expense.)”


Much adoo about…

Political Analysis

The sale of City of Vero Beach Electric is, and has been for nearly a generation the bitter Third Rail of local politics. If one good things comes from the Full Sale, it will be the end of the poisonous political atmosphere perpetuated in the name of this issue.

Who Benefits?

Harry Howle – A single-issue councilman giving unquestioning support to all things FPL.

In the meantime, who benefits from this awful business?

Political careers and organizations and at least one highly-profitable media platform been built on flogging the electric utility.

So it’s much adoo about the activists, their political allies and their dedicated media outlet.

Second, Indian River Shores and South Beach customers will benefit. It is acknowledged that they provide a disproportionate share of the profits reaped by the electric utility. Moreover, it is acknowledged that they cannot vote for the governing body that controls electric policy and rates. These circumstances led a group of them to pool their money to buy an election, and install a City Council that performs to their will.

Their mass-deployment of election capital was greatly magnified by the constant barrage of electioneering propaganda issued from their captive “news” outlet.

It used to be “how you played the game.” Today, the Big Egos get their way by any means. Congratulations – you ‘won.’

Undoubtedly, FPL benefits. They will receive an enormously profitable enterprise.

Lange Sykes – Received 90% of his campaign contributions from Indian River Shores residents.

Given the mark-to-market equity valuation of $64 million as shown below, the system produces about $13.5 in operating cash flow, against which it must spend about $4.0 million to sustain capital investments, leaving $8.5 million in free cash flow.

That’s a return on equity for the City of Vero Beach Electric of 13.3%.

FPL’s regulated return on equity is only 9.6% – 11.6%; Duke Energy earns 6%. Southern Company 11%.

And that’s before the axe comes out to chop down local resources, cut capital spending, cut staff, cut customer service and cut local response. From a reduced cost base–and with political leverage in Tallahassee to enforce continually rising rates, the FPL acquisition will be a goldmine for FPL.

After all, they have put up with – instigated – all the political nonsense and have stuck with it for all these years for a reason – profit.


Figure 11 – Leona Helmsley, wealthy New York real estate magnate, famously observed that “only the little people pay taxes.” She became known as the “Queen of Mean.”

Laura Moss – Self-described “Queen of Vero Beach.”

But what’s in it for the We the “Little People” of Vero Beach? Fifty cents a month off your electric bill? A 43% hike in your property tax bill? Is that it—this is all we get?

Unfortunately, no. There’s more: We get corruption.

The Mayor, along with her two council trustys on the City Council, rolled into office on a tidal-wave of special interest money from, you guessed it, FPL.

When asked by a quizzical child, “what is a mayor?” the mayor intuitively responded that it’s “kind of like being Queen.” This moment of honest reflection—shared between a grown-up and an innocent—is apocryphal in explaining the Mayor’s self-image, her imperious style and authoritarian conduct.

Buying an election and a city council to benefit special and sectional interests is extraordinarily bad behavior for those otherwise up-standing citizens of Indian River Shores that donated to “Operation Flip Switch.” More…

Brovont raises questions about power sale ‘negotiations’ 1


Glen Brovont

“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. More…

Finance Commissioners raise questions about power sale 3


“I share the concern of many ratepayers that the proposed purchase price of $185,000,000 may be insufficient.” – Dan Stump

“Sykes claims executive experience. In truth, the company he ran was a one employee, home based business. Similarly, Howle and Moss lack the financial experience to conclude a nearly $200 million transaction without advice and input from members of the City’s advisory commissions. Lacking that vital input, they could at least use some courageous guidance from O’Connor.” 


Glen Brovont

Dan Stump

Peter Gorry

Vero Beach City Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes last week voted to forbid the Finance and Utilities Commissions from discussing, reviewing, or analyzing the proposed sale of Vero Electric. (Like former Council member Tracy Carroll, Howle, Moss and Sykes all benefited from substantial campaign contributions from Florida Power & Light.)

Clearly displeased at being muzzled, Finance Commission Chairman Glen Brovont wrote to City Clerk Tammy Bursick, “While censorship may be in vogue, a finance meeting should be scheduled as soon after receipt of the budget data.” He added, “Even dictatorial societies found while the mouth may be shut, the brain can still question and think.”

Even Commission member Dan Stump, who headed a political action committee that raised and spent more than $100,000 supporting Moss and Sykes, is now calling for negotiation of the purchase price of Vero Electric. In an email to City Manager Jim O’Connor Stump wrote, “I share the concern of many ratepayers that the proposed purchase price of $185,000,000 may be insufficient.” More…

Indian River Shores Councilman derails Vero Beach’s Utilities Commission 2

City Code:

The utilities commission shall meet at least once every quarter.”


“…Howle, Moss and Sykes continue to insist a partial sale at $30 million would be a good deal for the City. Just this week though, Finance Director Cindy Lawson released a report projecting that a partial sale will lead to a 1.9 percent rate increase for the remaining customers and a tax hike on City residents of 9 percent to 12 percent.”

“With Howle, Moss and Sykes in the majority at City Hall, and with Brian Barefoot and Bob Solari behind the scenes pulling their strings, Vero Beach is quickly becoming like Venezuela, a failed democracy.”


Robert Auwaerter – The fox in the henhouse

Laura Moss

In what appears to be a clear violation of City of Vero Beach Ordinances, the City’s Utilities Commission has gone dormant. Indian River Shores Town Councilman Robert Auwaerter, who just happens to also be Vice Chair of the Vero Beach Utilities Commission, has yet to call a meeting of the Commission in 2017.  Auwaerter assumed responsibility of the Commission when the previous Chair, Laura Moss, was elected to the Vero Beach City Council.

Vero Beach City Ordinances require the Commission to meet to elect a new Chair.  According to City Clerk Tammy Bursick, her office has inquired with Auwaerter monthly about convening the Utilities Commission. Each month he has declined to do so.

Auwaerter is a ally of Moss, who won election with overwhelming financial support from Indian River Shores residents and from a political action committee that raised more than $100,000 exclusively from Shores residents and Florida Power and Light. (Shores residents graced Moss with 70 percent of her campaign contributions. Lange Sykes took in 90 percent of his funds from the Shores.) One has to wonder if, in failing to convene the Utilities Commission, Auwaerter is taking direction from Moss, who appears to be receiving her marching orders from Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot and from FPL. More…

The very good, the bad and the ugly 8

FPL Letter of Intent

“FP&L’s $30 million offer for a Partial Sale is low, and should it be accepted, over time, the city will have to raise rates for every remaining ratepayer to absorb the loss of the Shores customers.” 


Richard Winger

It is Very Good that Florida Power and Light has presented a new Letter of Intent to purchase Vero Beach’s entire Electric Utility. They outlined costs and terms, which signal the start of negotiations prior to a contract being signed.

Negotiations, simply put, occur when each participant has something to gain and something to lose. A successful negotiation concludes when each party benefits to the maximum extent possible.

The financial offer for the system is considerably lower than the last contract signed 3 years ago. And, it does not take into consideration the millions spent since that time to upgrade the system, close the plant, etc. My responsibility to the people of Vero Beach and the ratepayers of the Utility requires my attention to such detail. It is a starting point in negotiations.

Moving towards the full sale, through myriad details,  is something I have worked on for years and I sincerely want it to be completed this time.

FP&L last submitted a Letter of Intent on August 2012.  It led to a contract for sale in March 2014. That contract could not be executed because of contractual obligations, upheld by law, with other agencies to produce, transmit and distribute electricity. That contract expired December 31, 2016.

Those obligations exist because Vero Beach is a member city in the Florida Municipal Power Authority.  There are 19 other member cities which must, unanimously, approve an exit. This obligation blocked the sale previously, but there is a new level of optimism that approval can finally be accomplished. More…

Candidate Randy Old releases statement on proposed power sale 3

Editor’s note: Former Vero Beach City Councilman Randy Old will be running again for a seat on the Council this coming November. Old today released a statement supporting the sale of Vero Electric on the terms recently proposed by FPL.  

FPL’s offer to buy the full utility system is coupled it with agreement to a partial sale of the City’s Indian River Shores customers for $30 million. If the board of the Florida Municipal Power Agency does not approve the deal, or if for any other reason it cannot be completed, Vero Beach will be obligated to sell its Shores customers and infrastructure to FPL for $30 million.

While running for re-election last fall, Old said agreeing to sell the Shores portion of Vero Electric for $30 million would have been a violation of his fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach. The statement Old released today does not make clear whether he now supports a partial sale at $30 million, though he did indicates some points in FPL’s proposal may “need to be altered or negotiated.”

Florida Power and Light Makes Offer to City Electric Business

Randy Old

FPL’s offer to the City to buy the entire electric business was announced yesterday. Simply put, FPL is offering to pay $185 million leaving the City with $37 million in cash after the City pays to exit its contracts with FMPA ($108) and OUC ($20), and pays off electric business debt ($20). This should be accepted by the City Council.

The agreements are long and detailed, and there may be some issues that need to be altered or negotiated, but most seem straight forward and reasonable. There are some key issues included. FMPA’s board must unanimously approve the transaction. One City voting against the sale could stop it. I believe that FMPA will approve the transaction and the full sale will be achieved. However, the other key point is, that if the full sale does not go through then, there is a commitment to sell the Indian River Shores portion of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light.

FMPA reduced its price for Vero to exit its obligations from over $350 million to $108 million, or a 70% reduction. This reduction which happened in the fall, allowed the transaction to become viable. FPL’s past offer was similar to this in size but included our existing plant and other issues not appropriate in this offer. However, had past City Councils agreed to take FLP’s offer of $185 million, and had to pay $350 million to get out of FMPA, plus pay OUC $20 million to exit its contract, and repay its debt of $20 million, the City would have had a net loss on the transaction of $205 million ( +$185 – $350 -$20-$20 = – $205). An impossibility. With the reduced cost to exit FMPA, the transaction is not only possible but attractive.

FMPA changed its mind, was is the new CEO, was is the amount of legislative pressure in Tallahassee, or just a change of heart. But it doesn’t really matter; this is a reasonable transaction that should be accepted.

Next steps, be sure the city uses the proceeds of the sale wisely to minimize the adverse effect on Vero’s finances and its taxpayers. Also, it goes without saying, that it will be a huge relief to the community to have this issue not dominate and divide the city, as it has for the past several years.

Randy Old

Facebook comments on power sale reveal that some, perhaps many are misinformed, or uninformed 1


“If the general belief is that electric rates are going to come down 20% to 30%, and if the widespread assumption is that the sale will not results in tax increases, and/or cuts in municipal services, then pressing ahead with the sale amounts to malicious obedience.” 


This past weekend, I took exception to a commenter’s assertion that, despite the unprecedented level of outside money that poured into last fall’s municipal election, the results were a fine example of democracy in action. In truth, the election of Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes to the Vero Beach City Council is a sad example of how money can buy power, especially when the press fails to do its job.

Last fall, more than $100,000, half of it given by Florida Power and Light and half contributed by Indian River Shores residents, funded a political action committee supporting Moss and Sykes. The committee used the money to carry out an extensive disinformation campaign of truly outlandish claims and promises. Further, Sykes received 90 percent of his financial support from Shores residents. Moss took in 70 percent of her campaign contributions from outside Vero Beach. Without question, outside money bought their seats on the Council.

The commenter wrote, “Their paths to office are in accordance with their constitutional rights, and now the City’s decisions rest in their hands.”

In a response titled “A failure of the fourth estate,” I wrote: More…

Shores sells remaining parcel of public beachfront property at fire-sale price Reply

The 5.4 acre parcel of oceanfront property was first sold by the Schlitt family to the County at a discounted price. At the time, the understanding was that the land would be preserved for public use. The Town of Indian River Shores acquired the property in a land swap with the County, and has now sold it to a developer for just 57% of its appraised value.

Editor’s note: Over the past two years, the Indian River Shores Town Council ran up more than $1,000,000 in legals bills on a lawsuit against Vero Beach which the Town eventually dismissed without prejudice. Wanting to avid raising taxes, or to deplete reserves, and looking to pay down pension obligations, the Town Council decided to sell the community’s only remaining parcel of publicly owned beachfront property. Last Saturday, the 5.4 acres of oceanfront land was auctioned off, and Monday the Town Council voted 3-2 to accept the top bid of $4.4 million, just 57% of the land’s appraised value of $7.7 million


INDIAN RIVER SHORES — It’s not what the Town Council had hoped to get for the publicly owned beachfront property, but in the end, the council on Monday decided to accept a $4.4 million bid and get the land off its hands. Continue reading…

Politics and Money: Legislator who received generous contributions from FPL accelerates two bills favorable to the company Reply


Editor’s note: Locally, Florida Power and Light gave $55,000 last fall to a political action committee supporting Laura Moss and Lange Sykes.  The only other contributors to the PAC were residents of Indian River Shores. In a previous election, FPL spent more than $50,000 on then Councilwoman Tracy Carroll’s campaign. The previous spring, the company spent more than $100,000 persuading Vero Beach voters to approve a purchase and sale agreement with the City of Vero Beach. In total, FPL has invested some $250,000 in political contributions to influence the outcome of Vero Beach’s municipal elections. The following story by Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas reveals how FPL’s political contributions are also winning the company favor in Tallahassee.

See also: When all else fails


Sen. Frank Artiles put on a brown jacket with “NextEra” emblazoned on the back and waved the green flag for the unofficial start to the Friday night truck race at this year’s Daytona 500 weekend.

Within minutes, a dramatic crash became the highlight of the season-opening event sponsored by NextEra, the parent company to Florida Power & Light.

Artiles, the chairman of the Florida Senate’s Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, also used the event to conduct a fundraiser, which he says raised him more than $10,000.

Now, Artiles, a Republican from south Miami-Dade County, is returning a favor to Florida’s largest utility. Continue reading…


YouTube video questions motives for partial sale Reply

Watch YouTube Video

Posting under the name “VideoM,” someone recently created a YouTube video raising questions about why City Council members Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Harry Howle so fervently support the sale of Vero Electric Indian River Shores customers to Florida Power and Light.  The video mentions $50,000 in campaign contributions FPL made to a political action committee supporting Moss and Sykes.

The video also questions campaign promises made by Moss and Sykes about how proceeds from the sale could directly benefit the City and its residents.

Unaddressed, however, is the direct campaign support Moss, Sykes and Howle received from Shores residents. In the November elections, for example, Sykes took in 90% of his campaign funds from Shores contributors. Fully 70% of Moss’ campaign expenses were paid for with Shores money.




Shores Town Council to reconsider deed restrictions, right of way for property sale 2

The Town of Indian River Shores is planning to sell 5 acres of “surplus” oceanfront public open space. Just last week, the Town Council approved deed restrictions limiting development to no more than 15 units total. The Council also provided for a 5-foot right of way intended to preserve public access between Highway A1A and the ocean.

Those deed restrictions and the preservation of public right of way will again be up for discussion, when the Town Council meets in a special call meeting Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

Concerns over possible sale of old Dodgertown course raise larger questions about City’s future 2


“Reisman quoted former Vero Beach mayor Mary Beth McDonald as questioning if the City is really so desperate that it can longer afford to hold on to the Dodgertown property. The larger question everyone should be asking is whether, after the sale of Vero Electric and the forced takeover of its water and sewer utility, the City will be able to continue to exist as an incorporated municipality.”


Related Story: Should Vero Beach sell old Dodgertown course?

Press Journal opinion columnist Larry Reisman today addressed a proposal for the City of Vero Beach to sell for $2.7 million 35 acres of land it purchased in 2005 for $10 million.

At the time the City acquired the old Dodgertwon golf course, supporters of the purchase argued that the move would prevent further residential development in an already congested area, and would provide for more public open space. If the City Council accepts the offer it has received from a Palm Beach Gardens developer, it will be taking a net loss of $7.3 million. Further, the Council will be paving the way for 280 new homes to be built on what was once a nine-hole golf course open to the public.

Reisman argues that selling the property for just $2.7 million will “compound the problems associated with a bad investment made 12 years ago,” concluding, “Quality of life is our No. 1 asset.”

If Reisman truly believes quality of life is the community’s “No. 1 asset,” then his unquestioning and unqualified support for selling Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light is, to use his words, “a sick irony.” More…

Status of power sale from the FMPA’s point of view 1


In addressing the Vero Beach City Council earlier this week, Florida Municipal Power Agency General Manager Jacob Williams explained the FMPA’s position on the City’s proposed sale to Florida Power & Light.  Williams addressed both a partial sale of just the City’s Indian River Shores customers, as well a sale of the full system.

Williams explained that while the final numbers need to be worked out through more analysis and negotiations, the FMPA believe it can relieve Vero Beach of all its contractual obligations to the agency for approximately $108 million. Leader in Vero Beach, including councilman Richard Winger, see promise in the FMPA’s proposal.  Winger now believes that, rather than sell just the Shores portion of the City electric system, it is time to renew negotiations with FPL for selling the full 34,000-customer system.

FMPA Assistant General Manager Mark McCain today released a summary of the agency’s take on Tuesday’s Council meeting. Following is the full text of McCain’s report.

FMPA representatives were present at the Vero Beach City Council meeting last night. FMPA made a presentation on its review of Vero Beach’s proposed sale of its customers in Indian River Shores as well as explained FMPA’s preliminary option to help Vero Beach exit FMPA projects. The meeting went very well. On behalf of Jacob Williams, this email provides a description of key points in the meeting and provides corresponding video excerpts.

Below are eight highlights from the meeting with links to short video clips. The entire video of the meeting can be found online at: http://verobeachfl.swagit.com/city-council. FMPA’s portion starts early in the meeting and lasts approximately two hours. 

1.       Vero Beach’s Goal, and Good Working Relationships: Jacob Williams states Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss has done a good job focusing on Vero Beach’s goal of selling its electric utility. Jacob says she understands that all 19 FMPA cities must approve any potential deal, so it is worth having a good relationship. Likewise, Rep. Erin Grall representing Vero Beach has been helpful facilitating positive efforts toward the same goal of selling Vero Electric. Jacob emphasized that if we can all focus on the goal, and not be distracted by other efforts, we can make good progress. [watch video]  More…

Finance Commission directed to no longer review proposed partial sale 3


Ken Daige: "We want to know who is looking out for the interests of the people of Vero Beach."

Ken Daige: “We want to know who is looking out for the interests of the people of Vero Beach.”

The Vero Beach City Council this evening voted to direct the Finance Commission to no longer review or assess the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to Florida Power & Light. The motion was made by Harry Howle, and supported by Laura Moss and Lange Sykes.

Council members Tony Young and Richard Winger strongly objected to muzzling the Commission. They argued that the Council could benefit from more analysis and input. They also pointed out that the Commission has so far never reviewed the proposed sale, because, at least until recently, key information about Vero Electric’s Shores customer base was not yet available.

Howle, Moss and Sykes all said they are clear about what they want to do regarding the Shore’s request for a partial sale, and are no longer in need of input and advice from the Finance Commission. (Howle, Moss and Sykes support the sale at $30, despite recommendations from a team of utility experts who advised it will take no less than $42 million to downsize Vero Electric without causing higher rates and higher taxes for the remaining customers of Vero Electric and for the taxpayers of Vero Beach. The Troika also continues to press for the partial sale despite the increasing likelihood that the entire system can now be sold.)

In the recent election, Moss received 70 percent of her campaign contributions from Shores residents. Sykes took in 90 percent of his campaign funds from the Shores, and a political action commission funded by Shores residents and by FPL supported both Moss and Sykes.  Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot also identified moss and Sykes as “members of the Shores team.”

That Howle, Moss and Sykes are pressing ahead without a review of the deal by the Finance Commission has some wondering who is looking out for the people of Vero Beach. Former councilman Ken Daige addressed the Council this evening, pointing out FPL has executives looking out for its interests, and Shores residents have elected officials looking out for them. “We want to know that you are looking out for our interests,” Daige said.

The Howle-Moss-Sykes Troika’s muzzling of the Finance Commission was followed by a heated discussion of the mayor’s authority relative to other council members. Last week, without approval from the full council, Moss pressured Finance Commission Chairman Glenn Brovont to cancel a meeting scheduled for Feb. 20. By acting unilaterally, Moss was acting beyond the scope of the City Charter, since the mayor’s position does not come with extra authority. “You are not the chief executive of the city,” Winger said to Moss.

Earlier in the the meeting, the Council hear from Florida Municipal Power Agency General Manager Jacob Williams. Williams laid out a plan and a timeline for enabling Vero Beach to end its membership in the power agency, thus paving the way for a sale of Vero Electric to FPL. Given that a sale of the full system now seems to be a real possibility, some wonder why Howle, Moss and Sykes are pushing ahead with a partial sale for the Shores, when a sale of the full system would bring rate relieve, not just for Shores residents, but for all 34,000 customers of Vero Electric.


Mayfield advocating 2-part sale of Vero Electric 4


In her most recent newsletter, State Sen. Debbie Mayfield signaled she has lined up with Indian River Shores officials, who insist best way to sell Vero Beach’s entire electric system to Florida Power & light is to first carve off the Shores portion of the customers base.  Without question, a bifurcated sale will be more costly and more complicated for the City. This reality seems to be of little concern to Mayfield, or the Shores officials. Vero Beach City Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes also contend a partial sale for the Shores is their first priority, and is being pursued “in the context” of a full sale.  Moss and Sykes, in particular, have strong ties to the Shores. In the recent municipal election, they received nearly all of their campaign contributions from Shores residents.

From Mayfield’s newsletter:

FMPA/Vero Electric Press Release

“After discussions with the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) and local government officials in Indian River County, tangible progress towards the sale of Vero Electric is taking place.  In a letter the FMPA provided to the City of Vero Beach, the estimated exit cost from three All-Requirements Projects that the city is currently involved in is $108 million.  Although completing this complicated transaction may take up to a year, it is the second phase of a two-part process which also includes the partial sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to FP&L in the near term.”

Sale of Vero Electric now a real possibility 2



The Florida Municipal Power Agency’s executive committee yesterday authorized General Manager Jacob Williams to begin discussions with Vero Beach officials to enable the City to exit the power agency. As a point to begin negotiations, the FMPA is suggesting it might be able to assume all of Vero Beach’s power purchase and power supply contracts, as well as contingent liabilities, for approximately $108 million. Williams is to address the City Council next Tuesday evening.

With yesterday’s development, what has long been an insurmountable wall of contractual obligations to the Florida Municipal Power Agency may soon be reduced to an intermediate hurdle, one that can easily be cleared, if Vero Beach leaders focus their efforts and work together to achieve the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. Though $108 million may seem to many like a lot of money to exit contracts, it is significantly less than the $200 million to $300 million some had speculated would be needed to ensure other FMPA cities are not negatively impacted by Vero Beach’s exit from the joint action agency.

Some Vero Beach officials, including Councilman Richard Winger and Finance Commission chairman Glen Brovont, believe that, based on the price FPL had previously been willing to pay for the full electric system, it might now be possible to sell the electric system in a way that will not require tax increases for the people of Vero Beach. More…

More on the outside money that bankrolled Moss in recent election 1


Laura Moss

Laura Moss

Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss’ attempt to exercise authority not assigned to her by the City Charter has lead two council members to submit related agenda items for next Tuesday’s Council meeting. Given the recent offer by the Florida Municipal Power Agency to clear the way for Vero Beach to sell its electric system to Florida Power and Light, Moss’ behavior, and her dogged insistence on passing ahead with with Indian River Shores’ request for a partial sale, has some continuing to wonder about where the mayor’s loyalties lie.

Perhaps the answer can be found in, as they say, following the money.  During the recent municipal election, Moss was supported by a political action committee funded entirely by contributions from Shores residents and from FPL.  The PAC, chaired by Dan Stump, raised $106,249, with $55,000 given by FPL.  Additionally, seventy percent of the campaign funds raised directly by Moss came from Shores residents.

This unprecedented level of outside influence in a Vero Beach municipal election, though newsworthy, was never reported by the Press Journal, or by the John-Island-centered island weekly. (Press Journal publisher, Bob Brunjes, is married to a key FPL executive involved in the company’s effort to acquire municipal utilities.)

Not only was the PAC that supported Moss funded entirely with outside money, it used those considerably funds to mislead voters with what have no be proven to be false claims about the supposed benefits of the partial sale.

Below is a full accounting of the contributions to the PAC that supposed Moss. Other than the $55,000 given by FPL, all the remaining contributions were from individuals with homes in Indian River Shores.


An open letter to the Press Journal’s Adam Neal, Larry Reisman, Colleen Wixon 4

Colleen, Larry, Adam:

As Laura Moss continues to assert authority not given her by the City Charter, things at City Hall are heating up and may soon be out of control. I hope you are paying attention, for when the press does not fulfill its responsibilities autocrats can get away with all kinds of unreasonable and irresponsible acts.

As I trust you are aware, Vero Beach does not have a strong-mayor form of government, and certainly, at least until now, has not been governed by an autocrat.

Given the current tension between Finance Commission Chairman Glen Brovont and Mayor Moss, it should be remembered that Borvont was first appointed by Pilar Turner, and was recently re-appointed by Moss. He is by no means among the so-called opponents of the proposed power sale.

Surely you will recall when, a number of years ago, then councilwoman Tracy Carroll went before the Marine Commission telling them what advice she wanted to receive from the board.  Why have independent citizen advisory boards and commissions, if members of the City Council are going to instruct them what to think. Moss is now taking Carroll’s brand of manipulation to another level.  

So far, your newspaper has failed to report on the building tension at City Hall.  Similarly, during the fall elections the Press Journal never reported on the unprecedented level of outside money that poured into the campaign accounts of Laura Moss and Lange Sykes. Not offering commentary on the attempt by Indian River Shores residents and Florida Power and Light to influence the outcome of Vero Beach’s municipal election is one thing, but failing to report the facts is quite another. Freedom of the press is a public trust, and thus it is both a right and a responsibility. That cherished freedom is given, not for your commercial benefit or convenience, but in order that the public will have access to the information needed to cast informed votes.

Again, please pay attention to what is happening at City Hall. You have a job to do!


Mark Schumann




Moss forces cancellation of Finance Commission meeting 4

Council to discuss mayor’s authority, procedures for boards and commissions



Laura Moss

Laura Moss

Glen Brovont

Glen Brovont

More back and forth yesterday between Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss and Finance Commission Chairman Glen Brovont led to a postponement of Monday’s scheduled meeting of the citizen advisory board.

After failing to persuade Brovont to drop from the agenda any discussion of the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to Florida Power & Light, Moss directed the City Clerk to inform the members of the Finance Commission that their meeting scheduled for Monday was cancelled. In response, Brovont wrote the mayor, “With all due respect, please provide a copy of the written statutes, or other supporting legal documents, that authorizes you to cancel a duly called meeting of the finance commission.”

Though City Staff advised Brovont that he was within his rights to hold the meeting as scheduled, he ultimately agreed to postpone the next meeting of the Finance Commission until after the Council can discuss and review commission procedures.

Moss,who was identified last fall by Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot as being “a member of the Shores team,” won election in November with unprecedented outside support from Indian River Shores residents and from FPL. The “Shores team” member seems determined to do whatever she believes necessary to move forward with the Shore’s requested partial sale, including shutting down any discussion or review by the Finance Commission. More…

Finance Commission chairman responds to Moss Reply

Related Story: Questions raised about role of mayor and of advisory commissions


Glen Brovont

Glen Brovont

Laura Moss

Laura Moss

Mayor Laura Moss yesterday sent an email “directing” the Finance Commission to not review or make recommendations on the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to Florida Power & Light. Today Moss attempted to postpone the Commission’s meeting schedule for Feb. 20 until after the next City Council meeting, which is set for Feb. 21.

Finance Commission Chairman, Glen Borvont, today responded to Moss, insisting the Commission can, should and will review the proposed partial sale and will offer its advice to the Council. “Sound decisions are arrived at by listening to all sides of an issue, and particularly those committees the city has designated for such use; like the finance committee, and they are not fostered by: threats, intimidation, or autocratic leaders,” Brovont wrote.

Brovont also addressed Moss’ criticism of the Finance Commission for not previously reviewing the partial sale, as was done by the Utilities Commission, which at the time was chaired by Moss. Brovont wrote, “Prior to being authorized by city council the partial sale proposal at $30,000,000 was not subject to the due-diligent of the city’s finance committee but rather by the Utility Commission that was Chaired by you and supported by a board-member representing, albeit not fully, the benefiting city; Indian River Shores.  Although there is an excuse for it, the Vero Beach City Finance Committee was not allowed any input on the partial sale price proposal.”

Brovont also informed Moss he would not postpone the Commission’s next meeting until after the Feb. 21 Council meeting.

In her email, Moss asserted that the Finance Commission “serves at the pleasure of the City Council.” In fact, each City Council member appoints one of the five members of the Finance Commission. Brovont, who was appointed by Moss, wrote, “Although it is not clear in section 2-101 and 2-102 (City Charter) who designates or fires members, I presume you may not incur opposition if you would like to re-leave me.   I will forward my resignation if requested.”

Editor’s note: During the recent City Council election, Laura Moss received 70 percent of her campaign contributions from residents in Indian River Shores. She was also supported by a political action committee funded entirely by contributions from Shores residents and from Florida Power & Light. At a meeting held in the Shores early last full Moss was introduced by Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot as “a members of the Shores team.”

Below is the full text of Brovont’s response to Moss: More…

Howle, Moss and Sykes voting ‘under the influence’ 1









Speaking before the City of Vero Beach Finance Commission earlier this week, City Manager Jim O’Conor said he agrees with and stands behind the assessment that it will take some $42 million, plus a $5 million allowance for contingent liabilities, to ensure a sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers does not negatively impact the remaining customers over the next 30 years.

By agreeing to accept just $30 million, O’Connor said the new City Council majority of Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes will be shortening by 10 years the period of time over which Vero Electric’ remaining customers will be protected from rate increases resulting from the sale.  This carving up of the utility is being done at the request of, and for the benefit of the Shores.

Why would Howle, Moss and Sykes make a $17 million concession that in no way advantages their constituents or the future customers of Vero Electric?  Quite simply, they are voting under the influence of Shores leaders and Florida Power & Light. More…

Partial utility sale could hurt local businesses Reply



Local business owners enthused about the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to Florida Power and Light may be in for an unpleasant surprise, if not a rude awakening.

In the short term, any partial sale is likely to lead to higher rates for the remaining customers of Vero Electric.  City leaders pushing for the downsizing of Vero Electric, namely Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, say the sale for the Shores is being pursued “in the context of a full sale.” Yet, they have so for offered no explanation for how a partial sale would in any way improve the prospects of eventually selling the remainder of the system.

If the sale of the full system proves undoable, then local businesses could be facing higher electric rates, not just short term, but for many years to come.  Not only will local business face higher power costs, but so too will schools, governments, the hospital, churches, the Vero Beach Museum of Art, the Riverside Theatre and other non-profits. Worse, if the sale must be partially funded by a significant, long-term surcharge, that burden will fall entirely on the remaining customers of Vero Electric, including commercial customers, city and county government, the hospital and non-profits.  Make no mistake about it, with only 2.7 percent of Vero Electric business customers located in Indian River Shores, and some 97 percent of the City’s commercial customers located outside the Shores, any shift if electric costs could be significant.

Though the Shores represents just 8.7 percent of the City’s total customer base, those customers use more power than the average resident. What does this mean?  Quite simply, the Shores portion of Vero Electric contributes more than 8.7 percent of operating profits. The loss of these profits will inevitably lead to higher rates, and/or higher taxes for everyone else. More…

FMPA offers possible path for sale of Vero Electric Reply



A solution may be on the horizon to overcoming impediments that have so far blocked the sale of Vero Electric. To date, the absence of a qualified utility willing and able to assume Vero Beach’s long-term commitments to three Florida Municipal Power Agency projects has stood in the way of the deal. However, at a meeting of the FMPA board of directors in Orlando today, FMPA General Manager and CEO, Jacob Williams, outlined steps the agency is willing to take to help facilitate the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light.

Williams indicated the FMPA’s All Requirements Project, made up of 13 municipally owned utilities, could assume Vero Beach’s position in the Stanton I and II coal-fired power plants in Orlando, as well as Vero Beach’s share of the FMPA’s fractional ownership in the Saint Lucie nuclear plant. Because the average cost of Vero Beach’s power from these three projects is more than twice the current short-term price for wholesale electricity, Vero Beach will have to pay the FMPA’s ARP to “buy” the City’s position in the power projects. “Vero Beach will have to pay other municipal utilities to take its shares,” Williams explained to the FMPA board. More…

Moss departs from her own ‘decree’ that all communication must be ‘cordial and positive’ 1



Laura Moss - "Team Shores"

Laura Moss – “Team Shores”

Departing from the published agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Laura Moss opened by publicly berating Councilman Richard Winger for writing a guest column in which he shined a light on instances when previous City Council’s have made major decisions and commitments that have not turned out well for the taxpayers of Vero Beach and for the customers of Vero Electric.

Winger’s central point was that previous Councils have not alway taken the time necessary to properly “vet” important decisions. Winger said he wants to avoid making that same mistake with the proposed partial sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base to Florida Power & Light.

The original wholesale power agreement with the Orlando utilities Commission and the purchase of the old Dodgertown golf course for $10 million were to example Winger sited. In his column, Winger went on to urge the current Council to carefully consider and fully understand the implications of selling Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers base to Florida Power & Light for $30 million. (A team of 5 independent utility experts hired by the City concluded a sale for less than $47 million will expose Vero Beach taxpayers and the remaining customers of Vero Electric to higher taxes and higher electric rates. When the team reported its recommendations, their conclusions were supported buy City Staff.) More…

Howle’s Press Journal guest column simplistic, misleading 5


“The people of Vero Beach must decide for themselves if Howle is lying to them. At the very least, he is, intentionally or otherwise, misleading them into believing that what good for Indian River Shores is necessarily good for the taxpayers of Vero Beach.”

“If the customers of Vero Electric are not to be hung out to dry, it is critical that the Council first determine under what terms a sale of the remainder of the system could be possible.  To take this so-called “first step” without fully understanding what the next step will be is nothing short of foolish.”


Harry Howle

Harry Howle

In 2015, when he won a seat on the Vero Beach City Council, Harry Howle promised the voters of Vero Beach he had a solid, five-point plan for selling Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. More than a year has passed since Howle took an oath to serve the best interests of the City of Vero Beach and its residents, and yet he has not followed through on a single one of the five steps he once claimed were necessary to sell the system.

Instead of fulfilling his promise to bring rate relief to the people of Vero Beach and to all 34,000 customers of Vero Electric, Howle now claims selling just the Indian River Shores portion of the system is “an important first step.” (Howle offers no explanation for why selling off the Shores portion of the system now will in any way improve the prospects for selling the remainder of the system.)

What makes this “first step” so important?  As puppets of the Indian River Shores Town Council, Howle, and two new members of the Vero Beach Council, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, have made it clear they intend to give Shores leaders what they want, regardless of the likely negative impacts on the taxpayers of Vero Beach and the customers of Vero Electric. More…

Reader Comment: Shores residents being ‘milked’ 8

Related Story: Civic Association calls for referendum on partial sale

Larry Wapnick writes:

“All of you are correct, but remember what got all of us into this mess. Bad decisions many years ago by elected former city council members. Since then we have all paid the price, but unfortunately the present residents of Vero are “holding the bag” and must do the right thing. Continuing to “milk” Indian River Shores Residents benefits the city, but it is wrong! Yes the new council members were voted in, the voters knew their platforms, and have owned up to doing the right thing. Let us move on, we will all survive. We will all support the city, and perhaps with lower electric rates be able to support it even more.”

InsideVero response:

One: The “bad” decision made years ago by former city council members that led to this “mess” was the initial agreement to serve the Shores with utilities. The second decision that led to this season of discontent, in which some Shores residents are customers of Vero Electric and other customers of FPL, was the Shores Town Council’s annexation of area north of the original Town limits.

Two: Vero Beach has not “milked” you or any other Shores electric customer. When those who wanted to develop the area of the island now known as Indian River Shores came to Vero Beach requesting utility services, they were well aware that Vero Beach does what nearly all other municipalities do in earning a percentage of its utility revenue as a return on investment/equity. Unlike FPL, Vero Beach does not use its earnings to pay multi-million dollar salaries to top executives. Rather, the money goes to outfit police cars with defibrillators, to pay municipal employees fair wages, to guard public beaches, to maintain the parks and other facilities Shores residents regularly enjoy at no cost. More…

Left unchecked, Howle, Moss and Sykes could do much harm to the people of Vero Beach 3

Tax hikes and electric rate increases will also affect businesses


Later, if and when it becomes clear the City’s contract obligations will continue to stand as an impediment to selling the remainder of the system, the slick talkers from FPL will be long gone; while the people of Vero Beach, and all the residential and business customer of Vero Electric, will be left with higher taxes and/or higher electric bills. The alternative, of course, would be to layoff still more City employees and gut municipal services.


Robert Auwaerter

Robert Auwaerter

As implausible as it may seem, the current chairman of the City of Vero Beach Utilities Commission, Robert Auwaerter, also serves on the governing body of a municipality that sued Vero Beach, and that has asked the Florida Public Service Commission to force Vero Beach to abandon a portion of its service territory.

For the taxpayers of Vero Beach and the customers of Vero Electric the stakes a high. Auwaerter and his fellow Indian River Shores Town Council members are seeking to force a sale of Vero Electric’s Shores customers to Florida Power and Light at a price that is likely to lead to higher taxes and higher electric rates for the City’s remaining customers.

Auwarter has left no doubt where his loyalties lie, and they are clearly not with the people of Vero Beach, or with the customers of Vero Electric. Though he serves on Vero Beach’s Utilities Commission, Autwarter had no reticence in going before the PSC in September to assert that Vero Electric’s rates are excessive, abusive and monopolistic. Auwaerter was, of course, seeking to persuade the PSC to strip Vero Beach of its right to serve within the Shores.

When it became clear to Auwaerter and other Shores leaders that the Town’s PSC challenge would likely fail, they decided to instead get what they want by gaining control of the Vero Beach City Council. Their takeover of Vero Beach’s government did not require an invasion, or even email hacking. Shores leaders simply ran and funded a slate of candidates for the Vero Beach City Council. Those candidates were Laura Moss, Lange Sykes, and Norman Wells, all of whom attended a meeting in the Shores in late September where they were introduced by Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot as members of what he described as “the Shores team.” More…