Winger inquiring about still more missing documents 8

Will you get me some help with what ‘appears’ to be missing?,” City Councilman Richard Winger wrote to the City Clerk today.

MARK SCHUMANN

Though just two days remain before the FPL-controlled majority on the Vero Beach City Council will presumably approve a proposed purchase and sale agreement for the handover of Vero Electric, many documents appear still to be unavailable for review by members of the Council, or by the public.

Councilman Richard Winger today wrote the following email to City Clerk Tammy Bursick asking about documents that, presumably, will be part of the contract between the City and FPL.

Winger’s email to the City Clerk: More…

Orlando Utilities Commission braces for loss if its biggest customer: Vero Beach Reply

InsideVero editor’s note: Why has the OUC board of directors agreed to accept $20 million to release Vero Beach from its long-term power purchase agreement, even though the utility’s administrators believe damages will far exceed $20 million?

Reportedly, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and told him the OUC needed to find a way to help make it possible for Florida Power and Light to acquire Vero Electric. Dyer sits on the board of the OUC and appoints members to the governing body. One can only imagine how much money FPL will be contributing to Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, as well as to political action committees and electioneering communications organizations supporting him.

As the utility giant is doing across the state, FPL has also used its considerable financial resources to buy influence at City Hall. Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes were all elected with considerable financial support from FPL.  In the current race, FPL has invested no less than $50,000 to support political newcomer Val Zudans and to aid Howle in his bid for re-election. Sadly, these politicians are not committed to serving the best interests of their constituents. Rather, the are beholden to the state’s largest investor-owned utility.

The following story about the OUC and Vero Beach was recently published by the Orlando Sentinel. 

KEVIN SPEAR/ORLANDO SENTINEL

Orlando’s biggest electricity customer — the city of Vero Beach — is getting ready to pull the power plug.

It’s a potential hit for the city-owned Orlando Utilities Commission, which is a significant funding source for city hall, paying for police, fire, parks, administration and other services that otherwise would be covered by taxpayers…

As part of dropping Orlando’s utility as a power provider, which is on track to happen next year, Vero is offering to pay OUC $20 million in compensation.

An OUC administrator previously told Vero Beach that such a settlement sum would not nearly cover Orlando’s potential losses from the exit of such a big customer… More…

Details of power sale still dribbling in to City Hall – Council set to vote Tuesday 9

MARK SCHUMANN

At six minutes to 5:00 yesterday, the City Clerk’s Office received still more documents related to the purchase and sale agreement between Vero Beach and Florida Power and Light for the sale of Vero Electric. At this point, it is all but impossible to believe the members of the Vero Beach City Council will have time to thoroughly review the details of the $185 million deal before the meet next Tuesday at 9:30 in a special call meeting.

Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, who are rushing to sign the deal before the Nov. 7 municipal election, have forbidden the Finance and Utilities Commissions from meeting to review the several-hundred-page contract.

Latest email from City’s outside attorney: More…

Hurricane Irma will be ‘quite expensive’ for FPL customers 1

Editor’s note: TCPalm.com opinion page editor Eve Samples explains how and why Florida Power and Light customers will have to pay the cost of story recovery from Hurricane Irma.

EVE SAMPLES/TCPalm.com

Florida Power & Light’s response to Hurricane Irma was the most massive in the company’s history — bigger, company executives say, than any other utility’s response to a hurricane. Anywhere. Continue reading…

Campaign cash from utilities? ‘I’ll accept it,’ Richard Corcoran says Reply

Richard Corcoran – Perhaps relaxing from the pressures of raising money to further his political career.

Editor’s note: It was Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran who reportedly used a lobbyist as a conduit to deliver a threat to Florida Municipal Power Agency leaders that they needed to find a way to make it possible for Florida Power and Light to buy Vero Electric – or else.  It appears that in order to first buy Vero Electric, FPL had to take a significant investment position in the political franchise that is Richard Corcoran. 

Locally, Vero Beach City Council candidates Harry Howle and Val Zudans are being supported by a political action committee that received all of its $50,000 in funds directly from FPL. The PAC is currently flooding local media and mail boxes with misleading advertising greatly exaggerating the savings and benefits to come from the sale of Vero Electric to FPL. 

If the contract between the City and FPL is to be signed before the Nov. 7 municipal election, as FPL quislings Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes have pledged to do, then why is FPL spending big money to control the outcome of yet another Vero Beach municipal election? The answer may be found in looking back to the spring of 2013, when FPL asked the Council to agree to changes to the previous purchase and sale agreement. By FPL’s own admission, those contract changes would have cost the public $26 million. Perhaps what FPL is driving for is a solid Council majority that will follow their every directive as the utility giant takes over Vero Electric. 

MITCH PERRY/FLORIDA POLITICS

While GOP gubernatorial rivals Jack Latvala and Adam Putnam feud over campaign contributions from investor-owned utilities, Richard Corcoran is watching from the sidelines.

As reported by FloridaPolitics last week, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam’s political committee has received nearly $800,000 from the utilities, and another $1.8 million to political committees that may have been re-directed to him. Continue reading…

FPL’s quislings, Howle, Moss, Sykes, rush power sale through without review 2

Provision for partial sale is the real Trojan Horse
COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Moss – Team FPL

Howle – Team FPL

Sykes – Team FPL

Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss claims proposed revisions to the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan contain a “Trojan Horse.” Moss’ assertion is so delusional it raises questions about her fitness for office. Ironically, if there is a Trojan Horse endangering Vero Beach, it is a provision in a contract Moss and her fellow Florida Power and Light quislings, Harry Howle and Lange Sykes, are rushing to sign before the Nov. 7 election.

Imbedded in the several hundred page contract, which just arrived at City Hall yesterday, is a provision that will require Vero Beach to sell the Indian River Shores portion of its electric system to FPL, in the event a sale of the full system proves impossible. Several members of the Finance Commission have spoken out publicly against tying the full sale and a partial sale together in one contract, and the Finance Commission as a whole has urged the Council not to agree to a partial sale under the terms currently proposed by FPL. More…

Inventions of the press and other falsehoods 4

COMMENTARY

“So, when Wixon wrote, ‘…Vero Beach officials repeatedly said they tried to reduce rates,’ she is simply not reporting the truth. For in truth, Vero Electric’s rates have come down, while FPL’s rates have and will continue to rise.”

MARK SCHUMANN

In a story on the latest proposed contract between Vero Beach and Florida Power and Light for the sale of Vero Electric, Press Journal/TCPalm reporter Colleen Wixon wrote, “For their part, Vero Beach officials repeatedly said they tried to reduce rates for all customers.”

Tried?

In fact, over the past four years, Vero Electric’s rate for 1000 kilowatt hours of power has come down 11.2%, while FPL’s rate has risen 6.6%. Still further rate increases for FPL, already approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, are set for the next few years.  In addition to these scheduled FPL rate hikes, the company recently announced it will be seeking PSC approval to assess additional storm recovery charges.

In total, coming rate increases for FPL could well erase any rate differential between Vero Electric and the state’s largest investor owned utility. More…

Howle and Zudans would eviscerate the City of Vero Beach 7

COMMENTARY

“With a 4-person anti-city City Council majority, the challenge will not be to ‘Keep Vero Vero,’ but simply to ‘Keep Vero.'”

MARK SCHUMANN

If on Nov. 7 Vero Beach voters elect a Council majority determined to set in motion the eventual disincorporation of the City, it won’t be because they have beed duped. No, all the cards are on the table.

Candidates Harry Howle and Val Zudans, who seek to join Laura Moss and Lange Sykes in an insuppressible 4-person majority, have in the past made it crystal clear they want, not only to sell Vero Electric, but to divest the City of its other enterprise funds. If Howle and Zudans are elected, on the chopping block will be the water and sewer department, solid waste services, the marine, and possibly even the airport. The loss of all enterprise fund revenues will cripple the City, which is exactly what Howle and Zudans seek to do. 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.

COMMENTARY

“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.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

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…

Daiges respond to commenter’s assertions about Comp Plan 4

GUEST COMMENTARY

Related Story: Discussion on Comp Plan revisions is far from over

DEBORAH & KEN DAIGE

If one takes the time to read the Comprehensive Plan/Land Use Development Regulations Amendment Draft, one will notice the current plan with strike outs and the amended phrases. Most of the amendments add clarity, further explanation, and add statutes and building codes not in the current code. The amendments add further property right protections to older neighborhoods who have asked, repeatedly, for help with many serious conditions within their neighborhoods. The amendments to the Comprehensive Plan actually strengthen our local home rule character.

The following italicized are our responses to Ms. Susan Mehiel’s comment under: Discussion on Comp Plan revisions is far from over

smehiel says: September 25, 2017 at 10:53 am

(1)Susan Mehiel: “They do not seem to speak about what is actually in the Comp Plan.” I’ll tell you. The Comp Plan states: 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.)”

LEXINGTON

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.

Corruption

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…

The next battle: ownership of Vero Beach’s water and sewer utility Reply

COMMENTARY
Related story: City’s water and sewer utility a vital asset

MARK SCHUMANN

In his most recent “Utility Update” newsletter, utility activist Stephen Faherty signaled what many already suspect. Once a new contract for the sale of Vero Electric to FPL is signed, the next move by local limited government extremists will be to persuade the people of Vero Beach their is something wrong with owning a water and sewer utility that returns some $1 million a year to the General Fund to help pay for basic municipal services.

Faherty wrote, “After the end of the year, it would be good for the City to ask the County to dust off the County’s past offer to buy the City’s WSI system which included connecting the City WSI plant on the 3rd corner to the County’s WSI system (cost would be about $35 M to move the WSI plant from the Lagoon if I recall correctly from prior City estimates) and then clearing the 3rd corner for City use.”

Several year ago, the County made an offer of approximately $20 million to buy Vero Beach’s profitable and well-run water and sewer utility. Though the County tried to package its bargain-basement offer as a magnanimous attempt to rescue Vero Beach, the truth is that the County very much needs Vero Beach’s water and sewer customer base to make its own over-built system more viable.

On the other side of the table, the City does not exactly need the County, or it’s insultingly low offer. Vero Beach’s rates and service are at least comparable to the County’s, and the City’s system, by all reasonable measures, is well run. (I know a couple who own property in the City and the County. Their dog will drink City water without hesitation, but does not much like County water. Personally, I’ll trust one dog’s taste preferences over all the experts the County might hire.)

More…

Everyday socialism, American-style, is happening now all across the country 2

Editor’s note: The City of Vero Beach Utilites and Finance Commissions will meet Aug. 30 to review the terms of the proposed sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. City Hall watchers expect the Council to approve the terms of the proposed sale when it next meets in September. As Vero Beach prepares to hand over its municipally owned utility for net proceeds of little more than existing cash reserves, the following article on public utilities is worth considering.  This article exploring the benefits of public ownership of utilities was first published in 2013 by truth-out.org.

According to the most recent bills comparisons published by the Florida Municipal Electric Association, FPL’s rate for 1000 kilowatt hours per month is $106.05, allowing for a six percent franchise fee. Vero Electric’s rate is $116.08. Based on current rates, then, Vero Beach residents could expect to save approximately 9 percent on their electric bill, if the deal were to close now. However, FPL will be making a number of rate hikes over the coming years, all of them already approved by the Florida Public Service Commission. Whatever saving Vero Beach residents will see on their electric bills will be somewhat offset by cuts in services and/or tax increases, as the City deals with the loss of $7 million no transferred annually from the Electric Fund to the General Fund.

For a start: It’s often forgotten—or simply not known—that there are more than two thousand publicly owned electric utilities now operating, day by day, week by week, throughout the United States (many in the conservative South). Indeed, 25 percent of US electricity is supplied by locally owned public utilities and co-ops.

Moreover, most of these now conventional “socialist” operations have a demonstrated capacity to provide electricity at lower cost to the consumer, not to mention cheaper and more accessible broadband. (Nationally, on average, customers of private utilities pay 14 percent more than customers of public utilities.)

One obvious reason: Public utilities and co-ops simply don’t pay the same exorbitant executive salaries common in the private sector. They get pretty much the same work done for far less. General managers of the largest class of publicly owned power companies earned an average salary of roughly $260,000 in 2011. Average compensation for CEOs of large investor-owned utilities was $6 million—almost twenty-five times as much.

Also, of course, public utilities and co-op producers don’t have to pay private shareholders any dividends. And they return a portion of their revenues to the city or county to help supplement local budgets, easing the pressure on taxpayers. A recent study found an average transfer of 5.2 percent of revenues to municipalities—compared with average tax payments by private-investor-owned utilities of 3.9 percent.

Continue reading…

Old sees power sale closing in 2018 2

Former Vero Beach City Councilman Randy Old is running this fall to regain a set on the Council. Old this week issued the following “update” on the proposed sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. 

RANDY OLD

Randy Old

Short version: aiming to be signed by September 5th 2017, final FMPA approval by January 2018.

Longer Version:  at Tuesday’s City Council meeting both Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) and Florida Municipal Power Agency’s (FMPA) representatives together with Vero Beach’s lawyer brought the Council up to date on the progress of the sale. The numbers have not changed and they are approximately as follows:  FPL is paying $185 million, Vero is paying off its debt and exiting its Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) contract for $47 million, and exiting FMPA for $108 million leaving Vero with net proceeds of some $30 million. More…

Behind closed doors 1

NEWS ANALYSIS

Though Moss has no legal authority to negotiate on behalf of the City, or to act with O’Connor as an ad hoc committee, that clearly seems to be what she is doing. Her actions, and those of O’Connor, could well be in violation of Florida’s open government laws.

MARK SCHUMANN

Jim O’Connor

Laura Moss

Today, representatives of the Florida Municipal Power Agency, the Orlando Utilites Commission, Florida Power and Light and the City of Vero Beach are to meet to discuss the proposed sale of Vero Electric to FPL.  Representing the City will be City Manager Jim O’Connor and Councilwoman/Mayor Laura Moss.

In explaining why the discussions will not be open to the public, and why other members of the City Council are not allowed to attend, O’Connor described the meeting as “administrative.”  The meeting may well be “administrative,” but it is also part of the entire decision-making process, or what Florida’s courts have described as “the inquiry and discussion stages.” These discussions, the courts have ruled, are also subject to the Sunshine Law.

Though Moss has no legal authority to negotiate on behalf of the City, or to act with O’Connor as an ad hoc committee, that clearly seems to be what she is doing. Her actions, and those of O’Connor, could well be in violation of Florida’s open government laws.

Addressing a similar situation, then Florida Attorney General Robert Butterworth wrote that for the Sunshine Law provisions requiring open meetings to apply, “2 or more members of a body or other entity or group to which the Sunshine Law applies must be present, or there must be delegation of decision-making by such a body to either a single member thereof or to an advisory group or committee used by the covering entity.” (Below is the full text of the Attorney General’s opinion.)

The City Council has never voted to delegate to Moss the authority to represent the City in its negotiations on the proposed sale of Vero Electric, but the Council’s acquiescence in Moss’ assertion of authority to do so could well be construed as consent.

If Moss, and now O’Connor, are skirting, if not violating, Florida’s open government laws and the City’s policies for handling public records, it will not be the first time. Last summer, as Chair of the Utilities Commission, Moss wrote the head of the Florida Public Service Commission, but failed to forward the correspondence to the City Clerk’s Office. More recently, Moss wrongly claimed as “privileged” documents that should have been public record, and Moss and O’Connor seemed to have collaborated in delaying the release of those documents until FPL was ready to make a public announcement relating to the documents.

Moss has publicly likened her role “like being the queen of Vero Beach.” If Moss is assuming she is above the law because “the monarch can do no wrong,” then she must think she is living in some country other than the United States of America.

At stake here is the interest of the City and the people of Vero Beach. With only Moss and O’Connor in the room, who is looking out for the people of Vero Beach?

Given that Moss was aided in her election by a $50,000 contribution from FPL to a political action committee supporting her, it is difficult to imagine how she can be expected to do anything other than capitulate to FPL’s every demand.

For his part, ever since assuming his position as City Manager, O’Connor has focused on protecting his job by shifting his priorities to conform to changes in the Council majority. Given that O’Connor well knows the current proposal is not a fair deal for Vero Beach, his going along with Moss can be seen as nothing other than malicious obedience.

More…

Meter at City’s outside utility counsel running – now $136,757 2

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.

 

State Attorney asked to review Laura Moss’s handling of public records 7

Laura Moss

For a full ten days in advance of the release of Florida Power and Light’s letter of intent to acquire Vero Electric, Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss kept in her private possession a draft of the document. On May 1, Moss received the draft in an email from the City’s outside utility counsel with the law firm of Carlton Fields.

Rather than sending the correspondence to Moss’s official City of Vero Beach email address, the outside counsel instead directed  it to the Mayor’s private email address. Despite the fact that the documents in Moss’s possession should have been immediately forwarded to the City Clerk’s Office and made a part of the public records, Moss withheld the information until the afternoon of May 10. Without question the documents in Moss’s possession were the legitimate subject of public records requests made by Brian Heady, InsideVero and the Press Journal on May 2, May 6 and May 8,

Today, in an email to Assistant State Attorney Chris Taylor, InsideVero editor and publisher Mark Schumann set forth the reasons why he believes Moss should be investigated for a possible violation of Florida’s open records laws. The following is the full text of Schumann’s letter to Taylor. More…

Brovont raises questions about power sale ‘negotiations’ 1

MARK SCHUMANN

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…

Worth reading: Press Journal columnist calls for careful vetting of power deal 1

“…And while power users likely will see significant cost savings, questions remain over how the city will cope financially without the $5 million to $6 million the electric operation transfers into the city’s general fund annually…This is the people’s business. It is the people’s electric utility and government. Any proposed deal must be fully vetted, with the public given plenty of opportunity to learn more about the proposal and to weigh in.” – Larry Reisman Continue reading…

Not everyone loves FPL service 2

Comments to a recent post on the Indian River County Scanner Radio page suggest not everyone is pleased with the service the receive from Florida Power & Light. The post alerted readers to a down power line and a power outage west of Interstate 95 along State Road 60.
Brady Hagerman – FPL had a week to tighten the lines and they didn’t. Definitely their fault.”
Facebook Comments:
Linda Zeller – FPL does NO maintenance in Western Vero.
Linda Zeller –  I live in SW Vero and we lose power almost every time it rains. I’ve even filed a complaint with the Florida Utilities Commission. You get a lot of lip service from FPL after that. I told them they don’t have to call me, just start replacing some of these 90 degree poles and hanging lines.
Steve Demers – I had a fire on the line and they refused to expedite the call, so I called 911. The fire department got it expedited!
Sarah Mitsakos-Bass – My neighbor has been complaining since before Matthew that theres a dead mango tree tugging on the lines in the yard behind hers. House is vacant so nobody cares.
Faith Carmen Burnell-Thomas – FPL does no maintenance anywhere! The wires in my back yard caught the trees on fire and it took 2 trips from the fire dept 2 days in a row and a phone call from the fire cheif to get fpl to trim them. I called fpl 5 times prior and made complaints and I have the slip they give you that says the trees are not a hazard.
Jen Mueller – FPL doesn’t trim trees
Fa ith Carmen Burnell-Thomas – They do when they have too
Jen Mueller – I’m saying they don’t come out and trim them. Yes, if there is an obstruction at a job they’re completing but that’s about it.
Jen Mueller – Asplundh trims for them
Faith Carmen Burnell-Thomas – Fpl themselves came to my house and trimmed the trees after they caught fire 2 times at 10:00 pm
Douglas Weaver – Those sums a *&%$#@ at FPL… wish I was on City of Vero Beach Electric Utiliities
Judy Wagner – FPL is a joke, many areas in my area the poles are still leaning 4 feet from the hurricanes in 2004.

Trish Velde – They did not hit the pole. The wires were dangling lower than they are supposed to and when the truck came through driving normally the wires got caught on the truck and the pole fell. Not the drivers fault. FPL had been notified about the wires and had not fixed the problem.
Brady Hagerman – FPL had a week to tighten the lines and they didn’t. Definitely their fault.

Decency. Diligence. Democracy. 

Where are you?  6

COMMENTARY

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

There seems to be a reluctance on the part of a Council majority to examine the details of FP&L’s offer for our Electric utility.  This is difficult to accept.

The last contract was blindly signed by Council members who were not diligent about the terms, specifically to standing contractual obligations. After millions of our ratepayer dollars were later spent on legal actions, the courts confirmed those legally binding contracts.  The result was having a contract with FP&L which could not be executed.  We are supposed to learn by mistakes and not repeat them.

I have been working for 7 years to complete this sale and I am not stopping now. But it has become problematic.

When I bring up challenges to the successful completion of the sale my comments are routinely interrupted by Mayor Laura Moss who attempts to silence me. Vice Mayor Harry Howle then raises his voice, leans forward, turns towards me and proceeds with accusations that have no basis in fact.  Silence. The agenda moves on. More…

Finance Commissioners raise questions about power sale 3

NEWS ANALYSIS

“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.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

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…

Howle, Moss and Sykes are selling out the people of Vero Beach 5

Lange Sykes' acceptance of so much outside money in his latest campaign, (90%), suggest that, if elected, he may have an extremely difficult time balancing loyalty to his patrons against his fiduciary responsibility to the people of Vero Beach.
COMMENTARY

“The troika seems determined to make the best deal possible for FPL and for Shores interests.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Imagine the suspicions that would be raised if a U.S. presidential candidate received 70 percent of their total campaign contributions from Russian oligarchs.

The Russians don’t care about public policy in Vero Beach, Florida, but Indian River Shores oligarchs sure do. They contributed heavily to the campaigns of Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, and they joined Florida Power and Light in raising more than $100,000 to fund a political action committee to support Moss and Sykes in last fall’s municipal election. (Moss received 70 percent of her campaign funds from Shores residents. Sykes took in 90 percent of his campaign funds from the Shores.) More…

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

City Code:

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

COMMENTARY

“…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.”

MARK SCHUMANN

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…

OUC wants far more than $20 million to settle electric contracts Reply

Winger, Young decry lack of negotiations

NEWS ANALYSIS

“Who is looking at the financial implications of this deal? It is not being done.”  – Councilman Tony Young

“Given that, as candidates, Howle, Moss and Sykes were all heavily supported by FPL, perhaps Young should not be surprised to see them accept whatever FPL offers.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Tony Young

Richard Winger

In an email sent yesterday to Vero Beach City Manager Jim O’Connor, Orlando Utilities Commission Vice President Jan Aspuru put the City on notice that it will cost far more than $20 million to settle its obligations to the OUC. Aspuru noted that the letter of intent between Florida Power and Light and the City for the sale of Vero Electric provides no more than $20 million to release Vero Beach from its contractual obligations to the OUC. Vero Beach buys the bulk of its wholesale power from the OUC.

“I wanted you to know that the OUC’s damages will far exceed the $20 million if Vero Beach defaults on its contractual commitments to the OUC,” Aspuru wrote.

FPL is now offering some some $20 million less for Vero Electric than the company was willing to pay in 2014. Previous forecasts based on FPL’s offer suggested the City would net $30 million in cash from FPL. Aspuru’s caution raises the prospect that the City could wind up getting nothing from the deal.

Despite these developments, Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes continue to insist FPL’s offer is more than fair. This week, over the objections of Councilmen Richard Winger and Tony Young, Howle, Moss and Sykes voted to impose a gag order on the City’s Commissions. Those boards are now forbidden from discussing or analyzing the impacts of the proposed sale. More…

Our obligation to endow the City of Vero Beach 1

COMMENTARY

Editor’s Note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council.

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

The Good news in my message today is that FP&L has submitted a document stating their intent to finalize a Purchase and Sale Agreement at Council’s only meeting in July on the 18th. Their document includes details of their  “Due Diligence” for the Acquisition of our Electric Utility.  The draft had been submitted and now they will finalize it.

This “Agreement” will be something determined by each party: FP&L’s part is the “Purchase” and the City’s part is the “Sale”. When does the City start to work on our “due diligence”?  Surely it cannot be an Agreement when only one party to it has done “Due Diligence”.

This is where the Bad enters my message. Not only have we not done our due diligence, but we now learn the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) has just made it clear they find FP&L’s offer in the Letter of Intent for the Vero Beach exit unacceptable. This is the same situation we had in the prior contract which expired last December.  At that time FP&L wanted to pass along $26,000,000 to the ratepayers, to be attached to their monthly bills, to accommodate OUC’s exit cost. If we are face with that again, power bills would likely increase over current Vero Beach rates, given the City has gone down 15% and FPL has gone up 10%.  The differential has shrunk greatly.
 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/VERO BEACH CITY COUNCILMAN

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…

Letter: Selling Vero Electric is Un-American 2

Editor’s note: The following letter received by InsideVero yesterday was also sent to City Council of Vero Beach, Town Council of Indian River Shores and Board of County Commissioners, Indian River County.

“I believe in municipal ownership of all public service monopolies… because if you do not own them, they will in time own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties!” – Thomas L. Johnson, Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, 1908

 

Selling Vero Electric to FPL is Un-American!

Please acknowledge about Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) upcoming multiple rate increases, surcharges and more increase(s) and surcharge(s) to come later.

Please acknowledge about FPL’s SurgeShield program is ripping off their customers. Vero Electric already have surge protections in all places and does not charge.

Please acknowledge about local media blackout (Indian River Press Journal/TCPalm and 32963/VeroNews) on FPL’s multiple rate increases and surcharges. InsideVero and out of town newspapers reported the increases.

Please acknowledge about Bob Brunjes, Indian River Press Journal/TCPalm publisher is married to Amy Brunjes, FPL executive.

Please acknowledge the current rates between Vero Electric and FPL is now less than 8% – greatly reduced from 34% in 2009. More…

Press Journal columnist misstates electric rate comparison Reply

The Indian River County Commission assesses a 6% franchise fee on the electric bills of country residents who are customers of Vero Electric, and of FPL. Similarly, If an when the become customers of Vero Electric residents and businesses within the city will also pay a 6% franchise fee, yielding an effective FPL rate of $108.69, compared to Vero Beach’s current rate of $116.08. The difference between the two rates is 6.4%, not 20%, as many continue to claim.

COMMENTARY

“Reisman and his colleagues at Treasure Coast Newspapers persist in presenting the rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL in a way that shows how much more FPL customers would pay, if they switched to Vero Electric. This is a misleading and meaningless comparison. The relevant percentage is the savings Vero Electric customers could expect by switching to FPL. At 1000 kilowatt hours, that number is 8.7% for county customers and 6.3% for customers within the city. At 1200 kilowatt hours, based on today’s rates, the savings would be 14.3% for county customers and 9.1% for customers within the city.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

For years, in comparing rates between Vero Electric and Florida Power and Light, the FPL-friendly Press Journal has followed FPL’s lead in quoting 1000 kilowatt hour rates.  Probably because this measure now yields the least favorable comparison from FPL’s perspective, the Press Journal is quoting rates at 1,200 kilowatt hours.

On the mainland, inside and outside the city limits, some 90 percent of Vero Electric’s residential customers use an average of less than 1000 kilowatt hours per month. Based on the most recent information available from FPL and the City, at 1000 kilowatt hours, the rate differential between the two utilities is 8.7 percent, $116.08 for Vero Electric and $102.64 for FPL. Reisman seems not to want to use these numbers, probably because he has for the last 7 years been telling his readers they could save 25 percent or more, if the City would only sell its electric system to FPL. In fact, the FPL-friendly Press Journal has played key role in leading the public to embrace an exaggerated sense of the benefits of the proposed power sale.

Not only has Reisman taken to using a different rate level for comparison, he misstates the delta. As of March, FPL’s rate for 1200 kilowatts of residential power was $122.40. Vero Beach’s rate was $142.87.  The difference between those two rates is 14.3 percent, not 17 percent, as Reisman claimed when he wrote, “That’s about 17 percent more than FPL rates.” The simple, undeniable, indisputable fact is that at 1200 kilowatt hours customers of FPL are paying 14.3 percent less than customers of Vero Electric, not 17%. More…