Kramer files protest with federal agency of Vero electric sale
Vero City Council member Jay Kramer, in a move that may violate a “good faith” clause in the city’s agreement to sell its electric utility to Florida Power & Light, has filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission formally opposing the sale.
Kramer’s motion, in which he identified himself not as a private citizen but as a City Council member, could potentially make Vero Beach liable for millions of dollars in penalties. His letter to FERC said: “It is hereby noticed the Jay Kramer, City Council member of Vero Beach Florida, makes comment on the FERC case EC13-91-000.”
FERC approval is one of several hurdles remaining before Vero can turn over the keys to Big Blue and the electric system to FPL. The federal agency has fewer than 180 days to either approve the transaction, or schedule a hearing to consider objections to the sale, according to City Manager Jim O’Connor.
In a March 19 letter to the city council, attorney John Igoe wrote: “While everyone is entitled to their own view and opinions on any issue, it is imperative that city officials refrain from conduct which could be construed as a breach of the city’s covenants under the agreement. This is important to protect the interests of the city.”
Igoe closed the letter with a potential multi-million-dollar warning: “A breach of the agreement could have adverse consequences for the city, including a potential termination penalty payment.”
O’Connor said the city had no authority to effectively bar Kramer from filing his protest. The clause in the sale agreement requiring Kramer to act in good faith would need to be enforced by FPL, not by the city, O’Connor said.
“As an individual he has the right to do that. You cannot block it, it’s a freedom of speech type of thing,” O’Connor said. Kramer did not file his formal comments as a private citizen, however. His letter to FERC, giving the Vero Beach City Council as his return address, said:
“Mr. Kramer believes the transaction was done without regard to competitive practices and is prepared to demonstrate how the public has been harmed by this process. Mr. Kramer supports the intervention by (former council member) Lynne Larkin and is anxious to provide testimony through hearings on this matter to detail this transaction and how it demonstrates anti-competitive practices.”
Though Council member Pilar Turner and Vice Mayor Tracy Carroll cautioned Kramer after the FPL sale agreement was ratified by the voters in March that he should abide by the terms of the contract and not do anything to subvert the sale, Kramer at the time rejected what he called the effort to “shut me up.”
O’Connor said the city’s transactional attorneys Igoe and Rick Miller of the Edwards Wildman law firm, who represent and report to the Vero Beach City Council, will be filing a response to protests launched by Kramer, Larkin and others.
“The applicant is actually FPL, but if FPL wants us to file some kind of response, we will,” O’Connor said.