Heady accuses Mayor and staff of playing politics with FP&L meeting

VERO BEACH — When embattled Vero Beach Councilman Brian Heady heard that the July 20 night council meeting had been moved to morning because of another meeting with Florida Power and Light at 3 p.m. that day, Heady was immediately suspicious.

“When the city clerk told me the meeting had been moved to the morning and I knew I was not available that morning, I told Tammy (Vock) that the meeting couldn’t be rescheduled, they can’t reschedule a regular night meeting to a time when I’m not available,” Heady said. “And she told me that the mayor had already done it.”

Vice Mayor Sabin Abell and former Mayor Tom White have tried a handful of times to eliminate the once-a-month night meetings that Mayor Kevin Sawnick instituted when he took the gavel in November. The vote has always failed, with Sawnick, Heady and Daige voting to keep the night meetings to give working people access to their city government. Sawnick, 28, has been one of the biggest proponents of the night meetings and of involving younger, working people in city business. So the reversal of position in moving a meeting to the morning sent Heady searching for other motives.

It didn’t take him long to come up with a theory.

“They don’t want to have any public comment after FP&L comes to talk to us,” Heady said. “They’re not required to have public comment at a special call meeting and they don’t want to have the night meeting because they don’t want anyone to have a chance to discuss what we just heard from FP&L.”

Heady said the public has been waiting for this public meeting with FP&L to talk about the sale of the electric utility ever since Nov. 16, when officials from the company were first invited to a council meeting and expressed initial interest in working with the City of Vero Beach. To not give concerned citizens a chance to feel that they are at least a part of the city’s decision-making process on where to go next with FP&L, Heady believes, is hardly the best way to serve the residents and ratepayers of the city.

“Wouldn’t it make sense for us as a council, and for the public, to be able to discuss whatever information FP&L gives us? The only place we can talk about anything as a group is in a council meeting due to the Sunshine law,” Heady said. “This is just another example of the city not wanting to do the public’s business in the public eye.”

Sawnick said moving the meeting was nothing more than a practical decision, and was in no way an attempt to limit public input.

“There were two reasons.  Number one, we don’t have a first meeting in July so I thought there would be a lot on the June 20 agenda, and second, we will be in three days of budget workshops beginning the next morning, Wednesday at 9 a.m.” Sawnick said. “I figured it would be better to go into the budget workshops when we were rested.”

Sawnick said a majority vote of the council could always reverse his decision to reschedule and move the meeting back to evening.

As for public comment at the special call meeting with FP&L present, Sawnick said he would allow it.

“I have no problem with having public comment.  We’re going to have to make a decision and vote on whether or not to go forward and we should be able to get the public comment about that,” he said. “Now I don’t know if FP&L will take any questions, but people can tell us how they would like us to proceed — it’s pretty clear that the publiic wants us to go forward with this.”

Heady is also upset that Mayor Sawnick and the staff members who went to Juno earlier this month to meet with FP&L officials have not yet submitted a report of their meeting to the council.

“You would think that such an important meeting, a meeting with such implications for the city and for utility customers, would warrant a report of some kind. I’ve gotten nothing, but I plan to ask for one at Tuesday’s council meeting,” Heady said.

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