Vero Beach Councilman Heady takes OUC case to Tallahassee, gets nowhere

VERO BEACH – Vero Beach City Councilman Brian Heady took his allegations that the Orlando Utilities Commission contract was a fraud perpetrated by the City of Vero Beach on its electric ratepayers to Tallahassee last week, and once again, got nowhere fast.

But he did learn that if he got a vote of the majority of the City Council to ask for an inquiry into a potential fraud perpetrated by the city, the Florida State Attorney General’s office would consider offering an opinion.

His chances of getting that majority vote, by his own admission, are somewhere between slim and none.

“It’s laughable, downright comical,” Heady said. “You really couldn’t make this stuff up.”

His latest initiative on this issue came while attending a Florida League of Cities legislative gathering last week, when Heady tried to get staffers at Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office to look into the matter.

Heady said he’s hoofed this trail before when years ago he tried to get an investigation opened up into the way the Indian River School District was spending funds.

But this time he had a huge name tag on his jacket proclaiming he was a duly elected public official.

“I don’t know why I thought that maybe I would have more credibility with these people because I am a council person. I guess I was mistaken,” Heady said.

He didn’t even make it past the receptionist.

At Bondi’s office, someone spoke to him on a house phone in the lobby, advising him to take it up with governor’s office.

Later at Gov. Scott’s office, Heady said a woman came out, spoke to him in the hallway, and said she couldn’t do anything for him; indeed, that it might be a matter for the ethics commission.

“When I asked for her business card, she told me that due to Gov. Scott’s budget, they weren’t allowed to order business cards,” Heady said. “So I got her to write her name and phone number on a piece of paper that said ‘Office of the Governor.'”

The phone number the staffer Peggy Kassees wrote down for Heady goes to a main customer service number with a recording of Scott’s voice reading public service announcements.

He said Kassees also told him that the local State Attorney’s Office should look into it.

“I told them that the state attorney already did an investigation, and that the city manager at the time lied to them and said there were no changes to the contract,” Heady said, referring to an interview of then-City Manager Jim Gabbard documented by investigator Ed Arens.

Heady’s cell phone displays two return calls from the Attorney General’s office about his visit. The upshot of the responses, Heady said, was that he needed the backing of the Vero Beach City Council to be able to submit his questions to the attorney general’s office for a possible legal opinion.

“So they told me that I need to get a vote of the majority of the city council to ask them to look into a potential fraud perpetrated by the city that might be being covered up with the help of the same City Council that’s supposed to give me the permission to have them investigated,” Heady said.

Jennifer Davis, Press Secretary for the Attorney General, subsequently verified that Heady had spoken with Becky Kring and confirmed what Heady said he was told.

Davis cited Florida Statutes allowing the attorney general to render opinions to “public bodies,” but not to individual members of those public bodies.

“The Statute does not authorize the attorney general to render opinions to private individuals or entities,” Davis said.

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