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Vero Council scraps advice, approves FPL agreement 5-0

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to move forward with the Letter of Intent offered by Florida Power and Light on April 4, with three revisions, effectively opening up negotiations to sell the city’s electric utility.

The council took this action over the protestations of its own legal counsel, and in open contradiction to the advice of GAI Consultants and the Gray Robinson law firm hired to advise the city on the FP&L matter.

On Monday afternoon, council members and FP&L were provided a copy of revised letter with changes proposed by Assistant City Attorney Wayne Coment, GAI Consultants and Gray Robinson. The changes were so substantial that FP&L had rejected the revised document and asked that it not be considered at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“I was appalled at seeing this LOI,” said Councilwoman Pilar Turner. “This was a response to a hostile takeover, not a response to a company that you’ve asked to come in. It was extremely defensive.”

Turner apologized to FP&L External Affairs Director Amy Brunjes for the tone and substance of the proposed changes made by staff and the city’s hired consultants.

Brunjes reiterated to the City Council that the purpose of the LOI was “to open negotiations and to let you know what we were thinking.”

On Monday, Brunjes had told Coment and Councilwoman Tracy Carroll that FP&L would be happy to rework the LOI slightly — to simplify it — in an effort to address some of what the city had described as “limiting issues.”

Brunjes said Tuesday that her legal staff was still willing to do that, and that it could be back to City Hall by the end of the week.

Instead of waiting until Friday for FP&L to draft another version of the Letter of Intent that might address the city’s concerns, Councilman Brian Heady proposed that they amend the document on the spot and get things moving on negotiating the sale.

The original FP&L Letter of Intent was approved with three changes:

The insertion of the words “and the City of Vero Beach” in a sentence outlining FP&L’s right to do due diligence, hereby giving Vero an equal right to do its own due diligence.

Removal of a clause citing a purchase price of “up to $100 million” and replacing it with “A mutually agreed upon price.”

Addition of the catch-all phrase, “The City of Vero Beach reserves the right to accept, reject and negotiate any of the terms included or excluded in this LOI” at the end of the document, just above the signatures.

Brunjes said FP&L will make the approved changes and get a clean document back to the City Council for signature in time for a 3 p.m. special call meeting on Friday.

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