Childers Law forces City to reveal pricing in Solar PPA

Gainesville resident Jo Beaty speaks to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on February 23


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In response to a demand letter from Gainesville attorney Jeff Childers, Origis has provided formal consent to the City of Gainesville to release unredacted versions of the Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) contracts and amendments between Origis and the City.

Resident Nathan Skop criticized the redactions before the contract was first signed in July 2020, and Jo Beaty again criticized the redactions when the City Commission considered a second amendment to the contract on February 16, 2023. At the February 23 meeting of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC), Senator Keith Perry and Representative Yvonne Hinson criticized the redactions, and Senator Jason Pizzo offered to look at the contract in private. The City has maintained that Origis declared the pricing and other information as “trade secrets” and that it would be illegal to reveal the information.

On March 27, in response to a request for the unredacted PPA, the City sent Childers a redacted copy of the PPA and amendments, along with an email from Origis providing the Florida Statutes under which the PPA was claimed to be confidential and a trade secret. On the same day, Childers sent back a letter renewing the request for the unredacted PPA and providing notice that his office intended to file a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief if the City did not provide the requested contracts. The City responded on April 4 and directed Childers to the Director of Business Development at Origis.

The plaintiff in the draft complaint against the City is Marlon Bruce, who was a candidate for Gainesville Mayor in 2019. The complaint states that the redactions are “illegal and improper under Florida law, not least because prices are not trade secrets under Florida law.” The complaint also states that the PPA provides that Origis will intervene and provide a defense against any challenge to the City’s failure to provide an unredacted copy of the PPA and that this provision “is an illegal delegation of the City’s statutory duties and an illegal attempt to evade its duties under Florida’s Sunshine Law.” The complaint further states that the PPA is an illegal contract because it “includes material provisions requiring the City to perform illegal acts.”

Childers sent an email to Origis on April 12, asking for the unredacted contracts, and last night Origis informed Childers that they had “provided formal consent to GRU to release the unredacted versions of the PPA, the first amendment to the PPA, and the proposed second amendment to the PPA in response to any public records request” on April 12.

In a written statement provided to the Alachua Chronicle, Childers said, “It is nonsense that a public vendor, especially a very significant vendor, could conceal its pricing from the same citizens who are paying for its product. While under very limited circumstances a price can be considered a ‘trade secret,’ generally the prices a vendor charges a public entity for something are not even remotely close to being a ‘trade secret.’ I hope this successful effort to obtain public information over the City’s protests — information that should have been public from the beginning — will encourage others to challenge officials who try to conceal public information.”

Sen. Keith Perry asked, “Why would City officials ever enter into a contract with a private corporation and not have transparency? What possible secrets on a solar deal should the general public not be allowed to see and why should somebody have to go through legal and other maneuvers to get that information?”

Rep. Chuck Clemons said, “It is surprising that in 2023 any elected official would actively work to keep the taxpayers in the dark on how many tax dollars are spent on a good or service. My question is who specifically asked for this to be secret? The citizens have a right to know!”

The City of Gainesville and Rep. Mike Caruso, a co-Chairman of JLAC, have not yet responded to our requests for comment. Alachua Chronicle will provide information on the unredacted contracts when we receive them.

  • Now request the city’s coal contracts from the past (and present). They claim the same price secrets.

  • Trade secrets? Half a century ago, this was called price fixing. The vendor doesn’t want customers to know what they charge other customers, so they can hoodwink idiots like the politicians we have locally. Just look at how the Dems have screwed over us for the last 20 years, especially in regard to the infamous wood burner.

  • So it begins can’t wait until the state takes over GRU and the city files for bankruptcy. And several of past and present members of the city commission have to answer for their actions

  • These folks are backed by the same DEC that secretly concealed them signed the biomass albatross contract we are now stuck paying off for another 25 years of loans to buy it out. Stop this Solar contract immediately. That power is NOT needed! We are stuck with biomass, then gas and coal.

  • I believe the original “punt” by the City, probably on Ward’s marching orders, for Origis to provide copies was an attempt at hiding some financial gain of the parties essential in the agreement. That’s probably why part of the contract contained a clause stating that Origis would be responsible for defending any claims.
    It’s more of the same by city leadership to conceal these back room deals.
    One can only wonder if/what kickbacks were and to whose accounts they went to.
    As others stated, it should be transparent. Maybe those who didn’t want the information released were afraid of how apparent some improprieties may be.

  • Jeff Childers, fighting the woke liberals on many fronts. Check out his Coffee and Covid blog.

  • Please make an effort to go to relevant City Commission Meetings, It is eye opening. Bizarre behavior and comments . Just to watch the worms squirm is entertaining. Still clueless they are fired and a nothing burger with no authority moving forward.

  • What? The People’s Republic of Gainesville is keeping taxpayers in the dark? Is Ripley’s still in St. Augustine?

  • This City is a money pit & laundering operation from the depths of hell.

  • The winds of change are blowing! Hopefully they also blow GRACE Marketplace into another state.

  • Also ask Where is the “benefit” promised to customers for the a 2009 biomass plant contract with GREC/GRU. It was one of the worst deals in the city’s history.

    In fact, it was one of worst biomass deals in the country.

  • >