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GRU Authority formally asks Superintendent of Elections to reject City’s ordinance placing GRU governance on the November ballot

The GRU Authority voted unanimously on May 30 to send a letter to the Supervisor of Elections

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At the request of the GRU Authority, Scott Walker of the Folds Walker law firm has sent a letter to Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton, asking her to reject the City’s ordinance that places the governance of Gainesville Regional Utilities on the November ballot.

The ordinance, which the Gainesville City Commission unanimously approved at their June 18 Special Meeting, places a referendum on the November ballot for voters who live in the Gainesville city limits; the referendum asks voters whether they want to delete Article VII of the City Charter, the section that was added by HB 1645, the statute that created the GRU Authority to govern the utility.

Walker’s letter can be read here.

First objection: The ordinance does not “effectuate an orderly transition”

Walker argues in his letter that he has identified three objections to the ordinance. The first is that the ordinance violates Article VII, Section 7.10(1) of the City Charter. That section states that “the City and the Authority shall perform all acts necessary and proper to effectuate an orderly transition of the governance, operation, management, and control of all utility systems, properties, and assets held in the possession of GRU as of January 1, 2023, to the Authority, including, but not limited to, the creation of such instruments as are necessary for the Authority to function in accordance with this article.”

Walker writes that the ordinance does not “effectuate an orderly transition” because “the main goal of this Ordinance is to dissolve the Authority altogether.” He writes that although some argue that the transition has been completed, he does not believe that to be true because the GRU Authority and the City “have yet to formalize the transfer of operation and management regarding matters ranging from IT services to fleet maintenance, and more.”

Second objection: Through the Ordinance, the City Commission seeks to exert direction and control over the utility

The second objection is that the ordinance violates Article VII, Section 7.10(2) of the City Charter. That section states: “There is created a regional utilities authority to be known as the ‘Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority’ (‘Authority’)… [The Authority] shall be free from direction and control of the Gainesville City Commission. The Authority is created for the express purpose of managing, operating, controlling, and otherwise having broad authority with respect to the utilities owned by the City of Gainesville.”

Walker writes, “The Commission now seeks, through the use of this proposed Ordinance, to exert power and control over an area from which their authority has been stripped.” He argues that the “only process to amend or repeal House Bill 1645, which is a Special Law of the State of Florida, is to have the Florida Legislature enact a law which amends or repeals HB 1645. A local referendum cannot repeal an act of the Florida Legislature.”

Walker also notes that GRU serves customers who are not citizens of Gainesville, and the legislature provided representation for those customers by allocating one seat on the Authority to a non-city-resident rate-payer.

Third objection: The referendum language is vague and misleading

The third objection is that the proposed referendum language is vague and misleading, “as it does not make clear that the office of general manager (referred to as ‘appointed administrator’), which existed prior to House Bill 1645, would be removed and the role would fall under the City Manager.” Walker writes that placing GRU under the City Manager would “limit transparency” about the General Fund Transfer from the utility to the City’s General Fund.

Walker argues, “The language in Ordinance 2024-352 leads the average voter to believe that a ‘yes’ vote on the proposed referendum would have the effect of simply returning the utility to ‘business as usual’ which – based on the language and the apparent actions of the City Commission – is inaccurate and therefore the language impermissibly misleads voters.”

    • Yeah, just like this newspaper is read by all maga republicans to come and yap their mouths and put down anything that makes sense and helps people. DeSantis doesn’t have Gainesville best interest at heart, he is just sending his soldiers in to do his dirty work. He handpicked Sasse to run UF, put the GRU board in place, and hand picked the Gainesville board as well. Picking his own people for school boards, etc.

  • Many people who voted for the GRU Board are not going to be able to vote on this. It not right to exclude their voices.

    • Nobody voted for the GRU Board except DeSantis, and nobody else ever will.

      • Jazz: Hanrahan implemented United Nations Kyoto Protocol trying to stop global warming which the United States was not a signatory to and saddled us with debt and ruined our utility with the tree burner…outside investors lined their pockets with cash and we got stuck with a clunker. We should never have gone biomass.
        Nuclear is the future. She violated her loyalty oath of office by taking her orders from a foreign government (UN). Where is she now? All I hear is crickets. She should be thrown in jail and everyone else who supported biomass. What we need is a utility that provides electricity at the lowest cost that ratepayers can afford.

      • We had an election, jazz. Lots of people voted. Just not all of them the way you wanted.

  • Most important line: “A local referendum cannot repeal an act of the Florida Legislature.”

    Full stop. The Commission needs to get itself together. Tighten your belt, don’t spend what you do not have and for everyone’s sake MOVE THE HECK ON!

    Curry needs to get started with REAL cuts; not poorly written press releases disguised as some high-minded management memo.

    • That makes a lot of sense, but the assumption is that Curry knows how to do that. I don’t believe she does. She loves to see her name in print though. Cannot get enough of it. She is very very important, you see.

      • Agree! She’s a legend in her own mind!

    • F the Florida Legislature which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP and its power grabbing overly partisan governor. Let’s got to court.

      • I wish it were true. Regardless, it appears the GOP is doing real well. Surplus in the budget, lowering taxes and every rational person who is able appears to want to move to Florida.

  • Thank you, Scott Walker. The eternal circular actions the commission dreams up are redundant and, usually, not in the interest of the people or the financial health of local government.

  • Yet another clown 🤡 show.

    Didn’t RINO Carter hire this law firm at $400 per hour without a competitive bid?

    Barton is a loyal DEC operative who will ignore the letter and put this on the ballot.

    They better get a better law firm if they hope to win a court battle after the mindless D sheep 🐑 voters put the City Commission back in charge.

    • One partisan power play deserves another. This where DeSantis and power grabs lead.

      • Jazz: Desantis is the governor and was elected by the voters of Florida. Get over it. I didn’t vote for biomass. The city couldn’t run the airport and it was democrats who created the airport authority….the airport is running great now. The utility authority will run GRU like it should with ratepayers coming first.

        • GRU is owned by the citizens of Gainesville, not the state of Florida, and I assure you DeSantis did not win the vote in the city or county which would at least give him some moral authority on this hostile takeover.

          • There is nothing moral about the Gainesville City Commissions and leaders exposed financial schemes and failures. Now where’s our $68 Million and Fat Harvey’s 3 million dollar bond fiasco payments? Even the sheeples of Gville are waking up with the aroma of well deserved tax increases.

          • Actually, your friends on the City Commission including Ward gave GRU to Wall Street Bond Holers when they bought the Biomess plant. The citizens of Gainesville allowed them to mortgage their rights.

  • The GRU Authority does need to have the BEST independent law firm possible.

    Carter and Cunningham know that a LARGE number of City GRU customers get their Local News by watching Local Government meetings LIVE on Cox Channel 12 because they cannot tie up their cell phones watching GRU Authority meetings Digitally.

    Carter and Cunningham did NOT want the Authority meetings to be aired LIVE both digitally and on Cox Channel 12 – under the GUISE of saving money.

    Unfortunately, it prevents a LARGE number of GRU customers from seeing how the new GRU Authority Board is putting GRU customers first.

    We all know that the local print news paper were Cheerleaders for Hanrahan’s biomass/tree burner financial debacle and appear to be Cheerleaders now for Harvey Ward and the “group think” city commission as well.

  • A recent state audit of the City of Gainesville Finance department was not kind to the employes of that department. It seemed to suggest that most of their training came from working at Mcdonalds.

  • If only we had non-partisan and fair courts, this HB 1645 would get thrown out for violating the rights of the citizens of Gainesville who built and own GRU. Forced retirements cleared the field for DeSantis to pack the Fl SC with party hacks.

    • Only 3% of citizens voted for the (past) commissioners who created this mess.

    • What about the rights of the non-city residents who are forced to purchase utilities from GRU (and therefore fund the city) with no input whatsoever? You seem to conveniently forget about them on a regular basis.

  • Does Kim Barton have a re-election opponent? She may want to be aware of that when deciding how to respond 🤔🤔

    • Is Kim Barton still signing up inmates at the county jail??

      • The only voters who committed fraud were republicans. Yeah, you all love to throw good people under the bus. So maybe she’ll sign lip felon Trump to vote.

    • Kim Barton is aware–she recently took action to try and prevent her opponent from appearing on the ballot by disqualifying jussssst enough signatures on a petition.

      I think the last thing Barton needs is more scrutiny on her and her office’s illegal electioneering, oops I meant “innocent mistakes that always seem to benefit her own political party”.

      Hopefully she’s foolish enough to allow this on the ballot and she can work on signing up more felons from the comfort of her own jail cell.

  • That’s the right move. It should never have been on the ballot in the first place. Can we remove Kim from her duty if she doesn’t comply? Asking for a friend.

  • County attorney Bob Swain will be making the decision to put this on the ballot or not.

  • This should never be determined by just City voters because it affects all of GRU rate payers. This is so typical Democrat lopsided crap.

  • 4th objection, control of GRU was taken from the City council by the State Legislature via law and signed by the governor.
    This is a big waste of time and it’s all about the City Council terrified that their slush fund is over.
    I hope the judge says “NO MEANS NO”

  • There are numerous other grounds for not putting this referendum on a very crowded ballot. While the GRU Authority cannot sue the City Commission or GRU, the Authority can and should sue the Supervisor. This important matter requires the attention of a attorney of the caliber of Mr. Walker or better. It is About time for the Governor and Attorney General to get directly involved.

  • Just a side note, the irony is that Cat Woman and Robin, ie Bottcher and Eastman tried to stop the GRU governance vote when it was on the ballot in 2018.

  • They don’t want the referendum on the ballot because they know it’s going to pass. The GRU authority wants minority rule, bunch of fascists that they are.

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