Konish: Clemons’ bill is an exquisite and intricate amendment to the City of Gainesville’s charter that fires the City Commission

Letter to the editor

Having carefully reviewed dozens of different versions of the Keith Perry GRU governance reform initiative, the latest incarnation appears to be a sweeping and sophisticated repudiation of the governance of GRU by our Gainesville City Commission since January 2000. A new direction is clearly spelled out. Perry always wanted and has now obtained plenty of “meat on the bone.” While every single word of HB1645 matters, here is an attempt to fillet the meat off the bone to make this landmark legislation more understandable for the layperson.

Section 1. Section 3.06 of Article III of section 1 of chapter 90-394, Laws of Florida, is repealed.
Section 2. Article VII is added to chapter 12760, Laws of Florida (1927), as amended by chapter 90-394, Laws of Florida, to read:…”


Section 1 abolishes the current Gainesville City Charter Section 3.06 provisions for a charter officer of the City known as the “General Manager for utilities” (GM). All GRU GM powers accrue to the Authority, which will have its own CEO/GM in charge of GRU employees only. The Authority as a collegial body will choose a CEO/GM to work under their direct “supervision and direction” (see Section 7.09(3) of the bill). The replacement CEO/GM for the new GRU Authority will be GRU’s only charter officer. This ties into the new Article VII, Section 7.01 mandate that the Authority “shall be free from the direction and control of the Gainesville City Commission.”

“Section 7.09 management and personnel” further explores the vastly reduced duties of the Authority’s new CEO/GM. A new “Section 7.12 limitation on utility directives” further constrains any City Commission interference with the Authority. “Section 2” adds a new 14-page Article VII at the end of the Gainesville City Charter, before the legal descriptions. The rest of this analysis looks at “Article VII,” which will be annexed into our current 15-page City of Gainesville Charter (with the aforementioned repeal of “Section 3.06 General manager for utilities”). A schematic outline of the new City of Gainesville Charter as amended by HB 1645 is shown below this letter.



7.01 Establishment.—

There is created a regional utilities authority to be known as the “Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority” (“Authority”).

Gainesville Regional Utilities shall be governed by the Authority upon installation of the Authority’s members pursuant to this article. The Authority shall operate as a unit of city government and, except as otherwise provided in this article, 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.

Just as the Florida Legislature created the City of Gainesville, it is now creating the Article VII Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority as a unit of City government. The Authority shall be free from the direction and control of the Gainesville City Commission. This mandate is repeated in greater detail in the Section “7.12 limitations on utility directives”. Ownership of GRU by the City is unchanged. 

7.02 Definitions.—

(6) “Flow of funds”

(7) “Government services contribution” or “GSC”

(10) “Net revenues”

(11) “Service-level agreement” or “SLA”


These definitions will be examined below.

7.03  Powers and duties.-

(h) To appoint and remove a CEO/GM as provided in this article.

7.04 Authority members.—

Each member shall be a person of recognized ability and good business judgment as identified by the Governor who is expected to perform his or her official duties in the best interests of GRU and its customers.

7.05 Member nominations and terms.—

(1) The Governor shall issue a public notice soliciting citizen nominations for Authority members within 120 days after the effective date of this article [7/1/23 see Section 3 below]. The nomination solicitation period shall remain open for at least 30 days after the date of the public notice. 

(2) The Governor shall appoint initial members to the Authority from among the nominees within 60 days after the close of the nomination solicitation period.

The Governor-Appointed Authority is to be representative of GRU ratepayers. The Authority is to protect the utility and its customers – not the City’s financial demands. The Authority must not accommodate non-utility drains on GRU revenues of any stripe. GRU will no longer serve as a political ATM for the Gainesville City Commission.

7.07 Authority; oath; organization; and meeting.— 

(1) The Authority shall initially meet at the chambers of the City Commission at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, October 4, 2023.

(4) The Authority shall meet at least once each month, except in case of unforeseen circumstances.”

7.09 Management and personnel.— 

(1) A chief executive officer/general manager (CEO/GM) shall direct and administer all utility functions, subject to the rules and resolutions of the Authority. Until such time as the Authority appoints a CEO/GM, the sitting general manager of GRU shall serve as the CEO/GM.


It is imperative to realize that in Section 1 the very first sentence of HB 1645 repeals Section 3.06 of the current City Charter, thereby eliminating the GRU General Manager and attendant powers altogether. Pursuant to HB 1645, unless expanded by the Authority, the new GRU CEO/GM will be in charge of human resources only and is to operate under the “supervision and direction” (Section 7.09(3)) of the Authority members as a collegial body. The Authority CEO/GM will no longer be a charter officer of the City of Gainesville and will not be seated on the dais at City Commission meetings. The new CEO/GM will be the only charter officer of the Authority.

(2)The CEO/GM shall have the exclusive authority to hire, transfer, promote, discipline, or terminate employees under his or her supervision and direction.

(3)The sitting general manager of GRU, as well as all officers and employees of the City who, by virtue of this article, become subject to the supervision and direction of the CEO/GM, shall continue without any loss of rights or benefits as employees under the pension plans and civil service merit system of the City existing as of the creation of the Authority.”     


The legislature makes it clear that GRU workers are to be fully vested in all rights they have earned as of the creation of the new GRU Authority. GRU workers have a lot to gain from working under a CEO/GM that is not controlled by the City Commission or held hostage to their repudiated agenda. City workers have complained continuously to Keith, Chuck, and anyone else who would listen.

7.10 General provisions.—  

(1) 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. Notwithstanding the reorganization of the governance structure of the management of the utility system as provided in this  section, the utility system shall continue to be operated as a single enterprise and there shall be no change to the ownership of the utility system.

This charter amendment is a “reorganization of the governance structure,” but GRU remains a single d/b/a of the City with no change in ownership.

(2) In the event that any City charter provision, ordinance, resolution, decree, or any part thereof conflicts with the provisions of this article, the provisions of this article shall govern.

HB 1645 trumps anything from the City in conflict with its mandates. The City Commission must quickly prepare to conform with HB1645 as of July 1, 2023 (see Section 3).

(3) All rights, responsibilities, claims, and actions involving GRU as of the transfer to the Authority shall continue, except as may be modified by the Authority under the powers granted by this article and consistent with law.


The Authority can pursue past misconduct.

(4) No franchise, right-of-way, license, permit or usage fee or tax may be levied by the City upon the Authority or the utilities unless allowed by general law.

HB 1645 blocks City backdoor attacks on GRU ratepayers, who should have much improved and more competent representation from the new GRU Authority.

(5) Any utility advisory board (UAB) created by the City Commission shall have no role with respect to the Authority.


UAB members are to be seated with City Commissioners in the peanut gallery with us concerned citizens. They can bring their Kool-Aid, but Authority (UAB) members cannot partake.

7.11 Limitation on government services contribution (GSC).—



7.12 Limitation on utility directives. – The Authority and the CEO/GM, in making all policy and operational decisions over the affairs of the utility system as contemplated under the provisions of this act, shall consider only pecuniary factors and utility industry best practices standards, which do not include consideration of the furtherance of social, political, or ideological interests. Appropriate pecuniary factors and utility industry best practices are those which solely further the fiscal and financial benefit of the utility system and customers. This provision does not prohibit the establishment and application of rate structures based on utility usage. 

Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2023.

Sections 7.11 and 7.12, in conjunction with 7.01, make clear that the Authority is to govern GRU according to clearly delineated legislative guidelines at complete odds with the directions GRU was forced into by the City Commission since January 2000. 100% renewable is out. Debt reduction is prioritized on multiple levels. Overcharges for City support services are over with. Any governmental services contribution (GSC) will be doubtful for a long time. It would take 50 or more years of no GSC at recent levels to retire the City’s $1.7-billion debt. Social programs cannot be paid for by the new GRU Authority as of October 1, 2023. GRU collection of unrelated stormwater and garbage fees is questionable. Deferred maintenance is to be addressed. The soup will be stirred.

7.02 (6) clearly provides that the following items are to be prioritized over any government services contribution (GSC): “required debt service, necessary operations and maintenance expenses, reasonable contribution to a utility plan improvement fund, SLA-related losses, and any other lawful purpose as provided in bond covenants” (see 7.02(6) defining “Flow of Funds). 7.11 provides for the calculation of a maximum cap on GSC and adds “Any funds left over shall be dedicated to additional debt services or utilized as equity and future capital projects.”

“Net revenues” used to calculate the GSC are defined in 7.02 (10) as gross non-fuel revenues. Revenues from the sale of assets would not be included in net revenues. There is simply no provision for a minimum GSC payment to the City at all. Depending on the will of the Authority, there is ample authorization to address the legislatively mandated priorities outlined in 7.02 (6) and give the City no GSC! Moreover, indirect transfers such as overcharging GRU for City support services or burdening GRU with City-imposed social programs are gone. Even the City’s calculation of utility taxes and the mirror image surcharges can be examined and addressed by the new Authority. Clawbacks are possible. 

While the current City Commission will devise a 2023-2024 GRU budget, GRU will be prohibited by statute as of October 1, 2023, from implementing City-imposed programs that violate the Authority’s mandate to not serve “social, political, or ideological interests.” Arbitrary redistribution of wealth and politically motivated subsidies or pet projects cannot be implemented by the new Authority. Rate structures based on usage are expressly allowed subject to PSC oversight. The current City Commission should start shoveling out the GRU barn immediately by eliminating or absorbing the programs that will be prohibited. Any legal challenge is doomed to failure. Noncompliance will result in removal from office. 

Jim Konish, Gainesville

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  • Very helpful explanation! Thankful for all those who have played a role in protecting the captive GRU customers from the City Commission. So many of those required to have GRU as their utility provider had no say in the election of the City Commissioners who ran the utility into the ground.

  • So in a nutshell, since some of the responsibilities of the current GRU manager will be lessened/passed on to the Authority, there’s no reason for the City to keep paying the ludicrous salary to the current manager. Nice to have an actual check and balance to the Clown Commission.

    Gotta love it when a representative actually saves money.

  • The Gainesville Democrat Machine brought this upon themselves with their extravagant spending and trying to be the most woke in all the current idiocies the far left is pushing. I hope the new commission can cancel the latest poorly negotiated PPA for solar that Ward and his minions have signed.

  • Jim, I could give a few tips on your fillet technique but given the size of fish a chainsaw might have been a tool of choice.

    “Clawbacks are possible.” I hope this survives senate scrutiny.

    Again, good translation job.

    • Scrutiny? Are you kidding? Have you watched this legislature in action, and specifically on this bill? Pure partisan voting, comments don’t matter – 30 seconds on this one – and your suggestion that the bill would be perfected in committee? Yeah, right. RUBBER STAMPED!

  • Jim, I am not sure you would want to, but you would make an excellent new advisory board member. One thing that needs scrutiny is the overhead of GRU . For the size of the Utility they are very heavy with office personnel. The same goes for the City of Gainesville, so many unnecessary positions .

    • Yeah, he’s perfect. Like Clemons, Perry, and DeSantis he couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Gainesville (and tried). Just what you enemies of Gainesville and Alachua County are looking for.

      • Don’t you have some affordable housing projects to build or just going to keep braying?

      • Jazz I sure hope you live in the city if not since we now have single member districts and Republican will get elected your going to have a melt down

      • Jazz Boy, what could be the reason to try to defend the indefensible? Hinson Rawls secret is out. The Hogs at the Trough Commission took money from GRU to the tune of $68 million dollars from non existing profits . Study up on that and actually watch Thursday meeting . The Bill was questioned by utter fools . What the city has done seems like stealing to me. Accept you and your regimes defeat. When you loose everyone else wins. Time to play taps for Gville on your horn.

  • The sitting commissioners back to the time when Higginbotham was city manager knew all to well what they were doing. Robbing Peter to pay Paul has caused the electric rates to reach new heights.
    Maybe now the voters will open their eyes (ha) and see what they have created by voting blue.

  • Who elected this guy chief apologist for hostile takeovers? Oh, that’s right! No one. He ran and lost.


    • If he’s apologizing for something it’s more than those you keep promoting have done. They’ve never apologized for anything.

      Excuses? That’s another story – they have plenty of those but they’re usually blaming someone else.

      Keep braying!

  • Thank you Jim for your explanation – so important.QUESTION: how can the Authority be a unit of the City of Gainesville yet at the same time be free from the direction and control of the city commission? Thanks for your response

    • Along this same line of questioning:

      When the new authority does something really dumb and loses a lawsuit, who will bear liability… the city or the authority along with its members and ratepayers?

      • The same ones who have always suffered the consequences – the utility users.

        The hope is the new “Authority” will have the interests of the utility users as first priority rather than the city commission having themselves as first priority in times past.

        Before this legislation and push for changing the governance of GRU, when did anyone hear of city leadership cutting back?
        And no, public comment at meetings does not count and neither does defunding the police department.

        • Hope is the righ word as there are absolutely no checks on the board, including having to pay for their mistakes. That will be the citizens of Gainesville who will have no recourse at all. Presently they do as they can vote out commissioners.

          Is that a novel concept for all of you celebrating this? Voting in a democracy?

          • So since you guys haven’t voted the commissioners out, you must like the fact you are getting screwed. Is that right?

            And look at you talking about democracy yet again, just the other day you were squealing about hoping single districts would be nullified, even though it was democratically voted for. Consistency isn’t your thing is it?

          • Someguy, I am neither for or against single member districts, a worthy subject for consideration, but not as a partisan game instituted by the state GOP against a blue county. Most counties in Florida ARE NOT single member districts, and yet somehow – big surprise – blue Alachua County got this amendment placed on the ballot by the GOP legislature and then won in a squeaker after a totally dishonest campaign from that same GOP, targeting black voters by lying about several community leaders’ support, who opposed it.

            If you want to know the facts about that campaign, those leaders did support single member districts for the city because it was likely there would be commissioners elected from predominantly black areas based on demographics and geometry. The same leaders opposed this amendment – though the GOP lied and said they supported it – because it is unlikely that the demographics and geometry of the county will have commissioners voted out of predominantly black areas.

      • If Gainesville sues they will suffer additional punishment they cant afford.

  • PS Yeah Jim, how exquisite that “The Authority shall operate as a unit of city government and, except as otherwise provided in this article, shall be free from direction and control of the Gainesville City Commission.” So in a nutshell, unlike the City Commission which is elected by the people of Gainesville, “The Authority” is not answerable to anyone except the Governor, who hates gainesvillee.

    Yeah, that is just great and a good model for say Naples, or The Villages, if a Democrat gets elected governor.

    Supporters of this are sheep driven by primal instincts for revenge, not good governance.

    • OMG, Jazzy. Get Real. No other Utility in the State has withdrawn close to $100 Million that was not there as profits for them to take. The more that comes out the more this smells like stealing. Doing the right thing is not revenge. You need to do a little unbiased research . The suck it up Buttercup. All the legitimate Utilities are not happy with your Comrades.

      • Then the answer is to let the voters decide and bear the brunt, not for a possession of the city be taken over by a board unaccountable to anyone but the same governor who couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Gainesville. There is no reason to believe the board will “do the right thing” and every reason to think it will practice the usual partisan BS games that Clemons, Perry, and the Governor prefer. By the way, GRU’s credit rating is better than JEA or FPL, so the described horror is not obvious.

    • They are appointed by the Governor they have to live within the GRU service area one has to be outside of the city one inside 3 have to understand how a business works along with some knowledge of how a power company works these appointments are without pay they are a 4 year term
      You have to ignore jazz he is upset that the city is having to cut a lot it it’s woke ideology

  • Some of the main problems with GRU began in the late 2000’s with their solar FIT program, where they agreed to pay 34cents/Kwh for solar energy. Ok, solar was EXPENSIVE at the time. However, they did not reserve any of that allocation for current GRU customers, but allowed it to go to overseas, and out of state investors looking to turn a buck.

    The initial biomass plant proposal was supposed to be much smaller than what was finally agreed to. Who gave permission for that contract to be signed?

    Right up there with the school board paying over 3 million for a property that was purchased for comparative pennies a few months earlier. Where was the diligence in reviewing the sales history of the property?

    Call out those at fault!

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