Konish: Why Craig Carter should immediately resign from the GRU Authority

Letter to the editor

At the June 12 GRU Authority meeting, Carter, despite previously chiding other members for surprise motions that weren’t on the agenda, made a motion to adopt the agenda with “one small modification.” He proceeded to make four motions.

Carter referred to the events of the June 10 meeting as “fun.” There, he said the Governor can “cram” his appointment. He mentioned a private, unnoticed meeting with Ed Bielarski, out of the Sunshine, and claimed it only pertained to the gentlemen’s respective “personal feelings” for each other. Carter then claimed that was something “which we are allowed to do,” yet he had previously claimed that Bielarski’s election as Chair was “orchestrated.” Anyone can go back and look at the faces of Carter and Lawson when Bielarski became Chair of the Authority. Having lost control of the Authority, Carter melted down.

Carter claimed the “attorney” confirmed the impropriety of Bielarksi’s election as chair. The attorney in question was Gainesville City Attorney Daniel Nee, not Authority consultant Scott Walker (I asked). Carter appears to believe Nee still has a role – which he does not. Carter stated, “I did call the governor’s office and apologize.” I believe that Mr. Carter has been orchestrated by the political bosses on NW 8th Ave for ten years. His “Team Carter” realtor sign graced the DEC headquarters on NW.8th Avenue for months.

After Carter said he had been warned by the increasingly competent Clerk that “it may not be prudent to state it in the form of making a motion,” Carter previewed his three motions. He seemed to be under extreme duress. At the June 10 meeting, he had his hands all over Bielarski in a display unlike I have ever seen.

Carter’s first motion on June 12 was to terminate Cunningham. It passed 4-1, with Eric Lawson dissenting. Carter stated: “The reason for this motion is so the utility could move forward. I’ve talked to headhunters. They said we’re not going to get anybody until we are stable – bring in an interim, bring in a change manager…”. 

Carter stated, “My next motion would be following this meeting tonight, Mr. Ed Bielarski resigns from this board and takes the position as interim General Manager/CEO of this utility, which is legal, as long as you’re not on the board.” This second motion passed 5-0. I believe that nothing about this was legal.

Carter continued, “I would also want that Eric Lawson becomes Chair of this board , and David [Haslam], you stay vice chair”.

Carter gushed, “I wanted to turn the ship very slowly. That’s been my preference. I’m feeling the sense that the ship needs to be turned faster for a lot of reasons… and quite frankly, as I helped jerk the wheel a little bit tighter, I felt relief…”. There is nothing in HB 1645 about slow-jamming its implementation or doing only what feels good to one member at a point in time.  

Carter made a third motion to name Lawson as Chair and then clarified that he wanted to have Bielarski resign after the meeting “effective immediately.” Carter then stated, “This board expects Chair Bielarski to be General Manager/CEO interim.” As he has consistently done, Carter seems unaware that the Authority is a collegial body not beholden to what makes Carter feel great. 

Bielarski then stated, “No, I certainly would resign to take the position”. Bielarski then jumped from an unpaid Authority member to a six-figure-plus salary. 

Carter then stated, “Mr. Bielarski and I never talked about this before, he’s probably more blown away by this than anybody on this board, so… I’m an ethics freak up here”. 

This third motion passed 5-0. Before the vote, Carter revealed more: 

“If you don’t mind, Mr. Chair, I do have some comments. Someone said I’m trying to help the City. I’m not trying to help the City. You know, my comments before about the transfer were to try to protect the ratepayers that live in the city. Just to be clear with that, we do need to move forward. And it’s clear and obvious that every meeting, something’s going to come up about trying to get rid of Mr. Cunningham. I called him. I talked to him about it. I sought counsel on this… I talked to pastors. I am doing this for Tony. I talked to him 30 minutes before this meeting. I cried on the phone. He’s become my friend. He’s become my brother in Christ. I don’t want to thank you for this; this is one of the most shameful nights of my life. But it needs to happen because he needs to be able to go home and put his head down and be done with this and go on and get another job. This board needs to go forward, just like with the City and the transfer, we need to go forward. If we’re bickering back and forth for the next five years, we’re never going to help this utility, and we were charged with that job. So, this is no slight on Mr. Cunningham. I’ve already asked for forgiveness, and it’s not a joy tonight at all, and I love you, man, I really do.”

Since the very first meeting, Carter abused his position as Authority Chair. The Chair sets the agenda and runs the meeting – and that is all, just like our “weak mayor.” Carter disenfranchised and attacked James Coats openly and behind the scenes. Carter was a bully and untethered to the Charter he swore to uphold. 

There is no provision in HB1645 to allow a delay in implementing the required changes on the basis of fear over what the City Commission might do. Lawson had suggested it was “too expensive” to look for a new, permanent GRU CEO/GM. He felt Cunningham might “be our guy.” Cunningham was grandfathered only – never appointed to interim or permanent GRU CEO/GM. 

The notion that these events were not formulated out of the Sunshine strains one’s imagination.

Ironically, when Coats put Cunningham “on trial” over falsified cost allocation reports regarding GRU IT services furnished to the City, he, like Carter, made a motion to terminate Cunningham last fall. There was no second. 

Carter’s appointment to finish Robert Karow’s term says a lot. That is the shortest term, expiring October 1, 2024. If Carter resigns, we can avoid the 2-2 split that stymied the initially-appointed Authority, and this hopefully would facilitate the quick executive appointment of two replacement members.

The Governor is like a manager in a baseball dugout subbing people in. When each initial term is complete (regardless of how many people are appointed before the term is complete), the next round of appointments will be for four years each.

Jim Konish, Gainesville

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com. Assertions of facts in letters are similarly the responsibility of the author. Letters may be submitted to info@alachuachronicle.com and are published at the discretion of the editor.

  • Benedict Carter is a RINO and an absolute embarrassment. He should resign and change parties. Total shill for the City Commission.

    • Embarrassing but true that being a “RINO” is important to an “Authority” now ruling an entity belonging to the City of Gainesville. That’s the place where Republicans of any kind cannot win an election and rule things the way people in a democracy are supposed to.

      • It would be easier to just train a parrot to repeat the same flimsy finger-pointing excuses over and over and go fishing or something.

  • Having Carter on the Board is as good as having Harvey “Two-face” on the Board. Neither is beneficial to the utility and neither care about the community. That’s about all the reason you need.

  • Mr. Bielarski, fire craig carter, he is a PROGRESSIVE SOCIALIST, Gru will never be right until you get rid of him. Mr. Bielarshi, I do not know your Politics, but, I write the Governor all the time about the dumb, stupid, crap that goes on in this COUNTY. fire carter.

    • He can’t do that. As he worked at the pleasure of the city commission; he now works at the pleasure of the Authority.

  • Mr. Konish has made several misleading assertions and factual errors. Just for starters, Mr. B recused himself from voting on the various motions so they were 4-0 and 3-1, not 5-0. I also think Mr. B recused himself from the firing vote. Mr. Carter clearly explained that his conversation with Mr. B was in the fall before Mr. B was appointed to the Board. Mr. Konish has also tried to paint Mr. Carter’s statements and positions in a negative light. I believe that Mr. Carter’s actions have always been designed to be in the best interest of the rate payers. He realizes that many rate payers are also city taxpayers. Mr. Konish seems to want to punish the City as his top priority. Mr. Konish seems to think he knows more than everyone else and bores us with his 3 minute repetitive comments and every opportunity. I love how he always sits in camera view to fill his ego. Keep up the good work, Mr. Carter.

    • Carter swore an oath to uphold HB 1645. There is no authority to arbitrarily delay implementation. Carter is not supposed to be at the wheel of the ship that is listing badly. Carter himself opined that they need to right the ship. The delay will require even more drastic measurers as the financial realities of 24 years of gross mismanagement of GRU come to light very soon. The wisdom of HB 1645 is no longer at issue.

      • Expecting the City to live within its means and cutting off excessive withdrawals of GRU ratepayer money may actually save the City from dissolution.

      • Do you wear your Napoleon hat when you type this BS? You have no authority on this issue and no ones cares what you think.

        • I care what he thinks. He seems more informed on these issue than most. You may disagree with his positions, but to date you haven’t refuted or rebutted them. If you do have another fact-based perspective, I’d honestly be delighted to hear it.

  • Why The Alachua Chronicle should stop publishing “letters” from Jim Konish:

    He’s a self appointed expert who failed in an election attempt to be on the City Commission – it wasn’t close – but acts as if he won. Who cares what he thinks except for maybe proud family members noting that his spelling is correct and grammar not bad.

    Yeah, I know, who cares what I think or what anyone else writing in the comments think and I doubt very many do. Let him add his precious – to him I suppose – thoughts on this same board where they belong.

    • Please explain how the fact that he wasn’t elected by the political bloc controlling recent city commission elections has any relevance to the validity of Mr. Konish’s points.

      • He wasn’t elected by the voters of Gainesville. That means he was specifically and personally rejected as one of their leaders, yet he acts as if he’s an important player in this current misrule by the state GOP.

  • I don’t think we have given Carter or the board enough time, yet.

    As someone who has known Mr. Carter for years, I can say that he is a good guy who wants to do what’s right. If he thought he was compromised, I think he would quit on his own volition.

    Regardless of what he personally believes, he prefers a measured approach to politics. He probably wants to achieve the goals of the board with as little collateral damage as possible. So far, that seems to be what is happening, and fairly fast.

    The board looks to me like they are moving in the right direction and Carter has modified his position to respond more quickly. There may be additional friction between these differing styles, but everyone seems to be on the same page regarding the basics of managing the utility and reducing its costs.

    I did not sense that Carter, nor anyone else on the board had suddenly become a shill for the City. Quite the opposite, actually. The result, so far, is that the board is working pretty well for us GRU customers and it has only been in place for a very short time. I am pleased with their progress, so far.

    These people are still learning how to work together. Let’s give these folks a chance to finish setting a new course before we start tossing people off the board.

    • While Craig may not be a shill for the city commission he did express concerns about big reductions in the GFT because, his words, he was afraid they would have to raise taxes. That is not his concern. His concern is GRU….raising taxes or cutting or whatever the city wishes to do is the CITY’S problem and responsibility.

      • That’s true. GRU has been terribly mismanaged and then used as a major funding source for the city, all at the rate payers’ expense. It’s unbelievably stupid. It’s not fair to the GTU customers that live outside of Gainesville and it’s dubious for those inside the city.

        Gainesville needs to tighten it’s belt and stop wasting everyone’s money on garbage social engineering projects. There should be no qualms about cutting off the cash from GRU to the city.

        However, with regard to Carter, actions speak louder than words. His words reveal some inner conflict, but his work so far on the board has been good. Just because he expressed his thoughts honestly shouldn’t disqualify him from the job as long as his actions are consistent with doing the best for us. So far, I am not worried.

    • You can’t be “measured” with Communists who are trying to change our way of life.

      This is the big leagues… time to make big decisions to save this town.

  • “Carter gushed, ‘I wanted to turn the ship very slowly. ‘”

    When the ship needs turned, there may be time to do it slowly.

    When it needs the holes patched and the bilge pumped, you need to hustle.

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