What’s all the Fuss About Vero Beach, FL Utilities Commission Chairwoman’s E-Mails?

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Vero Beach Utilities Commission Chairwoman Laura Moss

A LOCAL ONLINE NEWS MAGAZINE HAS ESSENTIALLY ATTACKED VERO BEACH UTILITIES COMMISSION CHAIRWOMAN LAURA MOSS FOR AN EMAIL SHE SENT TO THE FLORIDA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION THAT “IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY MAY BE A VIOLATION OF HER OFFICE, FOR SHE IS WORKING AGAINST THE CITY SHE CLAIMS TO SERVE.”

Further, “given that Moss and Auwaerter (Robert Auwaerter, Vice Chairman and Indian River Shores representative) have been willing to communicate via email, one has to wonder what telephone conversations have taken place.”

“Has Moss overstepped her bounds?”

Here is the email, in question, that Mrs. Moss sent to Commissioner Brown of the Florida Public Services Commission.

———- Original Message ———-
From: Laura Moss <laura@mosslm.com>
To: Commissioner.Brown@psc.state.fl.us
Date: August 11, 2016 at 1:58 PM
Subject: Vero Beach Utilities Commission Recommendation 08/09/2016

Dear Commissioner Brown,

For your information, attached please find:

1) Recommendation of the Vero Beach Utilities Commission regarding FPL’s offer as stated in their letter of 08/09/2016,

2) FPL’s letter of 08/09/2016.

Should you wish to review the Utilities Commission’s discussion of this matter, the videotape is available on covb.org (click upper left-hand tab for “COVB Television”; then “Boards and Commissions”). The discussion took place at the Utilities Commission meeting of 08/09/2016 commencing at 09:38 AM and continuing through 11:06 AM.

Sincerely,

Laura Moss, Chairwoman, Utilities Commission, City of Vero Beach”

Very matter of fact, informative, with no opinion.

Since Deputy City Clerk Sherri Philo told Mrs. Moss she only sends the Vero Beach City Counselors the minutes of the Utility Commission meetings, which for their August 9, 2016 meeting consisted of 13 pages, the next day Mrs. Moss sent this email to the Vero Beach City Council members.  The reason for this email was to highlight the Commission’s vote which was buried in the minutes.

——— Original Message ———-

From: Laura Moss <laura@mosslm.com>
To: jkramer@covb.org, rold@covb.org, pturner@covb.org, hhowle@covb.org, rwinger@covb.org
Cc: jocconor@covb.org, tvock@covb.org, sphilo@covb.org, bobauw@gmail.com, chuck@onsitemgmt.com, jjorcutt@bellsouth.net, billteston@gmail.com, thalassa1@bellsouth.net, sll13@cornell.edu, kattonkel@comcast.net
Date: August 12, 2016 at 8:41 AM
Subject: Utilities Commission Recommendation of 08/09/2016

To the City Council,

For your consideration at the City Council Meeting of 08/16/2016, attached please find the following:

1) Unanimous recommendation of the Utilities Commission that you approve the FPL offer as stated in its letter of 08/09/2016,

2) The FPL letter of 08/09/2016,

3) Documents containing Vice-Chairman Auwaerter’s analysis related to same.

The Utilities Commission discussed this matter at the meeting of 08/09/2016 commencing at 09:38 AM and continuing until 11:06 AM. A video of the meeting is available on covb.org.

Sincerely,

Laura Moss, Chairwoman, Utilities Commission, City of Vero Beach

– ATTACHED UNANIMOUS RECOMMENDATION –

Vero Beach Utilities Commission Meeting 08/09/2016 Excerpts from Minutes:

Mr. Mechling amended his motion to approve the FPL offer.

The motion is that the Vero Beach Utilities Commission recommends to the City Council that they approve the offer that FPL made for the assets that support customers in Indian River Shores as described in their letter dated August 9, 2016.

Mr. Auwaerter seconded the motion and it passed 5-0 with Mr. Lapointe voting yes, Mr. Mechling yes, Mr. Tonkel yes, Mr. Auwaerter yes, and Mrs. Moss yes.

Once again, very matter of fact, informative, with no opinion.

Reached for comment, Mrs. Moss said she has never spoken with Mr. Auwaerter outside of Commission meetings (via telephone) and they have never communicated privately through email.

She said she has not been contacted by the City Attorney that she did anything wrong.

“Every thing I emailed was a public record. I just wanted to do my duty to make sure all interested parties were kept informed; especially the City Council for their meeting the following week.”

John E. Church, who we have thus far been unable to validate is a real person, posted the following comment on the Online New Magazine on September 1, 2016: “What she drones at City Council meetings is incomprehensible, pure and simple.”

Mrs. Moss said: “If these few people posting comments on this online website think I am blissfully ignorant, why do they care about me, anyway?”

 

One thought on “What’s all the Fuss About Vero Beach, FL Utilities Commission Chairwoman’s E-Mails?

  1. Moss wrote, not the “FL Electric Commission” chairwoman, but the chair of the Florida Public Service Commission.

    While Moss’ communication with the PSC may not have been illegal, given her position on a City commission, it was not wise. I wrote, “Without question, the Shores’ petition to the PSC sets up an adversarial proceeding. It is as if Moss is communicating directly with a judge on behalf of a plaintiff in a case in which the City is the defendant. At the very least, Moss’ communication with the PSC is inappropriate and an example of poor judgment.”

    Further, Moss is making too much of the Utility Commission’s “unanimous” decision. A number of members of the commission were not present for the meeting. More importantly, the Commission is not charged with and does not have the expertise to assess the larger impact of the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s Shores customer base – for $1 dollar, for $30 million dollars, or for $47 million dollars. If the Finance Commission had recommended the City Council accept Florida Power & Light’s $30 million, that would be a different matter. Unfortunately, FPL made so many proposals, and set such a short deadline, that proper and full analysis by the FC was simply not possible.

    The PSC is to rule on the Shores’ petition this week. If a majority of the commissioners follow the PSC staff report, Vero Electric will continue to have the right and responsibility to serve its Shores customers. One of the points made in the PSC staff report is that any change in service territory assignments must benefit ALL customers. At least based on the advice of five utility experts hired by the City, if the City Council has followed Moss’ recommendation, and that of her fellow utility commissioners, they would have agreed to a deal sure benefit Shores residents, while disadvantaging Vero Beach’s taxpayers and the remaining customers of Vero Electric. Moss is proposing to dismiss the recommendation of five utility experts in preference for numbers cooked up by the Shores’ representative on the Utilities Commission. Just because Mr. Auwaerter is exceedingly sure of himself does not make him right.

    Finally, Tom, regarding Moss’ assurances she has not communicated directly with Mr. Auwaerter, you might do well do retain a measure of skepticism. You can serve as a scribe for Moss, or you can be a journalist, but you can’t be both.

    Like

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