Ray Washington: Private meetings inconsistent with public interest
Published: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 9:22 p.m.
The progress of the legal dispute between the city of Gainesville and thousands of out-of-state and overseas investors operating under the rubric of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center is becoming curiouser and curiouser.
The Gainesville Sun, reporting in the public interest, has confirmed — presumably based on statements from the mayor or city commissioners — that on Tuesday, GREC investor representatives came to Gainesville “to have individual meetings with city commissioners to give an update on the plant's construction.”
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that city commissioners who for years have met privately with their self-described private biomass deal investor “partners” would attempt to characterize their out-of-the-sunshine meetings with GREC investor representatives as merely construction updates.
But if these private meetings between GREC's investor representatives and the mayor and city commissioners involved no more than updates on plant construction, it is difficult to imagine why commissioners would not want these updates to take place in a public meeting. Any discussion about the progress of construction of a plant that ultimately will require GRU ratepayers to shell out more than $3 billion as a result of the most costly contract ever approved by the city commission should have taken place in a public meeting.
The Sun suggests that there was another purpose for Tuesday's out-of-the-sunshine meetings. The Sun reported that GREC's chief financial officer, Albert Morales, described the purpose of the meetings as being “to keep the lines of communication open” while city attorneys and contracted counsel proceed with a legal dispute related to GREC's alleged contract violation.
The public, of course, has no way of knowing the actual purpose of the private meetings, or what was discussed.
But private meetings and communications between elected city officials and representatives of investors involved in litigation against the city is inconsistent with the public interest.
Ray Washington lives in Gainesville.