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Glenn Heran: Never intended to volunteer for FMPA

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER, (Week of January 12, 2012)
Photo of Glenn Heran

A great deal of speculation swirled about utility activist Glenn Heran’s decision to decline an appointment to the Florida Municipal Power Agency board, but Heran now says he never wanted to serve on the board in the first place.

When the CPA and city critic stood up to the podium last week and told the Vero Beach City Council that it should appoint someone to the FMPA board to stay informed, represent Vero’s interests and “educate our brothers and sisters” on the FMPA, he says he didn’t intend to volunteer for the job.

Heran had someone else in mind – an engineer with a long history with the city and knowledge of the issues. "Craig Fletcher should take it, he should serve on the FMPA board,” he said shortly after his remarks during the public comment period.

Heran left City Hall that morning and only found out a few hours later that he’d been nominated for the job by Councilwoman Tracy Carroll and voted into the post by Carroll, Mayor Pilar Turner and Vice Mayor Craig Fletcher.

“Unbelievable,” was Heran’s initial response.

Heran would have served with more than two dozen staunch supporters of municipal-owned power systems.  Vero has not exercised its right to one of the 30 board seats since Electric Utility Director R.B. Sloan left in late 2009. Most of the other board members are either utility directors or city managers.

That board will consider and decide, to some extent, how tough the power cooperative should make it for the City of Vero Beach to extricate itself from its membership in FMPA.

As an equity member, Vero owns a piece of the FMPA’s share in power-generating facilities – namely the Orlando Utility Commission’s Stanton 1 and 2 coal plants and Florida Power and Light’s St. Lucie nuclear plant.

Each month, Vero buys relatively cheap power through this agreement. In exchange for that, Vero is tied to the FMPA through the decommissioning of the plants, a term which could be another 50 or 60 years from now.

The FMPA board meets monthly in Orlando and, combined with recent posts Heran has taken on as president of the Taxpayers Association of Indian River County and an economic development subcommittee of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, plus his family and business responsibilities, it seemed like a big responsibility to load onto his plate.

After Heran received numerous congratulatory calls urging him to take his message directly to the group that some see as the enemy of – or at least as a major stumbling block – to a sale to FPL, he said he would give it a shot.

“I thought about it, and when you think about knowledge of the contracts and the financial aspects of Vero’s relationship with FMPA, we don’t have that many people who are knowledgeable enough to do this and I guess I’m possibly the best person,” Heran said. “I’m maybe the best person to not only know what the FMPA would be talking about, but also to advocate for the city’s position.”

Heran spoke to city officials about what he would have to do to get started on the FMPA and City Attorney Wayne Coment told him he would be required to file a financial disclosure form with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The form, required of people in certain public positions such as the FMPA board, includes a detailed listing of all business interests and values and debt on all real estate. The form goes far beyond the disclosure required from candidates for Vero Beach City Council fill out listing their sources of income, occupation and business affiliations.

“It’s a very involved form,” Heran said, noting it would require him to list the value and mortgage on every property and businesses his family owns.

Many have wondered, since he seems to have so much time on his hands to be involved in utility issues, what Heran actually does for a living.

Heran’s family owns and manages numerous rental properties in the Vero Beach area. 

According to Florida corporate records, the Herans’ investments are held in seven different corporations and Heran manages those companies and their finances. His brother, Dean, also manages the family businesses. The information required by the form would have disclosed the financial position of not only Heran and his wife Jeannie, but also of his parents, brother and sister.

Since he never sought the appointment on the board and since it would have stretched both his schedule and his comfort zone of expertise, Heran, after talking with family, decided it wasn’t worth it to disclose details of his family’s finances for a board seat he didn’t even want.

“I’m just not going to expose my whole family for something like this,” Heran said.

In a letter to the city council, Heran suggested that Mayor Turner take the seat on the FMPA board.

Heran said he spoke to Fletcher and that Fletcher did not seem willing to take on the challenge.

During last week’s meeting Fletcher emphasized how Vero’s member on the FMPA would, at best, be put in an uncomfortable position and, at worst, be subjected to an openly hostile atmosphere.

“It is vital that someone fill the seat so that the council can have eyes and ears in these FMPA meetings.  It should also be someone who understands that we must divest ourselves of municipal electric utilities,” Heran said. “It should also be someone who can bridge the division, on this issue, within the council.”

Former Vero Mayor Warren Winchester, prior to hearing that Heran declined the seat, said he would prefer the city send City Manager Jim O’Connor to sit with his peers on the board.

Winchester said he was skeptical Heran could be effective on the FMPA board, but even more wary that he would aggravate the situation.

Heran is known to speak plainly and come off as somewhat of a bull in a china shop and that approach, Winchester said, could toss the city a few steps back in its efforts to get out of the FMPA.

“The problem with having Heran trying to deal with City of Vero Beach issues is a possible conflict with the attorneys who are trying to do the same job and hoping he can get an independent voice against an entrenched staff,” Winchester said.

On Friday, FMPA spokesman Mark McCain verified he had been notified Heran would not take Vero's seat on the board. The next meeting of the FMPA board is scheduled for 9 am Jan. 19 in Orlando. The meeting is open to the public and minutes are taken.  It is unclear whether Vero will send a representative to the meeting.