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Heady fails in try to get Winger’s ‘70 questions’ about FPL contract

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER, (Week of March 22, 2012)
Photo of Brian Heady

When Brian Heady was on the Vero Beach City Council, he famously presented top staffers with long lists of questions, so when he heard at a public meeting last month that Councilman Dick Winger asked 70 questions about the draft offer from Florida Power and Light, Heady wanted to see the queries.

What followed was five weeks of correspondence that failed to net a list of the questions.

A Feb. 8 e-mail from Heady to City Clerk Tammy Vock included the request, “Mr. Winger said he has raised 70 concerns with the City Manager about the FPL deal.  Could I get a list of those 70 concerns? “

On March 13, after not getting a response, Heady forwarded the request to Vock, making sure he highlighted his question in red. His e-mail was just after noon, and 44 minutes later, Vock responded, saying, “I spoke to Mr. Winger about this and he said that he did not have anything in writing.  Sorry for the confusion. Tammy.”

A few minutes later, Heady attempted to clarify his request.

“I understand Mr. Winger did not put his questions in writing. He did say he asked the City Manager questions.  My records request is for the City Manager.  What questions does he remember?  Does he have a list?” Heady asked.

Vock forwarded Heady’s request to City Manager Jim O’Connor, who replied, “No he (Winger) did not provide a copy to me.”

Heady sent another e-mail, his tone slightly more agitated. He copied his original request and added: “If there are questions that any City Council member has with regard to this transaction and the Advisory Commission is to do their job, they would need to know the nature of the questions Council has in order to advise on those issues. 

“If the City Manager did not take notes and remembers all of those seventy questions, he has a much better memory than most. If he does not remember the questions then we have a very different problem,” Heady wrote. "I look forward to a meaningful response that gives me some direction to start my research to answer Council questions on the pending sale to FPL.”

The next morning, Heady finally got his answer. Mystery solved – sort of – thanks to an e-mail from O’Connor.

“I did not take notes and do not recall specifically any of the questions. As I recall there were some questions about what the addendums would look like and issues with the $4 million that the City would have to pay if the deal fell through due to actions by the City,” O’Connor wrote.

Winger said he’s not troubled O’Connor didn’t take notes from the conversation or type up a formal list of his questions.

“I was not relying on Jim to forward my questions on, I addressed them directly with Amy Brunjes from FPL myself,” Winger said, “in my office at city hall, FPL, they were there several times and neither one of us took notes.”

The down-side of no record being kept of Winger’s questions is that others might have the same questions and staff time, or attorney time, could be taken up with redundancy because there is nothing to pass along to the council or to the advisory commissions.

“I think there were actually 71, that I got up to 71 questions,” Winger said.

Off the top of his head, Winger recalled more than a dozen of the questions, but he doesn’t have a list. He said if he sat down with the draft agreement he could easily recall the rest – much of his concern centers around the 42 blanks in the document to be determined, the more than one dozen appendices and a few big-ticket items. Those added to the other questions he could remember come up to roughly 70.

“I talked to them about the $15 million guarantee that nothing will go wrong, the only thing the guarantee should cover is if we didn’t tell the truth,” Winger said. He said he’s also troubled by the fact that there is still no price filled in and that the legal entanglements with the Orlando Utilities Commission and the Florida Municipal Power Agency are still in limbo.

Overall, Winger said that, despite so many things being up in the air, he’s still an optimist and still feels he was elected to get the FPL deal done if at all possible. But over the past few weeks, he said the odds have slipped a bit.

“I had said before that I felt the odds of us getting this done were 80-20 and I still think we’ll get it done, but my odds have gone down. I’m now at 70-30,” Winger said.