GNV funds another $250K for lawsuit

Gainesville historical marker in front of City Hall
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission voted to continue funding its legal action against the state of Florida with another $250,000 on Thursday. 

The City Commission aims to stop the state’s implementation of House Bill 1645, passed in May, that will place a governor-appointed board to manage Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) in October. Gov. Ron DeSantis approved the bill in June.  

The City Commission approved the use of an initial quarter of a million dollars in June and hired the national law firm Akerman LLP to represent Gainesville. Since then, those funds have been used to file a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, motion for temporary relief and a motion for full and final summary judgment, spending an estimated $300,000 through the end of August. 

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Thursday’s motion brought Gainesville legal funding to half a million dollars and will cover costs through the oral arguments scheduled for this Friday, less than two weeks before the state’s authority board is slated to start. 

City Attorney Daniel Nee said he expects another bill of around $70,000 to $80,000 for September. He added that getting through the end of September has been the goal so far. 

Nee said the state has agreed with Gainesville on the facts of the case, allowing the legal teams to quickly get to the legal arguments without an expensive discovery phase.  

“We will come to you with whatever that judgment is, and then the non-prevailing party will decide if an appeal is necessary or not,” Nee told the commission.  

He added that the non-prevailing party might also wait to see what comes from the next legislative session.  

The City Commission decided to use GRU reserve funds for the initial $250,000, but the commission pulled from the general government fund balance for the second batch.  

Despite tight financials this year, City Manager Cynthia Curry said the 2023 fund balance could cover the cost until the new fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.  

According to Gainesville’s lawsuit, HB 1645 doesn’t and can’t explain how a city department can be taken away from the city government.  

“In other words, the State of Florida has seized a department within a Florida City because the State disagrees with the elected officials and the electorate of that City on how that particular department should be run,” the lawsuit reads.  

Commissioner Casey Willits said the lawsuit touches on large constitutional issues, and Mayor Harvey Ward noted that some of the small issues are just as important. He said the bill leaves the city and GRU, used to working as the same organization, in the dark on how to operate.  

Ward said the transition isn’t clear in the bill and not as simple as lawmakers have framed it.  

Gainesville residents also formed the nonprofit Gainesville Residents United and sued the state of Florida in federal court over the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority. The state has filed a dismissal in that case on procedural grounds. 

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Gainesville Dad

Gainesville Residents United was just a fake astroturf organization, funded by our tax dollars. The support for the removal of the utility GRU from local Gainesville government control is universal, with the exception of the clowns on the city commission.

Mayor Harvey Ward and his predecessors, along with an unbroken chain of negligent and incompetent city commissioners, have unethically and illegally levied backdoor unapproved taxes on Alachua County residents for years.

The way that this was done was to steal all of GRU’s profits and then some in order to fund unpopular / impractical city expenditures, driving GRU into nearly a billion dollars in debt and nearly bankrupting the utility.

The ratepayers, many of which are not even Gainesville residents, are stuck paying the bill in the form of the highest utility rates in the state. Gainesville citizens get a double-whammy, as they pay the exorbitant rates and are further taxed through various hair-brained schemes n order to pay for the city’s gross financial mismanagement. Honestly the State should dissolve the city government entirely and put the area under county management. Failing that, Gainesville should be relegated to its own county and the surrounding areas incorporated into Alachua County.

It is depressing watching this once-great town circling the drain in the inevitable death-spiral that awaits all Democrat-governed cities.

Jeff Gehmann

They want and intent to spend every dime they can get from the GRU piggy bank before the punch bowl is withdrawn. All part of their, “my way or we’ll wreck it” strategy!

The historically white Akerman firm, the lapdog of Florida bankers, surely is laughing all the way to the bank, at the City’s silly attempt to fight off Governor DeSanis’ control of GRU. All Akerman’s horses and all Ackerman’s men couldn’t put Humpty Harvey together again, no matter what they tried. All the non-lawyers and Commissioner Reina Saco, who is a lawyer, don’t seem to know enough about the legal procedure to understand that the Governor will prevail, if not in the circuit court, then in the First District Court of Appeal, and if not there, at the Florida Supreme Court. There is nothing anyone can do to justify GRU/City’s lopsided financial scheme which excludes 40% of GRU customers from participation. The is an administrative machinery in place, presumably starting on Oct. 1. Any reasonably minded jurist would want to see how the oversight system works before taking any action. The legal arguments and questions of constitutionality are nonsense, for anyone who understands anything about governmental structure. Cities unlike the 67 counties exist at the sufferance of the state. The Harvey Wardbangeers have no constitutional right to do anything, especially when Gainesville in particular has messed up its credit rating and obviously lacks control over GRU. The City in 2018 could and did make the argument in that collusive lawsuit that the court should wait for a referendum to give voters a chance to decide. That’s not the case here. Ackerman will have to be saying look your Honors, just ignorance the allegations of incompetence and corruption being made about the City. Trust us. We’re Ackerman. We’re the good guys. This wanna be newspaper should start investigating and stop putting out City press releases as if Gainesville really had some insight on what can be done, to recover from the GRU nightmare which was created when Pegeen Hanrahan decided that she would be the first kid on the black to save the planet with a biomass contract. Stop. Enough. Move on. Stop throwing good money after bad.


The incompetent train wreck of Gainesville government still lives. Fighting to waste taxpayers money every way every day ,

Unfortunately the citizens of Gainesville vote for this clown show.