GNV nonprofit sues DeSantis over GRU bill 

Gainesville Regional Utilities gate
Courtesy city of Gainesville

A Gainesville nonprofit filed a federal lawsuit on Monday in an effort to block and defeat the bill Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last week that will hand control of Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) to an independent board.  

Gainesville Residents United formed in May to oppose HB 1645. Robert Hutchinson, lead plaintiff and president of the nonprofit, told Mainstreet at the time that the group had raised $60,000 to retain lawyers.  

“If this is the way the state’s going, I’m glad it started here in Gainesville because at least we have the political wherewithal to know what’s happening to us, and we have enough people willing to fight back and be part of the loyal resistance,” Hutchinson said in an interview Monday.  

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The nonprofit’s lawsuit has 12 counts, including alleged free speech violations under the First Amendment, a violation of Florida’s constitution by lacking a referendum and impairing the contract with municipal bondholders.  

Robert Hutchinson
Photo by Suzette Cook Robert Hutchinson

The 90-page complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and the recovery of any damages, mainly attorney fees. The group is also asking for a permanent injunction to prevent the new authority from taking over until a judge rules on the lawsuit.  

Gainesville Residents United filed the suit within the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida, which is located in Gainesville and covers 23 counties. The lawsuit states that the nonprofit has more than 100 supporters.  

Besides Hutchinson, other Gainesville residents have joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs, including local NCAAP President Evelyn Foxx, former Gainesville City Commissioner Susan Bottcher, former Gainesville City Commissioner and Mayor Joe Little, current GRU employee Michael Varvel and former chair of the Utility Advisory Board Wes Wheeler. State Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, D-Gainesville, is listed as the group’s legislative adviser.  

“This is really important,” said Hutchinson, who served for 12 years on the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners. “It’s important existentially for local governments not to have this kind of top-down, takeover of critical functions. I mean, what’s next—the takeover of the public works department of the county by the state?” 

The lawsuit lists DeSantis, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and Secretary of State Cord Byrd as defendants. The city of Gainesville is also involved as a nominal defendant. Hutchinson said Gainesville is included because the new authority is listed as a unit of the city and not available to be sued separately.  

“It’s been quite a scramble, and I’d say that I was enjoying it except I just wish we weren’t having to do it,” Hutchinson said. “It’s a waste of everybody’s time, energy and money.” 

Chuck Clemons
Chuck Clemons

The new Gainesville Regional Utilities authority is scheduled to convene on Oct. 4, with the state taking applications in the meantime. The five authority members, all appointed by DeSantis, will consist of three Gainesville customers with expertise in a relevant field, one Gainesville commercial user and one customer living in unincorporated Alachua County.  

The Gainesville City Commission has also signaled a willingness to take the bill to court and set aside $250,000 to hire an outside legal firm.  

Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, and other supporters say the bill is necessary and point to high rates and GRU’s $1.7 billion in debt as evidence that the City Commission is driving the utility into economic ruin. Clemons has said the new authority eliminates a conflict of interest with city commissioners, who do not represent outlying parts of the county served by GRU.  

However, city commissioners have called GRU’s financial situation stable and say the Legislature has blown its finances out of proportion. The City Commission has also expressed concern that the new authority will entangle internal affairs at the city.  

After DeSantis signed the bill, Mayor Harvey Ward released a statement saying he is now working to find out how the board will operate, the decisions it may make, and actions the commission may take to ensure a dependable transition.  

“I say this not because I believe a governor-appointed GRU Authority is the right move for our utility and our community, but because at this moment that debate is over,” Ward said. “It is my job to make this changeover a smooth one for the people of Gainesville.” 

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Jeff Gehmann

If not for the ignorance and radicalism of the DEC and their inept city commissioners and mayors they supported, there would be no $1.7 billion of debt from squandered on biomass and ideas that did not one bit of good for our community. Ask yourself, what do we have for $1.7b debt, the highest electricity in the state, high property taxes and fire fees? Nothing but misery! And they still want to keep it going!

Robert Hutchinson

Thank you for posting the court filing for all to see. Additional information is available at;


See ya in Court . Might want to bring your checkbook.

Jeff Gehmann

Well, with folks like you, Botcher and Hinson, failure is imminent! You dems like high taxes and fees so you have more money to waste, give to people who won’t work and make a star radical of yourself. I think you’re going to fail this time, we’ve had enough! Maybe Biden and Hunter can use you in China!


Maybe the name of this group should be “Gainesville Former Elected Officials Who Still Think They Own GRU United”?

John Thomas

“ I mean, what’s next—the takeover of the public works department of the county by the state?” ……man I hope! Maybe we can get a road or sidewalk fixed without having to risk our life dodging potholes. Maybe folks wouldn’t have to move from constant flooding due to new apartment complexes if the “public works” department actually did something.


Abolish city govt. replace it ,


For all of you to think you represent Gainesville Citizens, Gainesville GRU Customers and all other GRU Customers. Your sadly mistaken; because whether you have GRU or not and you live in the City of Gainesville it affect you!. 100 people versus over 170,000 people; is hardly represents the people! This is the same group of people who are behind and support vacating people from, City Hall. These group people only believe in the Democratic way and not the overall American way. GREED, CONTROL, AND POWER HUNGERY! If you really were concerned for the people you would make sure GRU paid back their customers. GRU has over charged customers into hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I, myself has never been paid back my security deposit or for overcharging me for electric I did not use; over a 22 year period. They should pay me interest. TONY CUNNINGHAM thanks my husband; for not bring it up in a City Commission meeting. Since Tony Cunningham has not reach out to me; as he said he would. I am telling you if you have a meter that is flipped back and forth from 888888 to number. It’s not working! They can state whatever they want for your usage. I reported this months ago. They’ve told me that it is normal. That not true my grandfather was an electrician and he worked for a city. They want to keep you broke! Less money you have, the less ability you have to fight against them.
Note: they vacated Donald Shepherd from City Hall just before he was to join the International Finance board. Which would only bring money into The City of Gainesville. More money the less taxes you pay. That would only benefit the people. You should be stand up against these people on this lawsuit; this is much more than just GRU.
This should show you; they don’t follow the laws or constitution unless it is to their benefit!
BTW The State has the power to dissolve this city and there is no recourse!
Now these people have showed their faces; you now know who is up against you!

Lex Libertatis

Maybe we should look into the concept of “odious debt”. I seem to recall that an escape clause was removed from the original biomass plant contract, but the signatories didn’t catch it.

Lex Libertatis

Odious debt is a term used to describe a type of debt that is incurred by a government or other public entity for purposes that do not benefit the people of that country, but rather benefit a small group of individuals within that government or are imposed upon the people against their will. The idea behind odious debt is that it is morally unjust for a government’s citizens to be held responsible for debts that were incurred without their consent and for purposes that did not benefit them. Odious debt is considered to include debts that were incurred by a government through fraud, corruption, or coercion, or for purposes that were clearly contrary to the interests of the citizens.


That defines the Biomass Eight, The Democrat Regime that use to be in charge and sensor public comment ,and the individuals filing suit perfectly. In a kind way.


Gainesville has the most incompetent government in the state. The radical mobs has ruined the cotyy