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  • Writer's pictureTom Reilly

City Commissioners Mismanage GRU Into $1.8B In Debt. Now Suing The State With Tax Dollars.

Gainesville leaders file lawsuit to block new state-appointed GRU board

By Ryan Wyatt Turbeville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - City commissioners have filed a lawsuit to block a new state law that would shift control of Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) from the commission to a state-appointed board.

City officials say they filed the lawsuit in Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee in hopes of blocking HB 1645. The law directs the governor to appoint a five-member board to oversee the utility.

Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons of Newberry sponsored the bill after accusing the city of using the utility as a “piggy bank”. He accuses the city commission of mismanaging GRU causing the utility to have a high debt of $1.8 billion resulting in high rates.

Clemons says the lawsuit will be “Proven frivolous and a waste of money.”

City leaders have called the law a “state takeover”. They claim that appointing the board will cause further debt issues and rob Gainesville residents of a voice in the management of their utility.

In the lawsuit, city attorneys argue the law violates the Florida Constitution and various statutes. They claim the state does not have the authority to take control of individual departments of a city and transfer control to the governor.

The lawsuit takes issue with the transition process calling the law “vague” and “contradictory.” Questions are raised in the suit about how bonds and other financial obligations can be managed under a new board.

A group of residents called “Gainesville Residents United” have also filed a lawsuit. It is filed in federal court and argues the law violates the U.S. Constitution by infringing upon First Amendment rights and failing to adhere to due process.

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