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Gainesville residents criticize GRU Authority Board

Members of the GRU authority board listen as Gainesville residents voice their concerns about the board’s decisions.
(Sloane Suiters/WUFT News)
Members of the GRU authority board listen as Gainesville residents voice their concerns about the board’s decisions.

Members of the public attending the Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) Authority Board meeting Wednesday expressed their frustration and concerns over transparency, confusion surrounding financial decisions, and the perceived lack of control by the board.

The board, which was appointed in October by Gov. Ron DeSantis to oversee GRU, the public provider of electricity to Gainesville, also received an update on the status of unused power district properties.

Kinnzon Hutchinson, GRU’s chief customer officer, delivered a presentation updating the latest developments in the power district.

While Hutchinson shared the current status of unused power district properties for potential liquidation, he made it clear that he was not seeking any recommendations.

At least half of the meeting, however, was taken up by resident comments — which were overwhelmingly critical of the Authority Board.

“I have no idea what you did at the last meeting. I hope you do, but I don’t,” said Jim Konish, a self-employed Gainesville resident.

“[The last meeting] was very convoluted as to exactly which things were going to be reduced, when. And we’re talking about millions of dollars,” Konish said.

Konish urged the board to be transparent regarding budget cuts made in the previous meeting and questioned whether the decisions had been made with a complete understanding of the potential financial consequences.

The meeting highlighted a growing divide between the board and members of the public, with tensions rising over financial decisions, lack of transparency, and confusion surrounding the joint meeting with the city commission.

Jo Beaty, another Gainesville resident who spoke at the meeting, also questioned the GRU Authority Board’s order of business, insisting that the agenda should be adopted before any comments or discussions occur.

“I don’t quite understand why the chair’s comments are not part of just general member comments,” Beaty urged the board. “The agenda should be adopted before you conduct business here.”

“There are many citizens here, I among them, that know a whole lot more about what’s going on,” Beaty said.

A further point of debate emerged over fund transfers and the interpretation of the governing bill.

The board unanimously passed a motion to ask the state attorney general’s opinion on the legality of the transfer of revenues that GRU sends to the City of Gainesville's General Fund every year.

This decision raised concerns about transfer limitations and insufficient details about the size of the indirect transfer to the fund.

Debbie Martinez and Angela Casteel, two Gainesville residents who voiced their opinions during public comment, accused the city commission of spreading misinformation and abusing the fund transfer system.

“This is the kind of discussion we needed to be having from day one,” Martinez said.

They argued that GRU customers should not bear the brunt of what they called the city’s financial mismanagement. They insisted on greater independence for GRU from the city commission.

“What the former and current members of the city commission do not tell you is that no other city in the entire state of Florida has abused the fund-transfer system like Gainesville,” Martinez said. “GRU customers have suffered long enough.”

Beaty expressed disappointment with the board’s perceived lack of control and urged board members to take a more proactive role in setting priorities and direction. She called for a priority-setting session and criticized the board for relying too heavily on presentations from GRU management.

Board members did not respond to the majority of complaints and allegations, allowing the public to state their opinions without debate.

Tony Cunningham, the general manager at GRU, reassured patrons that their concerns were heard and action had been taken.

Craig Carter, board chair of the GRU, emphasized the board’s commitment to transparency and public involvement in the decision-making process.

“No agreement will ever be signed until it is done in public with the board members,” Carter said. “Everything [discussed] will come back to this board.”

Sloane is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing