Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 3:27 p.m.
A two-week-long, multi-million-dollar courtroom battle ended last Thursday with closing arguments by lawyers for the Boston-based, internationally owned entity known as Gainesville Renewable Energy Center and lawyers for a more-than-three-decades-old, family-owned Gainesville biomass recycling business, Wood Resource Recovery.
While the two sides await a judgment by the court, not expected until June, GREC is proceeding apace with new and separate litigation with a different opponent and different warriors. That second legal battle, initiated by GREC in March against the city of Gainesville and Gainesville Regional Utilities, is being fought by a different group of GREC lawyers. This new legal team, based in Boston, wants to force GRU to make millions of dollars in payments above and beyond the $60 million to $70 million annually GRU is already paying GREC — paying not for electricity, but for the right to purchase GREC electricity in the event GREC ever sells its electricity at a price equal to or less than the market rate.
But that’s another story for another time.
As to the trial that concluded last Thursday, as five dark-suited, GREC-paid lawyers filed out of a Gainesville courtroom, heading back to offices in cities to the north, south and west, Levin Gaston, a member of the Gainesville family that founded Wood Resource Recovery, shuffled into a courthouse elevator returning to his Gainesville home and bemoaning the day he first crossed path with representatives of the entity known as GREC.
“It’s bad enough to have your business destroyed,” said Gaston, whose company has laid off most of its 100-plus employees and filed for bankruptcy. “It’s even worse to have people that broke their contract with you and that you tried to work with to use that against you in court.”
There are at least two sides to every story, of course, and in the case of the entity known as GREC, many versions of the same story.
While one team of GREC lawyers wraps up litigation with the bankrupt Gainesville business Wood Resource Recovery, and another team of GREC lawyers ramp up their litigation with a financially hobbled GRU, expect the GREC public relations machine and its handmaidens to begin another cycle in the seven years of spin.
GREC’s one-two punch of spin and litigation is routed in the irregularly negotiated GRU-GREC contract, approved in May 2009 by a former Gainesville City Commission. Those commissioners insisted for years that the financial terms of that contract were astoundingly good for GRU and the community, and who allied themselves with a team of GREC lawyers to try to keep those terms hidden from the public until at least 2046.
— Ray Washington is a Gainesville attorney.