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Date of Issue: June 23, 2010

Stoltzfus wants city to pay legal fee

Anna Maria Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus is asking the city to pay $7,500 for legal expenses he incurred in defending a complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics filed by Holmes Beach businessman John Cagnina.

The FCE denied the complaint on the grounds that it did not have jurisdiction in the matter and that Cagnina had “other avenues” to seek relief.

Attorney Richard Harrison, representing Stoltzfus, wrote city attorney Jim Dye on June 13 that if the city pays $7,500, Stoltzfus won’t seek restitution from Cagnina and won’t bill the city more money in connection with the ethics complaint. He gave the city until June 25 to make a decision, and 30 days after that to pay the bill in full.

Dye has said previously that the city is not liable for all of Stoltzfus’ legal fees, if any.

He responded to Harrison that he needed a complete accounting of the Stoltzfus fees and would then study the issue and advise the city.

Harrison said Stoltzfus’ legal expenses to date in the ethics complaint were “approximately $7,500.”

The Florida statute on award of attorney’s fees in an ethics complaint states that the issue is between the complainant, Cagnina, and the respondent, Stoltzfus.

The statute says the complainant could be “liable for costs plus reasonable attorney’s fees,” but there is a formal process if the ethics commission finds the award of attorney’s fees is merited.

The city was not involved in filing the ethics complaint.

Mayor Fran Barford said she would forward Harrison’s request for payment to Commission Chair John Quam for inclusion on the commission’s June 24 meeting agenda.