Former Privateer claims ownership of Santa’s sleigh

It seems ownership of Santa’s sleigh, the one used by the Anna Maria Island Privateers in the Christmas parade and other holiday events, is in dispute.

Rumors that circulated among Privateer members for some time suggested former Privateer Rick Maddox, a longtime resident of Cortez and former Holmes Beach chief of police, was seeking possession of the trailer.

Maddox filed suit July 11, claiming he purchased a boat trailer that was modified for use as a “float or ride at parades, festivals and community functions.” He claims he performed the modifications.

The complaint says Maddox lent the trailer to events, individuals and organizations on a temporary basis.

He further claims he lent the trailer to the Privateers for “use at a particular function or event,” and allowed the group to store the trailer “for a short time,” but the group failed to return his property.

Privateers president Dennis Poteet told The Islander he had no comment on the lawsuit due to the pending litigation.

Maddox was a longtime member of the Privateers, but has not been part of the crew for about six years. And while wife Annette Maddox is a member, she is allegedly under suspension while the litigation is pending, according to a crew member.

The Privateers made renovations to the sleigh before Christmas last year, improving and updating the holiday decorations and lighting.

The matter — and the necessity to hire an attorney — come at a time when the nonprofit is fundraising to perform needed mechanical repairs and renovations to its boat/float, and a short time after announcing the July 4 scholarship awards to area youths amounting to $20,000.

The membership is scheduled to meet July 18 to elect its new slate of officers for the 2012-13 year and, apparently, to discuss what action it may take to defend the lawsuit.

The suit alleges the trailer — Santa’s sleigh — is valued at $4,500, and the Privateers either failed or refused to return it.

Maddox is seeking the return of the trailer and its title, as well as damages, fees, costs and “equitable relief.” The complaint asks for three times the value of the trailer, the cost of the action, attorneys fees and whatever other relief “to which the court deems he is entitled.”

The civil matter was assigned to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Marc Singer.

Rick Maddox was the subject of controversy when he was dismissed in 1993 from his job as chief of police by then Mayor Pat Geyer.

He was a Privateer member at the time, and Geyer was an honorary member.

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