The city of Bradenton Beach has joined forces with a Sarasota legal team representing a former Bradenton Beach official who is alleging Sunshine Law violations by some members of the city’s planning and zoning board and Scenic Waves Partnership Committee.
Jack Clarke, former mayor and commissioner, filed suit Aug. 11 in the 12th District Circuit Court against planning and zoning board member John Metz and then-P&Z members Reed Mapes, Patty Shay and Bill Vincent, along with Scenic Waves chair Tjet Martin and waves member Rose Vincent.
At an Aug. 7 city meeting continued from Aug. 3, commissioners voted 3-1 for Mayor Bill Shearon to execute a contract with Sarasota attorney Bill Watrous for the investigation into the alleged violations. The cost to the city was not to exceed $5,000.
Shearon voted “nay” and Commissioner Marilyn Maro was absent with excuse from that portion of the meeting.
City attorney Ricinda Perry told commissioners Aug. 7 that Clarke is the complainant in the case.
Clarke’s involvement in the case was not announced at the Aug. 3 meeting and vote.
Metz lost a lawsuit to Clarke during a contentious city recall election that saw Clarke take the seat from Shearon in May 2015. Shearon then retook the mayor’s seat in the November 2015 election.
Mapes, Metz, Shay and Vincent were steering committee members of the new grassroots group, Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach. Mapes, Metz and Shay resigned from the CNOBB after the Aug. 3 vote. Vincent is chair and founder of CNOBB.
Perry said according to CNOBB meeting recordings, P&Z members were talking about a parking garage, which is included as a possible project in the updated community redevelopment plan.
However, Martin claims the parking garage discussion was focused on petitioning to eliminate parking garages from the land-development code, not a P&Z related issue.
Perry said land-use issues are prohibited discussion for board members outside of a city meeting.
The suit includes Martin and Rose Vincent for allegedly discussing unresolved matters that are being considered by Scenic Waves.
Perry recommended the city take action to prevent it from being “exposed to litigation.”
Mapes, Shay and Vincent resigned from the P&Z following the Aug. 3 meeting. As of Aug. 11, the P&Z board lacks a quorum. Metz remains on P&Z.
At the Aug. 7 meeting, Shearon said he “could not support the motion,” citing $350-per-hour attorney’s fees.
“I think this has been blown way out of proportion, especially with the associated fees,” Shearon said.
Chappie disagreed with Shearon, saying the problems with the P&Z board extend beyond this incident and need to be corrected.
“There has been a cloud over (P&Z) for the past year and we need to know if there’s been a violation,” Chappie said. “It’s part of our responsibility to the city to get a ruling from the judge.”
The next city commission meeting will be at noon Thursday, Aug. 17, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.