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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

One lawsuit dismissed in Bradenton Beach

A lawsuit filed by a former city employee against two elected and one appointed official has been dismissed.

Circuit Court Judge Marc Gilner dismissed without prejudice a suit filed by former Code Enforcement Officer Dawn Betts against Vice Mayor Anna O'Brien and City Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips in which Betts claimed she was defamed by them at a city commission meeting.

Also named in the suit was Ken Lohn, chair of the board of adjustment, who was not included in Gilner's decision to dismiss and apparently is still a party in the suit.

David Wilcox, representing Betts, indicated that the dismissal "without prejudice" allows him to refile the suit.

The suit was filed in the wake of a special city commission meeting Feb. 20. Betts had resigned from her position as code enforcement officer and had three working days left before her departure. At the meeting, O'Brien accused Betts and developer David Teitelbaum of "inappropriate behavior in front of citizens, and she has been seen on the porch with Teitelbaum being very intimate and there is an atmosphere of intimacy and she needs to watch what the hell she's doing in public," according to the lawsuit.

Regarding Phillips, Betts' suit stated that "Phillips accused Betts of selectively enforcing the city codes, not doing her job and stated that unless something were done to prevent such, Betts would take improper actions in her official capacity 'on the way out the door.'"

Regarding Lohn, Betts' suit claims "Lohn spoke up from the audience during the meeting and stated that there was 'corruption involved' and that he could 'testify to corruption in the matter under discussion' which were matters exclusively concerning Betts."

Attorney Greg Hootman, who represents Bradenton Beach on behalf of the city's insurer, the Florida League of Cities, said he was hopeful that Gilner's decision would serve as a harbinger for other legal action filed against the city.

Former Building Official Bob Welch also filed a lawsuit against O'Brien, claiming defamation.

And Teitelbaum has filed a suit against O'Brien in which he said she "has committed various and sundry actions which constitute a violation of certain rights of Teitelbaum which are secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

Hootman said that case will be heard in federal court.