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Date of Issue: April 26, 2007

Anna Maria commissioners' private spat now public

An apparent rift between Anna Maria City Commissioners Duke Miller and Jo Ann Mattick will have to be aired in public, said city attorney Jim Dye.

The dispute has apparently been simmering since the November city elections, when the two engaged in some verbal sparring over a number of issues, particularly parking. Although the two "kissed and made up" election night, issues between the two seemed to take a turn for the worse April 16 when Miller e-mailed Mattick expressing his concern over two "situations regarding things you have said or are saying about me."

The first issue, said Miller in his e-mail, "involves a false statement you made in your last campaign mailer" regarding the city's parking ordinance when, alleged Miller, Mattick claimed that "I had essentially rigged the ordinance so as to exclude my street 'forever' from alternate side-of-the-street parking."

According to Miller, he's concerned because the issue "continues to come up on occasion, as recently as about a month ago," when an Anna Maria citizen told him that "according to Commissioner Mattick, you rigged the parking ordinance for your street."

Miller said that after consultations with his attorney, he had the right to file an official complaint under Florida Statutes that "prohibits candidates from making false statements," but he's opted not to pursue such action.

However, he added, "Since some continue to bring it up to me, it would seem appropriate that a public statement by [Mattick] correcting the error is in order."

Miller also was concerned because, according to him, Mattick met with several residents recently regarding the "pocket park" issue and allegedly said that Miller voted against the park because of what Mattick had said about him in her campaign mailer.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Miller exclaimed.

Tapes of the original commission meeting regarding a pocket park on North Shore Drive will "show that my concern from the get-go was the failure to involve the community in the process.

"I would appreciate it if you would not make false references regarding my motives again," he wrote to Mattick. "It is certainly not in the spirit you expressed to me on the phone election night when you said 'Let's let bygones be bygones.'"

Before replying, Mattick forwarded the e-mail to Dye for an opinion on whether or not it was appropriate to respond. Dye said no.

In Dye's opinion, "This is a discussion best made in the sunshine. While it has roots in what might be seen as a personal disagreement, the subject matter has to do with city business and city policy-making. It would be best dealt with in the open."

Dye said he would contact Miller.

Mattick said she was "surprised" when she got Miller's e-mail and considers it "inappropriate."

Miller said that his e-mail to Mattick was civil and he was privately seeking a resolution so as "not to create embarrassment for anyone." He wanted the record set straight on two issues of information that "unfavorably reflect on my reputation as a dedicated community servant," and to "discourage future occurrences of this type of behavior."

Mattick, however, said she considers Miller's e-mail a "personal harassment," adding that he never contacted her to verify any of the statements she allegedly made.

Differences between the two commissioners will likely be discussed at the next city commission meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, at the city's temporary meeting room, the Holmes Beach City Hall commission chambers.