Bradenton Beach commissioners vote to proceed with trial
Bradenton Beach city commissioners voted Sept. 14 to proceed with a
trial in a suit alleging city officials violated the
records statutes and Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.
in that trial is set to resume Sept. 26.
The suit, filed by The Islander newspaper
earlier this year, stems from the city’s handling of a sexual harassment
complaint filed by Gail Garneau, a Bradenton Beach code enforcement officer and
planning department staff member, against Ed McAdam, who headed the city’s
building department. McAdam resigned soon after he learned of the complaint against
Last week, The Islander attorney
Kendra Presswood, daughter of newspaper publisher Bonner
Joy, proposed a settlement in an effort to “amicably resolve this matter prior to the continuation
The proposal stated, “Given the clear
violations of the Public Records Act, which will be easily demonstrated at the
continued hearing, we hope your client will consider this proposal seriously
so that further expenses to the taxpayers of the city may be avoided.
Islander is willing
to resolve all of its claims by filing a voluntary
dismissal of this action in exchange for the following: 1. The city’s agreement to abide by Florida’s
open-government laws in the future; 2. Payment of my client’s attorneys
fees and costs to date; 3. The city’s agreement to have the city commissioners,
mayor, staff and various board members participate annually in a minimum of two
hours of education on Florida’s open-government laws.”
On Sept. 14,
Mayor John Chappie, city attorney Ricinda Perry and
city commissioners Janie Robertson, Bill Shearon and John Shaughnessy
met to discuss the proposed agreement. Commissioner Mike Pierce was absent.
properly held closed meeting took place for about an
hour at city hall. After the session, the commissioners, on motions by
Robertson, voted unanimously to “reject
the settlement offer from Kendra Presswood” and also to direct the city
attorney to “continue the
trial … and to pursue all attorney’s fees and costs incurred by
the city to defend the above-stated cause of action.”
The trial, by order
of 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Peter Dubensky,
will continue next Wednesday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Manatee County
Dubensky opened the trial Aug. 16, hearing
testimony from witnesses over parts of that day and
The judge did not
allow attorneys to delve into the substance of Garneau’s complaint, but
rather instructed them to keep the focus on the newspaper’s allegation
that city officials withheld public records and circumvented the Sunshine Law.
Garneau made her complaint against
McAdam in late February, informing Chappie verbally
and then formalizing the complaint in an undated letter.
The complaint prompted Chappie to order
an investigation by Perry. Meetings ensued between
Garneau, Perry and Chappie; meetings between McAdam, Perry and Chappie;
telephone calls between Perry and city commissioners; and a special city
commission meeting at which McAdam’s
resignation was accepted on March 8.
The Islander filed the suit April
11 because, despite a series of quick actions in late
February and early March to respond to the sexual harassment complaint,
the public record was scant and there was no public discussion on the
matter or on the acceptance of McAdam’s
In the earlier trial testimony, city officials
said that the records that have been released are the
only public records that exist.
Presswood, however, argued that even if
that is the case, city officials violated the public
records laws by withholding some documents for several months.
“March went by. April went by. May
went by. Most of June went by,” Presswood told the judge, referring to
the lack of production by the city.
“There are public records that weren’t
produced for over three months,” she added. At the end of June, the city
provided the newspaper with several documents pertaining to the case, but no
report on the investigation of the harassment complaint.
City officials also previously
testified that they did not have private discussions
in violation of the Sunshine Law.
the trial resumes next week, Bradenton Beach city clerk
Nora Idso is expected to testify.