Tag Archives: 05-21-2014

BB department head admits ordering controversial photos of personnel records

New details have emerged in what has become a controversial matter of mishandled records in Bradenton Beach.

Public works director Tom Woodard issued a statement May 12 saying he instructed Christine Watson, an employee working under him in public works, to take unauthorized photos of personnel records.

Watson said she was painting rooms at city hall during routine office hours when she maintains she saw the files in plain view on a desk.

Woodard recently said Watson called him to inform him that, based on the records she saw, deputy city clerks Audra Lanzaro and Tammy Johnson had received $1 per hour pay raises from the mayor.

“I asked her to take a photo and send it to me so that I could know if what she was telling me was accurate information,” Woodard wrote.

Prior to his admission, Watson received a reprimand for taking the photos from Woodard on instruction from the mayor.

Woodard said he took the photos he obtained from Watson the following day to a budget meeting, where he showed the photos to Commissioner Jack Clarke.

Clarke and other commission members have been holding monthly meetings with department heads to get a better understanding of what is happening within the departments.

The photos eventually were sent to ELRA Inc. attorney Robert Lincoln, who said April 30 that he received them from an anonymous source.

Woodard and Watson both have claimed they did not share the images with Lincoln.

And Johnson said May 14 the files were “at no point lying out in plain view.”

“They were in a payroll file folder,” she said. “The only time they were out of that folder was for the 10 minutes Audra was processing payroll. At no time were those documents in a public space out in the open.”

While the documents are public record, the Bradenton Beach Police Department conducted an investigation to determine whether a city employee had entered a locked file cabinet to obtain the photos.

But the police investigation determined no criminal acts had occurred. Watson admitted taking the photos during the investigation.

“We have no intention of revisiting this case,” Police Chief Sam Speciale said. “This ‘he said she said’ stuff is a city matter, not a police matter.”

The event was triggered when Lincoln sent an email to city attorney Ricinda Perry questioning Mayor Bill Shearon’s authority to give two employees pay raises.

The city clerk’s office noted that Lincoln had attached photos of personnel records that had not been obtained through normal channels – a public records request.

ELRA, the corporate entity for the BeacHhouse Restaurant, owned by Ed Chiles, has filed a lawsuit against the mayor claiming Shearon has tried to remold his position to give him more authority than the city charter allows.

Shearon said Woodard’s actions were “in poor judgment,” but he has no plan to reprimand him.

Woodard did not return phone calls from The Islander.

Holmes Beach mayor’s race creates commission vacancy — or two

 

Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino holds the cards.

He announced he will resign as commissioner to run for mayor, but when and how he vacates his seat will determine whether a new commissioner is appointed or elected.

According to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, in order to run for the mayor’s seat, Zaccagnino must turn in a letter of resignation 10 days before the start of the qualifying period — June 6.

The start of the qualifying period in Holmes Beach is noon Monday, June 16.

Whether he resigns immediately or Nov. 4, the date of the municipal election, will make all the difference in how a new commissioner is chosen to take his seat, according to city clerk Stacey Johnston.

But Commission Chair Judy Titsworth may also jump into the mayor’s race, which would result in two vacancies among the incumbents on the commission.

The city charter states that if a commission seat is vacated seven days before the final day of the qualifying period, an election will be held for the seat for the remainder of the two-year term.

Zaccagnino’s term expires in November 2015. Titsworth is up for re-election to the commission on this year’s ballot.

If Zaccagnino resigns but does not vacate the seat until Nov. 5, the two seated commissioners and two newly elected commissioners will appoint someone to serve the last year of Zaccagnino’s term.

But if Zaccagnino resigns on or before June 6, a commissioner will be appointed to fill his seat — but only until November. The vacancy will create another opportunity for a candidate on the ballot.

Zaccagnino said he has not decided when he will vacate his seat, but he said he is leaning toward vacating after the election in November and allowing the commission to appoint someone to fill his seat for the remaining year.

If Zaccagnino loses the mayoral election, he will have resigned his seat on the commission and will not be able to finish his term.

Titsworth said she has not yet decided if she will seek re-election to the commission or oppose Zaccagnino and make a run for the mayor’s seat.

“I really don’t know yet. It’s a big decision,” said Titsworth.

 

Grossman throws hat in ring

Holmes Beach Commissioner Marvin Grossman announced May 15 he will seek re-election in November.

Grossman is serving his first two-year term on the commission.

“All though we have accomplished much, my work is not done, safe bike paths, traffic congestion, Grassy Point, dog park and other issues have to be addressed,” Grossman said in his written announcement. He is the commission liaison to the parks and beautification committee.

Before his 2012 election to the commission, Grossman served as an alternate on the city code enforcement board.

Candidates for commission seats or the mayor must first qualify to run June 16-20.

 

 

Wanted: Candidates for Anna Maria election

By Rick Catlin

Islander Reporter

“Wanted: Candidates. Must be registered voter and reside in Anna Maria two years, willing to serve two years starting in November 2014.”

That might be a good post at Anna Maria City Hall, as people stepping up to run for two city commission seats and the mayor’s post are thus far as common as a mid-March vacancy sign at an island resort.

But that’s not the full story. Incumbent Commissioner Nancy Yetter picked up a candidate’s packet and confirmed she will seek a second term.

Commissioner Chuck Webb is playing it close to the vest, saying he is “definitely a maybe” to seek a fifth consecutive term.

The same might be said for incumbent Mayor SueLynn, who said she will make an announcement no later than June 9, the first day of qualifying for the Anna Maria city ballot.

“You can say I am definitely maybe going to run,” she said.

No other candidates are apparent on the city’s political horizon.

Former Commissioner Gene Aubry said he is “definitely not going to seek any office” in November.

And Mike Coleman, a planning and zoning board member, also discounted any candidacy. “I’m not running for anything,” he said.

Candidates have less than a month to decide.

The city’s qualifying period is noon June 9 to noon June 20. Election packets are available from city clerk Diane Percycoe at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive. Election fees and qualifying papers are submitted to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd., No. 108, Bradenton.

The qualifying fee to run for mayor is $96, while to seek a commission seat the fee is $48.

Waiver forms to eliminate the fee are available at the SOE office.

Anna Maria commissioners are paid $4,800 annually, while the mayor receives $9,600 in annual compensation for the job, but Commissioner Dale Woodland previously suggested increasing the mayor’s pay. Any increase in the salary must be approved by the commission before the November municipal election to go in effect for the new term.

 

Same for Bradenton Beach

Two Bradenton Beach commission seats are up for election.

The same ad for candidates could be posted for the seats currently held by Ed Straight in Ward 2 and Jan Vosburgh in Ward 4.

Vosburgh, who said she has “tentatively” decided to run for a third term, is the only person thus far to collect a candidate packet from city hall. Commissioners are limited to three consecutive terms.

They also must reside within the ward they represent, although they are elected by voters citywide.

Straight said he has not decided on seeking another term.

Anyone who is a Bradenton Beach voter and resident for nine months and resides in the appropriate ward can sign up to run for office June 16-June 20.

Motorcycle crash results in death of Bradenton woman

A Bradenton woman who worked cleaning homes on Anna Maria Island and was much loved by her clients lost control of her Harley-Davidson motorcycle May 17 and lost her life in a Haines City crash, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Friends said the pink Harley was a recent purchase — a reward for herself for her hard work.

Georgene Rabren, 52, failed to negotiate the southbound off-ramp from U.S. 27 to U.S. 192 in Haines City. She was ejected from the motorcycle while trying to make the correction and get wheels on the road and the Harley landed on her, according to the sheriff’s office. She was wearing a helmet.

She was riding at about 5:30 p.m. with a group of friends when the crash occurred, and they stopped to provide aid and call for assistance.

She was taken to Heart of Florida Hospital where she died, officials said.

Rabren provided cleaning service to Anna Maria Island Accommodations for its rental properties, and also cleaned homes for several private customers. She also worked at Island Lumber in Holmes Beach.

Day-trippers round out fundraising at Duffy’s Tavern

daytripper-3

 

Day-Trippers Debbie Pinkley, left, and Charmain Miller, right, present proceeds — $1,156 — from the sale of island day-tripper stickers to Anna Maria Island Community Center executive director Dawn Stiles at a party for friends at Duffy’s Tavern in Holmes Beach. The sticker sales were launched by Pinkley and Miller, both former islanders, when some island officials criticized day-trippers for parking and traffic problems in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach. The event was sponsored by Duffy’s Tavern and The Islander. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy

Correction

The May 14 story regarding the release from jail and registered address of sex offender Douglas Mullaney incorrectly stated he was convicted of having sex with a minor. He was convicted in 1999 of unlawful contact and communication with a minor.

He was released earlier this month after serving time in jail for fraud and is presently on probation.

Couple arrested after chase on land, in water

A man and woman allegedly joyriding in stolen vehicle were arrested May 14.

The man allegedly led law enforcement officers on a foot chase for more than an hour.

Amy Melbar, 20, of Gibsonton, and Thomas Turner, 30, of Duette, face charges of grand theft auto, possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia and carrying a concealed firearm.

Bradenton Beach police officers allegedly discovered a nylon bag containing a .380 Taurus handgun, a plastic bag of crystal meth, clear plastic bags and a glass pipe inside a motorcycle the couple allegedly stole.

BBPD officers arrived in the 2000 block of Coquina Park about 5 p.m., where the owner of the motorcycle had followed the alleged thieves.

When the man and woman stopped at a picnic table to enjoy the view, the man called 911, according to the police report.

BBPD officers approached the picnic table where Melbar and Turner were sitting. When Turner saw them, he attempted to flee on the motorcycle, but couldn’t start the bike, according to the report.

After Turner refused to get off the vehicle, BBPD Officer Thomas Ferrara tackled him, sending Turner and the motorcycle tumbling to the ground, according to the report.

Turner got up, faced Ferrara and held the screwdriver in an aggressive manner, the report said. He then took off running across Gulf Drive finally ducking into the mangroves on the edge of Sarasota Bay.

Ferrara called for backup and soon officers from the Holmes Beach Police Department, Longboat Key Police Department and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies had the area surrounded.

At this point, Turner had jumped in the water and was trying to swim away, the report said.

He then returned to shore and surrendered to an MCSO officer with K-9 unit, saying he was “giving up and just didn’t want to be bit.”

When the deputy called off the dog, Turner jumped back in the water and began swimming away again.

The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the area in boats, but Turner evaded the officers for another 45 minutes by going underwater and attempting to swim underneath the vessels.

An MSCO helicopter was called in so Turner could be observed from the air.

The man finally became exhausted after treading water for so long, and began making is way to the South Coquina Boat Ramp, the report said.

Coast Guard officers pulled him onboard their vessel and handcuffed him.

Turner also faces charges of with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and driving without a license (third or subsequent offense).

Turner told authorities that the nylon bag was not his and he had purchased the motorcycle for $500.

He and Melbar were taken to Manatee County jail.

Melbar also faces charges of violation of probation and was being held without bond. Turner was being held on a $29,000 bond.

Their arraignment will be held May 30 at 9 a.m. at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W, Bradenton.

Ho-hum, resort taxes set another record, tourism up

For the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office, setting a new monthly record for resort tax collections is as common as a full moon. It’s no longer big news.

The pace for March was no different from the preceding 32 months. It was another record-setting month.

Sue Sinquefield of the resort tax collections division reported $1.7 million was collected in April for March resort taxes, the highest ever month. The resort tax is the 5 percent paid on rentals of six months or less and is paid one month in arrears.

The $1.7 million for March 2014 was 13.3 percent ahead of the $1.5 million collected in March 2013, and was the 32nd month of record collections when compared to the same month the previous year.

Anna Maria Island cities and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key brought in $1.06 million in resort taxes for March, or 62.4 percent of total collections.

Holmes Beach led all collection areas and municipalities with $433,000 in taxes. Anna Maria contributed $208,000, Bradenton Beach $162,000, and Longboat Key $260,000.

The $1.7 million in March brought collections for the first six months of fiscal year 2013-14 to $5.8 million, on pace to surpass the record $8.99 million in 2012-13.

Along with resort tax collections, tourism to Anna Maria Island and the Bradenton area also has climbed.

While the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has not released tourism figures for March and April, the BACVB reported February occupancy of area accommodations was up 6.8 percent from February 2013.

“I’m certain that tourism for March was up from last year,” Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman said.

“Many of our members said this past winter season was their best ever, and there hasn’t been much of a slowdown in May,” she said.

“Before you know it, we’ll be in our summer season,” Brockman said.

“Typically, our summer season brings a lot of Floridians to the island, especially in August. I think summer on the island will be very busy.”

The resort tax is used to fund the BACVB, beach renourishment projects, the Bradenton Convention Center, and other tourism-related projects and attractions budgeted by the Tourism Development Council and approved by the Manatee County Board of Commissioners.

Resort tax collections in Manatee County began in fiscal year 1989-90, when $1.4 million was collected.

Island roadwatch

The Florida Department of Transportation has begun an eight-month long maintenance and repair project on the Cortez Bridge.

Work includes repairing the electrical systems which operate the bascule.

The DOT said work would be from 9 p.m.-5 a.m. weeknights, and any work on the drawbridge that requires it be raised will be 2-3 a.m. Any bridge closing would last no more than 15 minutes, the DOT said.

The end-date for the project is projected to be January 2015.

Improvements and repairs to Manatee Avenue West/State Road 64, from the Perico Bay Club to 75th Street in Bradenton, are underway and expected to finish in July.

The project includes repaving and remilling, new sidewalks and drainage swales in various locations, line painting and signage, among other work.

Operations are from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. Any lane closures will be accompanied by a flagging operation to keep vehicles moving, the DOT said. Some nighttime lane closure is expected.

Work crews are replacing a power pole and lines from the Cortez Road/Gulf Drive intersection north to 28th Street North, Holmes Beach. Motorists can expect northbound lane closures 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. through Friday, June 6.

A flagging operation will be in place to keep traffic flowing, the DOT said.

Search for Musil-Buehler continues at ‘location of interest’

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies and cadaver-sniffing dogs spent two days searching for any evidence of Sabine Musil-Buehler at residential property at the south end of Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria, but without any apparent success.

The dogs found an area of interest on the property May 16. They planned to return this week to dig and continue the search.

As of May 16, no evidence of Musil-Buehler’s body had been found at the location, said Detective John Kenney of the MCSO homicide department.

“We won’t give up searching,” said Kenney, who headed the MCSO Anna Maria substation when Musil-Buehler disappeared.

In October 2012, the MCSO and Kenney, promoted to detective, arrested William J. Cumber, Musil-Buehler’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance, for her murder.

“Nearly six years I’ve been working this case and I’ll continue until we find a body. It’s here somewhere,” Kenney said.

MCSO public information officer Dave Bristow said the property searched last week, which is owned by longtime resident Jack Fiske, had not been declared a crime scene and no evidence was discovered.

“If we do find something, this will become a crime scene and detectives and homicide experts will be out to investigate further,” he said.

Bristow said the MCSO decided to search the property after a review of cellphone calls made Nov. 4, 2008, showed a “possibility” that Musil-Buehler’s phone was used that day in the area.|

Musil-Buehler was living with Cumber on Magnolia Avenue in Anna Maria when she disappeared. She was co-owner of Haley’s Motel in Holmes Beach with her estranged husband Tom Buehler.

Cumber told authorities that they argued before she left their apartment the night of Nov. 4, 2008.

He was arrested for her murder while serving time at the Port Charlotte Correctional Facility, where he was jailed for violating probation on an unrelated charge, and transferred to the Manatee County jail.

Cumber has denied knowledge of Musil-Buehler’s disappearance.

He has entered a not guilty plea to the charge of second-degree murder. His trial is scheduled for October.

Four years ago, Kenney and the K-9 unit conducted a weeklong search of property at the beach access ends of Willow and Park avenues in Anna Maria, but found no evidence of a body.

That search came after a homeowner found some of Musil-Buehler’s personal items, said to be her purse and cellphone.

The MCSO also searched the beach for evidence in late 2008 and again in 2009.

“It’s not over,” Kenney said. “It will only be over when we find her body.”

Open house for WMFR station No. 2

The West Manatee Fire Rescue District will hold an open house at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 31, celebrating completion of renovations at its Station No. 2, 10350 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.

WMFR Chief Andy Price and WMFR Commissioner Scott Ricci are scheduled to speak briefly about the $1.5 million renovation project.

A local color guard made up of former U.S. military service personnel will present the colors, and appetizers and refreshments will be served.

The event is open to the public, although reservations are requested.

For more information or to make a reservation, call Sherry Vetter at 941-761-1555 or email sherry.vetter@wmfr.org.