Tag Archives: News

State strikes bargain with butterfly advocate

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Ambrose
Nancy Ambrose was recognized in 2013 by Lauren Dorsett of ABC 7-TV at the Sarasota station’s awards for local volunteers. Islander File Photo

Fraud charges against a perennial Anna Maria Island volunteer will be dismissed if the subject completes a pretrial-diversion contract signed Jan. 3 with the 12th Circuit State Attorney.

Nancy Ambrose, 59, of Bradenton and formerly of Holmes Beach, turned herself into authorities in May 2017 after being advised of a warrant for her arrest.

Several months later, the state charged two felony counts: Failing to register as a charity and unlawful charitable solicitation.

The charges stem from complaints to city officials in 2014 and 2015 and a Holmes Beach police investigation into Ambrose’s activities for the North American Butterfly Association beginning in October 2014.

HBPD’s investigation concluded Ambrose failed to maintain the Anna Maria Island Butterfly Park adjacent to city hall pursuant to a 2008 city contract, hadn’t been authorized to operate the local NABA chapter after 2011 and failed to deliver memorial bricks ordered for placement in the park.

Ambrose’s plea includes a 12-month, court-supervised deal with monetary obligations, requiring her to forfeit and permanently close a NABA bank account she opened Aug. 8, 2007.

Ambrose was the sole signatory on the SunTrust account, which was allegedly used for some personal expenses.

Assistant State Attorney Andrew Van Sickle wrote in a Jan. 10 email that the account closed Dec. 11, 2017.

Before closing the account, Ambrose was required to send certified checks for $17,017.88 to Holmes Beach to restore the park and the remaining $28,725.43 of the $45,743.31 balance to NABA, according to Van Sickle.

Van Sickle confirmed Jan. 10 both payments were made.

Payment of funding for personal items from the account was not required.

The city took over the garden in February 2016 and “completely renovated it with new shrubs, planting and pavers,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said, adding the park, now called the Memorial Garden, is being “very well maintained” by the city.

Holmes Beach Parks and Beautification Committee member Dennis Groh said the committee, with Mayor Bob Johnson, redesigned the park. Public works removed old plants and installed sod, native and Florida-friendly plants, benches with pads, a fountain and irrigation lines.

Tokajer said Jan. 11 two boxes containing about 10 bricks ordered by Ambrose were delivered during the investigation — and, according to the pretrial diversion contract, Ambrose was required to pay $1,000 to Holmes Beach to install the bricks.

And that’s been received, according to the chief.

The brick installation will probably be up to the parks and beautification committee and public works, Tokajer added.

Ambrose and Connie Hodsdon of Bradenton started the butterfly park in 1999 on city property on the south side of city hall. Fundraising for the park included the sale of $50-60 engraved bricks.

Ambrose also maintained an ongoing fundraising project to build a gazebo at the park.

Part of the diversion contract also requires Ambrose to pay $200 to the HBPD and $100 to the state attorney as well as $30 a month for probation and $2 monthly correction training costs.

Other terms of the contact require Ambrose not to act as a fiduciary for any charity, to step down from any board or charity advisory position and take an eight-hour seminar on fundraising, or regulatory compliance, for a 501(c)(3) charity.

According to HBPD’s investigation, Ambrose allegedly failed to register as a charity while soliciting funds.

The investigation also revealed Ambrose allegedly organized fundraising events each year for NABA and other charities, including craft shows at the city field in Holmes Beach city field and at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, sometimes with an event company that required nonprofit beneficiaries for events on public property.

The principal of the event company told police the company would not have given money to Ambrose had it known it was not a legitimate nonprofit.

Ambrose also has contracted with Manatee County for ongoing markets at Coquina Beach, where she solicited donations. The use of the county-run park requires a charity organization be a beneficiary of the event.

County parks and natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker did not return Jan. 11-12 emails requesting the status of the contracts.

Ambrose is widely known for volunteering on Anna Maria Island, including for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, Island Players and the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra and the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

She was an employee of The Islander newspaper in sales and as a community ambassador, sometimes part-time 2003-08,  according to publisher Bonner Joy.

Her pretrial agreement may end after six months if all conditions are met.

“I have nothing to say,” Ambrose said when asked about the plea agreement.

3 men in ‘shark drag’ video plead not guilty

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Robert Benac III
Michael Wenzel
Spencer Heintz

Three men in a video that went viral last year depicting them dragging a shark behind a speeding boat near Egmont Key have pleaded not guilty to charges of animal cruelty.

Robert Benac III, 28, of Sarasota, and Michael Wenzel, 21, and Spencer Heintz, 23, both of Palmetto, face two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty to a blacktip shark.

Benac and Wenzel also were charged with a misdemeanor for spearing a black-nose shark the same day.

Attorneys from Tampa: Justin Petredis for Benac, Stephen Crawford for Wenzel and Paul Sisco for Heintz, filed the not-guilty pleas Jan. 10 in the 13th Circuit Court.

Judge Mark Wolfe was assigned to preside over their cases.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began investigating animal abuse shown in Instagram and Facebook posts, including a 10-second video of a blacktip shark being dragged behind a vessel at a high rate of speed.

Manatee County prosecutors issued search warrants and worked with the FWC to access social media accounts.

In October 2017, the 13th Circuit State Attorney became involved when investigators determined the alleged offenses occurred in Hillsborough County.

The three men were arrested in December 2017, posted bond and were released.

The shark-drag video was taken June 26, 2017, while the men, with friend Nicholas Burns Easterling, of Palmetto, formerly of Holmes Beach, were on a fishing trip.

Easterling was not charged in exchange for his cooperation with FWC and its investigation.

Gov. Rick Scott wrote letters in July and December announcing zero tolerance for such abuse.

Sport fishers, guides and animal rights activists also condemned the men’s actions, some calling for the men to lose their fishing licenses.

Wenzel has a commercial saltwater fishing license. Benac and Heintz are recreational fishers.

The three cases are set for a disposition hearing at 9 a.m. Friday, March 6, in the Hillsborough Criminal Court, 401 N. Jefferson St., Tampa.

Local home broker uncovers rental scam

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The scammer’s invoice submitted to the renter for payment. Islander Courtesy Photo
Bowman

If her real estate career ever goes south, a local broker might look at becoming a detective.

Jen Bowman and husband Mark are real estate partners on Anna Maria Island. They’ve been in business since 2004 and know the rental industry on the island inside and out.

So when Tamy Ball of Ohio contacted Jen Bowman saying she had a bad feeling about a recent vacation rental contract, Bowman took one look and knew the document was bogus.

“I had her send me a screen shot of the invoice and the red flags immediately went up,” Bowman said Jan. 9.

“First, there was no resort tax. Everybody legitimate knows there is a 12 percent resort tax added on, period. Then the door code for the lock box was all wrong. It didn’t make any sense for a U.S. Lock like the ones we use here,” Bowman continued.

Ball said in a phone interview Jan. 9, she should have been more savvy about online booking, but it was her first time.

“We come to Anna Maria about four times a year. We usually stay in the same place, but it was booked. This guy private-messaged me quickly after I posted on a Facebook page I was looking for accommodations,” Ball said.

The man messaged Ball that she could rent his property, Peach Bellini in Holmes Beach, with a $750 PayPal deposit. He said Ball would save $450 by booking with him and bypassing his rental agency.

The scammer then helped Ball set up a PayPal account.

“I should have thought something was funny, but it was the holidays. I’m a kindergarten teacher. I have two kids of my own.

I was busy and just glad to have somewhere to stay for my spring break trip with other teachers,” Ball said.

Two weeks later, on Christmas Day, the man messaged Ball saying a rate increase had been decided at an owners’ meeting, and, if she paid the balance of $900 by Dec. 30, 2017, she would avoid the rate increase.

“Again, I should have known but I never thought I would be scammed,” Ball admitted.

On Jan. 8, a friend saw a post on the same Facebook page saying the property was available for March 24-31 and pointed it out to Ball.

“I laughed, then I got worried. I contacted Jen Bowman, who looked like a legitimate Realtor and could help me sort it out,” Ball said about selecting Bowman at random from ads.

After seeing the screen shot of the invoice, Bowman, an agent with Keller Williams on the Water, switched to detective mode.

Searching property rolls, she established the rental offered did not belong to Bill Fleming, the name used to scam Ball. Bowman also determined there is no such agent in Florida and Bill Fleming Co. is not registered with the state.

Bowman located a Bill Fleming Co. in Illinois and contacted the office with news the name was being used in a vacation rental scam on Anna Maria Island.

Facebook also was contacted, and shut down the fake profile. An IP address also was being back-traced, but Bowman believes the perpetrator is from Europe.

“The date on the invoice was written out of order,” she said.

On further inquiry, a property search by The Islander revealed what was falsely offered for rent as the Peach Bellini is a duplex unit owned by Tracy and Adam Wilson of south Tampa.

When contacted by phone Jan. 14, the pair said they had no idea their property was involved in a rental scam and urged potential renters to stick with well-established island rental agents or dedicated rental sites, such as VRBO or Home Away.

“As property owners, we are disappointed this has happened because it reflects negatively on Anna Maria Island. I don’t know what jurisdiction it would be, since the scam crossed state lines, but we are in favor of prosecution,” Adam Wilson said.

Tracy Adams advised potential renters to never pay more than a deposit months in advance.

Ball’s story may end with her credit card company reimbursing her losses and PayPal made aware of the scam.

She made a police report in Ohio on the advice of her credit card company, though none was made on Anna Maria Island.

Bowman’s advice? Book through a legitimate source. If someone is pressuring you or offering to forego taxes, etc., steer clear. If it seems too good to be true or seems a bit off, it probably is.

And do some detective work in advance of your booking online.

Ball said she hopes to retire to Anna Maria Island one day, but, in the meantime, will continue to visit AMI.

Sewer line conflict assessment ends, dispute continues

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Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, left, building official Steve Gilbert, attorney Mark Barnebey for the city, speak to Louis Najmy and Aaron Thomas of Najmy Thompson, in a hallway at the Manatee County Administrative Building.

The sewer-line dispute between Bradenton Beach, Manatee County and Shawn Kaleta is inching along — in court and now in a dispute resolution process.

Manatee County sued the city, Kaleta and two of his companies in August 2017, asking the 12th Circuit Court to declare an easement on Kaleta-owned land in Bradenton Beach where a sewer pipe is buried.

As a Jan. 10 conflict assessment meeting at a county administrative building concluded, Bradenton Beach officials told county and developer representatives they would bring their viewpoints to the city commission.

The parties sent attorneys and officials, including Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, to the meeting under a conflict resolution procedure the city invoked in November 2017.

State law provides for conflict assessment and joint meetings of governmental entities if a dispute leads to one entity suing another.

The lawsuit claims the city failed to properly vacate a street where three Kaleta-owned properties remain subject to the right of way.

The sewer line serves Manatee County customers east of Bradenton Beach and south to Longboat Pass and is more than 40 years old and 10 feet underground.

Kaleta attended for a few minutes at the meeting’s start and said he intended to build a small pool over the sewer line on one of the three properties. Kaleta said he is working with Bradenton Beach’s building official to avoid the sewer pipe at the two other properties.

County attorneys responded, saying the meeting first needed to identify the conflicts.

Manatee County assistant attorney Katharine Zamboni said she sees two — one being the opposing views about the city’s 2001 resolution and the second, a challenge by the city and Kaleta to the timeliness of the county’s suit.

The county maintains the city resolution, which purports to vacate a street right of way, was void because it failed to properly identify the street to be vacated and the properties impacted. Bradenton Beach stands by its resolution.

At the meeting, Hunzeker, attorneys and staff agreed the county wants a 20-foot easement, 10 feet on either side of the utility line, prohibiting pools and buildings, elevated structures and any excavation deeper than 2 feet.

Hunzeker said the pipe serves 150,000 customers who shouldn’t be burdened with paying the cost to move the line.

“If we allow someone to build a structure over the line and it ruptures and the EPA gets involved, it’s going to be an intentional act on our part as opposed to a negligent one and the fines would reflect that,” he said.

Attorney Jason Gaskill argued the county was time-barred in challenging the vacated property and seeking an implied easement. Title companies on numerous properties have insured over the risk, he said.

Also, Gaskill and another Kaleta attorney, Louis Najmy, argued the vague language of the city resolution didn’t support a county claim of an implied easement.

“Let’s be clear, moving forward with building a pool is not necessarily going to break the pipe and cause destruction,” Najmy said.

To settle, the Kaleta attorneys propose their clients would give a written easement and indemnify the county against damage caused to the pipe for five years, provided that the Kaleta companies could still build pools on the three properties.

The indemnification would cover pool installation and also allow the county or city to tear up a pool at no cost if they have to replace the pipe, according to Najmy.

“Considering so many other homeowners already built homes and pools over this pipe over the last 15 years on their properties, the county would be in a much better position than they are now,” Najmy wrote in a Jan. 12 text.

Chappie and attorney Mark Barnebey said they’d relay the parties’ positions to the city commission during a shade meeting, which allows governmental bodies to meet in private — an exception to the state’s Sunshine Laws — to discuss pending litigation.

“Maybe we’ll be going back to federal court,” Najmy said after the meeting.

“The county is turning down a free easement with indemnification,” he added, saying the risk they’d take would be small and “it’s extremely unlikely there will be disruption of the sewer line.”

Plus, Najmy said in a Jan. 12 text, even if the county wins the suit, they or the city will be faced with “millions of dollars of claims from all of the other property owners.”

The county operates the line in the public right of way on Bay Shore Drive — identified incorrectly as Bay Drive South in the 2001 resolution — adjacent to the eastern portion of properties at 112, 114 and 116 S. 11th St.

Pool permits for the three properties are pending with the city.

MCSO arrests Anna Maria moped driver for DUI

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Trygg

A man driving a moped on North Shore Drive in Anna Maria ended up in jail after a Manatee County sheriff’s deputy observed him cross the center line several times.

Carl Trygg, 36, of Anna Maria, was arrested for driving under the influence at 2:06 a.m. Dec. 30 in the 700 block of North Shore Drive.

Deputy Amy Leach reported observing Trygg have difficulty controlling his vehicle while traveling north about 200 yards, according to an MCSO report.

After stopping the moped, the driver admitted to Leach he had been drinking at Bortell’s Lounge in Anna Maria, according to the MCSO report.

Leach called Deputy Benjamin Quick to conduct a DUI investigation.

While Trygg performed a field-sobriety test, the report states Quick observed signs related to smoking marijuana.

Showing signs of impairment, Trygg was taken into custody and to the Manatee County jail.

According to the police report, Trygg provided two breath samples, measuring 0.152 and 0.156. The legal limit is 0.08.

Trygg’s arraignment is set for 8:25 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Bridge Street restaurant, bar get P&Z nod for zoning change

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Bay Drive South separates an open-air bar on the water from the restaurant at the Bridge Tender Inn and Dockside Bar, 135 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy Jack Elka

The Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board came to a big conclusion for one Bridge Street establishment.

Six months after hearing several requests from representatives of the Bridgetender Dockside Bar and Restaurant, the P&Z board voted Jan. 10 to recommend approval of the restaurant’s change to a major development and a comprehensive plan amendment to the city commission.

Darenda Marvin, senior land planner with Grimes Goebel Grimes Hawkins Gladfelter & Galvano of Bradenton, represented the Bridge Tender Inn and Dockside Bar, and its owner Fred Bartizal, also a P&Z board member at the quasi-judicial hearing. Marvin asked for an amendment to the future land-use designation for the commercially zoned property operating on Sarasota Bay as the restaurant’s dockside bar, on the east side of Bay Drive South.

Additionally, Marvin petitioned the board to recommend the property be designated as a major development, owing to its increased size.

City land planner Alan Garrett recommended the amendment and the change to a major development.

The previous board had agreed at a hearing in June 2017 that it needed more information, but after losing four members in August, lacked a quorum for meetings. The hearing was continued until the new appointments were made.

Bartizal, a recently appointed member, formally recused himself from the decision-making and declined to take part in the discussion, instead joining the gallery for the Jan. 10 hearing.

Currently, the property’s land-use designation is public semi-public. Marvin said the parcel, which was part of a land swap between the city and Bartizal in 2001, wasn’t reclassified after the swap. She said it should be designated mixed-use bridge commercial, the same as the surrounding properties. It is zoned C2 commercial.

When the parcel on the opposite side of the road was approved for open-air dining in 2012, the city required a unity of title between the two properties.

The unity of title satisfied the requirement that open-air dining be tied to the restaurant on Bridge Street, which also removed parking requirements for the outdoor seats.

According to Marvin, when the area was approved for open-air dining, the operation was small. Since 2012, the restaurant has expanded seating to more than 100 seats.

“Over time we got larger and now we are just trying to get proper approval,” Marvin said. “It’s not appropriate at this stage to ask, ‘Should there be a restaurant here?’ That has already been approved.”

Marvin said the restaurant is licensed by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation for 163 indoor and 109 outdoor seats. She said that as the restaurant uses only 132 indoor seats, they would like to up the outdoor dining area to 120 seats.

 

P&Z concerns

In June, board members said they were concerned that the bar and restaurant were intersected by Bay Drive South, requiring employees and patrons to cross the street, which would jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Marvin said she has reviewed police reports of incidents at the Bridgetender and none were related to vehicle-pedestrian interaction.

Additionally, Marvin said the restaurant employs “expos,” who wear bright clothing and are trained to run food and drinks between the two locations, as well as a parking attendant, who assists patrons parking along Bay Drive South.

Garrett also pointed out there is a rope-and-bollard system defining the crossing area.

During public comment, former Mayor Bill Shearon said there is heavy pedestrian traffic on Bay Drive South, and bicycle traffic is likely to increase when a planned islandwide path is constructed.

Shearon proposed the restaurant install a sidewalk along Bay Drive South.

“There has not been an accident there, but I fear if this is approved, the city is opening itself up for a real liability issue,” Shearon said.

P&Z vice chair Jim Lynch agreed with Shearon, saying he is unsure that a previous commission intended, in making its approval in 2012, for the outdoor seating area to expand to the extent is has.

Additionally, he said the lot in question does not abut Bridge Street, but only is permitted because of unity of title.

“Did they intend for open-air dining without parking to take place on Bay Drive South?” Lynch asked. “We’re now going down the side streets and I imagine it’s a matter of time before we’re going up the outer rim if all it takes is a unity of title to achieve it.”

 

Approved with stipulations

Following Garrett’s recommendation, the P&Z unanimously approved the future land-use change from public semi-public to mixed-use bridge commercial.

The second motion, to change the Bridgetender’s designation to a major development, passed 3-2 with stipulations, which were accepted by Marvin on behalf of Bartizal.

Lynch and Andy Mincieli voted “nay.”

The stipulations included compliance with the June 2017 concept plan, storage of outdoor bar and accessories upon notice of a hurricane warning, presence of an on-site parking attendant 5-9 p.m. December-May and submission of permits, plans and surveys to the city engineer for review and coordination with the city’s sea-level rise planning and the master plan for the district.

County approves ‘green’ mixed development in Cortez

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Hunters Point Resort & Marina, 12444 Cortez Road W., east of the Cortez Bridge on the north side of Cortez Road, was approved Jan. 11 by the Manatee Board of County Commissioners as a mixed-use development, including 86 energy-efficient homes. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Environmentally friendly tiny homes seem to have won favor in Cortez as well as approval from the county board.

The developers apparently found the right mix of energy-efficient tiny homes, vacation rentals, resort living, waterfront access and favor among the community. Even the name harkens back to the origins of Cortez, an area marked on maps as Hunters Point before the commercial fishing village grew to be known as Cortez.

“We will not trim the mangroves,” developer Marshall Gobuty said Jan. 11, before Hunters Point Resort & Marina gained the Manatee Board of County Commissioners’ unanimous approval.

The developer’s promise preceded the vote and responded to Commissioner Carol Whitmore’s concern for nesting birds in the mangroves buffering the canals at the development site.

Mangrove trimming was one of a few concerns voiced at the hearing.

What turned heads were the 86 energy-ready homes proposed by Gobuty, the developer of Mirabella in northwest Bradenton and founder and principal of Pearl Homes and the head of Cortez Road Investments and Finance Inc.

The BOCC vote approved Hunters Point’s preliminary site plan and rezone of 6.31 acres of the 18.73-acre site at the northeast base of the Cortez Bridge.

The rezone changes 5.01 acres of canals and 1.3 acres zoned commercial to align with the remaining “mixed-use” designation approved in August 2006 for a project that was previously abandoned.

Each of the Pearl Homes will feature rooftop solar panels, battery storage system and an electric car charging station, and will be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum green criteria. The LEED certification ensures third-party verification, according to the developer.

“He will have to build these or he will have to come back to you,” Gobuty’s attorney, Caleb Grimes, said.

Partnering with the developer is Tesla and Panasonic.

“Each Hunters Point property comes with a new electric-powered Tesla vehicle” and the development will feature Panasonic “Smart Community” technology, including smart street lighting and enhanced security monitoring, according to Pearl Homes’ Jan. 12 news release.

The Hunters Point plan calls for 86 residential cottages, 45,620 square feet of non-residential use, including 62 hotel rooms in five buildings, a clubhouse, restaurant and marina with 48 dock slips and a dedicated slip for a water taxi.

Grimes told the commission that the developer has not met with the Florida Department of Transportation on the bridge.

The DOT is expected to announce either a new 35-foot bascule bridge or a fixed, 65-foot-clearance bridge to replace the 1957 bridge, a few hundred feet from the site.

“We would lose basically the western part of the hotel resort area,” if the DOT constructs the high bridge, Grimes said.

The community is expected to operate as a resort, including vacation homes.

Whitmore also addressed concerns voiced at a December planning commission hearing — where commissioners unanimously recommended the project — about the transient nature of vacation rentals.

Legal research indicates state law prohibits the county from regulating rentals and a zoned “Cortez overlay” has no such restrictions, according to Whitmore.

County planner Margaret Tusing said staff recommended the BOCC approval because of its infill design, green transportation options, walkability and use of current infrastructure.

The only negative aspect, according to staff, was its location in the coastal high hazard, coastal evacuation and coastal planning areas, but that was mitigated by the developer’s emergency preparedness plan and notice to purchasers.

Karen Bell, a business owner and resident of 125th Street West in Cortez, spoke in favor of the development.

She said that in operating Star Fish Restaurant and caring about the neighborhood, she closes at 8 p.m. and doesn’t have entertainment.

“You have to have people who care about what they’re doing…. I know in my heart they care about what’s going on,” Bell said.

Another neighbor, Robert Boyatt of 42nd Avenue Drive West in Cortez, complimented the developer on creating a “cool project,” but worried about 23 docks in the canals that would be transferred to a homeowner association.

Grimes twice said a declaration, which runs with the land, would protect “properly permitted docks” from future interference.

Another citizen asked about the old gas station on the property and whether the underground fuel tanks had been removed.

Grimes said prior owners have assured they were removed, but a Phase I environmental assessment for the property would be undertaken.

Commissioner Steve Jonsson said he was concerned about traffic, considering Penn Bay, Lake Flores and a new Cortez Bridge, but added, Hunters Point “sounds like it will be more transient.”

“I think it’s a home run,” Commissioner Robin D’Sabatino said, adding she’d never seen a development with “all the citizens so in favor of a project.”

Whitmore said she preferred the smaller homes over “a bunch of RVs.”

Commissioner Betsy Benac motioned for the development’s approval because of the consistency to the county’s comprehensive plan and land development code.

“And because it’s cool,” she said.

Bradenton Beach commissioners discuss lawsuit in the shade

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The Bradenton Beach mayor and commissioners meet Jan. 9 in the police department conference room with attorney Robert Watrous and paralegal Michael Barfield, top left, both of Sarasota, to discuss a lawsuit. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Bradenton Beach commissioners met Jan. 10 in a shade meeting to discuss strategies for a lawsuit initiated in August by former Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city, against several now-former board members who allegedly violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws.

Due to attorney-client privilege, the majority of the three-hour meeting was closed to the public, including the paralegal for the case, Michael Barfield. A court reporter was present.

The meeting concluded with a unanimous vote for attorney Robert Watrous to continue working on the suit, as directed.

As of Jan. 10, the city had spent $42,322 on the lawsuit.

ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation posted the following notice for the week of Jan. 15:

  • State Road 789/Gulf Drive from SR 64/Manatee Avenue to SR 684/Cortez Road: Manatee County crews are replacing force mains and water mains. For more information about the project, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.