Tag Archives: News

Holmes Beach woman arrested for DUI

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A possible overdose led Holmes Beach police to a woman in a white Jaguar who overstayed her welcome at the pump at a gas station.

Eileen Riley, 56, of Holmes Beach, was arrested for driving under the influence after she was found slumped over the wheel of her car at 10:20 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Citgo, 3015 Gulf Drive.

The gas station operator told police the car had been parked at the pump for at least three hours.

When Officer Tom Fraser arrived, he took Riley’s cellphone and purse from her lap, turned off her car’s engine and made several attempts to rouse her, according to a police report.

After she woke up, she allegedly performed poorly on a field sobriety test and provided breath samples, which measured 0.00 on two tries.

Riley told the officer she was tired after eating Thanksgiving turkey earlier that day.

She allegedly refused to provide a urine sample.

Found in Riley’s vehicle were three bottles of prescription drugs commonly used for opioid dependence and nerve pain, which police seized as evidence, the report stated.

Riley was transported and booked into the Manatee County jail. She was released on a $1,000 bond.

Her arraignment is set for 8:25 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation posted the following advisories for the week of Dec. 11:

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

State Road 789/Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach: Crews are installing a sidewalk along Gulf Drive from south of 13th Street South to the North Coquina Beach Boat Ramp. Crews are finalizing work and cleaning up the site. Watch for daytime lane closures. Expected completion is late 2017.

State Road 684/Cortez Road at 119th Street West in Cortez: Crews are working on signals and concrete medians. Motorists should expect lane closures at any hour. Expected completion is late 2017.

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

Prosecutor charges man in child’s death

The 12th Circuit State Attorney’s Office filed formal charges in the case of a 31-year-old man arrested for killing a toddler in Holmes Beach.

David Vickers, 31, formerly of Apollo Beach, was arrested Oct. 11 by Holmes Beach police after HBPD, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Crimes Against Children and state Child Protective Services investigated the August death.

The state filed a formal charging document Oct. 31, which included the second-degree murder and neglect of a child with great bodily harm recommended by HBPD and added a charge of aggravated manslaughter.

Vickers is being held in Manatee County jail without bond.

Luca Sholey, 17 months old, lived with family members and Vickers in the 200 block of Peacock Lane and died Aug. 23, allegedly in Vickers’ care.

Assistant State Attorney Dawn Buff said she added the manslaughter charge “to cover the bases.”

An autopsy in August identified the cause of death as a swollen brain and indicated broken ribs in various stages of healing.

Vickers has been in the county jail since an Aug. 24 arrest for a revoked driver’s license and allegedly possessing marijuana. HBPD arrested Vickers in jail several days later for allegedly stealing a laptop and stereo from Sholey’s mother.

In September, the prosecutor reduced the license charge and transferred the case to a misdemeanor court. The theft case is pending in circuit court.

Vickers faces up to life in prison, a life probation and a $10,000 fine on the second-degree murder charge.

The aggravated child-abuse charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, 15 years probation and a $10,000 fine.

Life in prison, life on probation and a $10,000 fine are maximum sentences for the manslaughter count.

Vickers remains in custody without bond on the homicide counts. A $100,000 bond was set for the abuse charge, according to the MCSO jail website.

His next court date is 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Cole regains Bradenton Beach commission seat in 3-1 vote

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Ralph Cole, who previously served as a Bradenton Beach commissioner, addresses the mayor and commissioners prior to being voted the fifth commissioner Dec. 6 during a special meeting at city hall. The vote was 3-1, with newly elected Commissioner Randy White casting the dissenting vote. The seat opened when then-Commissioner John Chappie resigned to run for mayor in November. Cole, who lost his seat to White in the Nov. 7 election, will now retake a seat on the dais. Planning and zoning board vice chair Jim Lynch also applied and was considered for the open seat. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver-Esformes

Anna Maria loses FEMA discount, fires building official

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Anna Maria city commissioners look on Nov. 30 as building official Jimmy Strickland explains why he failed to comply with FEMA requirements. Islander Photos: Bianca Benedí

Missteps in reporting to the Federal Emergency Management Agency by the Anna Maria building official got him fired.

A unanimous vote of no confidence from Anna Maria commissioners Nov. 30 resulted in the termination of building official Jimmy Strickland’s employment with the city.

In August, another misstep was overlooked and Strickland gained a vote of confidence.

At the Nov. 30 commission meeting, however, the situation revealed by Mayor Dan Murphy was more dire.

Murphy said that due to neglect on the part of the building official, the city lost its citywide 25 percent discount from FEMA for the National Flood Insurance Program.

All property owners in the city have been affected by the loss since late October.

Murphy said FEMA representative Craig Carpenter informed him in October that the city would lose its discount due to a lack of information submitted to FEMA on steps taken by the city to mitigate flood risks.

The discount is calculated based on FEMA’s community rating system.

In December 2016, Strickland was to send FEMA a number of documents detailing efforts the city had made to provide significant investments.

However, Strickland failed to provide FEMA with the correct documentation showing those efforts.

Over the next 10 months, Carpenter claimed, Strickland either ignored multiple requests for information or responded with inadequate information.

Murphy said after he spoke to Carpenter, city staff was given 20 days to come up with the necessary paperwork.

Thanks to that effort, the paperwork has been submitted, but the city is “at the mercy of FEMA at this point,” Murphy said.

Commission Chair Doug Copeland said it was “shocking” for the city to lose its discount, given the effort Anna Maria put into reducing flood risk.

“In the past, building officials have worked hard, and we’ve had a superior discount to Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach,” he said.


Strickland sites overload

      Murphy told commissioners Nov. 30 that Strickland had not informed him there was a problem prior to Carpenter’s letter landing in his hands.

When the letter arrived, Murphy said Strickland told him he had not fulfilled the FEMA request due to the massive amount of documentation required.

Strickland said it was too much for him to take on himself, according to Murphy.

      The city needs a flood-plain expert, Strickland told Murphy, to handle day-to-day FEMA documents.

      Strickland doubled down on his claims when he addressed the commission.

      “You need a lot of training for the documentation they want and it’s constant work. … We really need the extra position” to keep up with the FEMA workload, he said.

Strickland said he had not brought the issue to the attention of the mayor because he didn’t realize FEMA would impose a deadline.

“We were still working on things when they came in and said, ‘you’re done,’” Strickland said.

Commissioner Brian Seymour asked Strickland why the issue of inadequate staffing had not been brought to the city earlier or to Strickland’s contractual employer, M.T. Causley Inc.

Causley offers building, consulting engineering and government department service statewide from offices in Homestead, Florida.

The city contracts Causley for building services and Causley selects and provides — upon city approval — a professional, state-licensed official as well as the official’s benefits.

Copeland chided Strickland for failing to alert the city to the problem for more than 10 months, pointing out staff was able to gather the documents in 20 days after they were alerted.

      Copeland also directly asked Strickland whose responsibility it was to gather the documents.

In response, Strickland said, “I knew about some of the times and I had been working throughout the period of time.… I think a lot of it is, we were just so sheer busy.”

Strickland said if his department had a full-time flood-plain manager and he wasn’t obligated to do code enforcement, it wouldn’t happen again.

Commissioner Nancy Yetter asked why M.T. Causley appointed Strickland for the position if he lacked the training to do the job.

Murphy said past building officials managed the full scope of responsibility without problems.

Strickland received a vote of confidence from the commission Aug. 30, after the city learned he inappropriately signed off on a building permit without the necessary documentation.

Commissioners voted to retain Strickland, arguing that he had an otherwise-stellar record, but with a caveat that he take a public records course and FEMA training.

Seymour asked Strickland Nov. 30 if he had taken or enrolled in either course.

Strickland said he had not.

“It appears to me from history and the situation we’re in right now, you failed in your responsibility to look out for our city and our people and our rating system,” Commissioner Dale Woodland said, adding that he was “disappointed” with Strickland’s performance.

Call for applicants

      Murphy put out a request for proposals in October seeking applications for a new building official, bypassing the contractual provider for building department services, M.T. Causley.

He said 30 candidates responded to the application. Of the 30, three were qualified and one appeared to be a good fit for the city. Murphy said he would interview that candidate within the next few weeks.

Murphy said he was withholding the name of the candidate at the candidate’s request, to protect the applicant’s current job.

Tom Walsh, regional manager at M.T. Causley, told the mayor and commission his firm is prepared to provide a new building official that is trained in flood-plain management.

Murphy said he would consider the offer.

President voted out of AMI chamber

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Deb Wing, former president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce is seated with members July 27 at the Beach House Restaurant, Bradenton Beach, following a chamber ribbon-cutting. Islander Photo: Sandy Ambrogi

After an almost decade-long stint at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, the president has been dismissed.

Deb Wing, who served in various positions, including four years as vice president prior to two years in the top position, was handed a termination letter Dec. 1 by the chamber board president, Eric Cairns.

Wing said she submitted a resignation letter almost a month prior, but was asked to take two weeks to think over her decision.

In a letter dated Nov. 8 to the chamber executive board, comprising appointed local business leaders, Wing resigned.

“I just wasn’t getting the support I felt I needed,” Wing said about the resignation.

She began her chamber career in 2009 as an administrative assistant.

Wing said her decision followed months of frustration over issues with the chamber. During that time, she was vocal about issues, such as long hours and shortness of staff.

Then came a fray with Anna Maria General Store owner Brian Seymour, an Anna Maria city commissioner, regarding his complaints about Bayfest, a chamber organized-event held Oct. 21 on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria.

Seymour said he experienced problems at his business during the festival with the chamber’s alcohol restrictions and its private security firm and he shared his complaint at a city commission meeting.

The commission discussion included possible changes needed in the city’s special event permit related to security — private security versus Manatee County sheriff’s deputies, who routinely patrol the city.

“These issues culminated at Bayfest where commission issues were brought up again and things were said that weren’t true during a commission meeting regarding Bayfest.” Wing said in a Dec. 2 email to The Islander.

“I reacted more assertively and displayed my intolerance over comments made about me and the organization I love,” Wing wrote. She also said she may have crossed some boundaries.

Upon learning the news that Wing was fired from the chamber, Seymour said, “I’d like to hope that it’s not all over a disagreement about Bayfest security. I’d like to think they had other reasons. I’m sorry to hear that, I wish her well. I enjoyed working with her for the last several years.”

Wing took two week’s leave — as suggested by Cairns — after submitting her resignation letter to the board.

Cairns said he told Wing at the time she submitted the resignation letter that he could not “accept or reject the resignation at the time,” as it had to go before the chamber board.

Wing said she was surprised by the termination.

She said Cairns met her in a parking lot Dec. 1 as she was leaving a personal appointment and handed her the letter, telling her the board had “accepted” her resignation and she was out of a job.

The notice came the day she and the chamber staff and volunteers were preparing for the annual holiday tree-lighting event at the chamber office.

Cairns said the decision to accept Wing’s resignation was made at a special meeting of the chamber board on the evening of Nov. 30 at the chamber office.

Wing said she was unaware of the meeting.

Cairns gave a statement via phone to The Islander Dec. 2, clarifying the chambers actions around the dismissal.

“After ongoing discussions with the board, we accepted Debbie’s resignation Nov. 30 — with heavy hearts, we accepted it.” Cairns said.

“Please, join us in wishing Deb all the best in her future endeavors. We at the chamber will remain strong and tied to the community as we have been for years,” Cairns continued.

“Standing at the helm will be Terri Kinder and Cathy Pizzo, two very capable individuals that we are very fortunate to have until a replacement can be procured,” Cairns said.

He added that the search will begin immediately for Wing’s replacement and will be both local and national in scope.

“As all our members know, our ongoing commitment to the community remains undaunted,” Cairns said.

Cairns tenure as chair of the chamber board is up Dec. 31, when Island Coffee Haus proprietor Beverly Lesnick will take the gavel and head the search for a new chamber president.

“I saw an opportunity to elevate the status of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and take it to the next level. I had a lot of plans left undone. The only thing I have to say is that I was always fighting for our island, our businesses and our community,” Wing said.

Bradenton Beach P&Z member applies for commission seat

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Former Bradenton Beach Commissioner Jan Vosburgh and Jim Lynch, vice chair of the planning and zoning board and an applicant for the vacant seat on the city commission, meet in January on the steps of city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N. Islander File Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Will it be a card draw? Or musical chairs?

A seat on the Bradenton Beach dais is up for appointment and a new applicant has applied while another contender has withdrawn.

As of the Dec. 1 application deadline, planning and zoning board vice chair Jim Lynch had applied for the open city commission seat, while former P&Z member Bill Vincent withdrew the application he filed in November.

Additionally, former Ward 3 Commissioner Ralph Cole, who lost his seat to Randy White in the Nov. 7 election, also is vying to rejoin the commission.

Ward 4 Commissioner John Chappie was elected mayor Nov. 7, opening his seat to appointment by the commission.

However, with the passing of charter amendment 1, which replaces the city’s four wards with at-large elections, the seat became open to applicants from any area of the city — not just Ward 4.

“I just wanted to give them another option,” Lynch said Nov. 28. “I have the background, desire to help and I see it as an opportunity to offer my availability.”

Lynch, a former Hillsborough County attorney for 10 years, now retired, serves as a volunteer ombudsman, helping to resolve concerns between people living in assisted-care facilities — who often have no representation — and administrators.

Lynch said as commissioner, he would use his experience as a P&Z member, lawyer and ombudsman to help resolve issues in the city without the need for litigation.

He said it is important that issues brought before the city commission receive a “fair and objective hearing,” soliciting the views of all interested parties — residents and business owners.

“Local government should be very efficient and responsive to residents and contractors dealing with the city,” Lynch said. “Issues need to be addressed rationally and in a professional manner.”

Vincent, a commission candidate in the 2016 election, former Scenic Waves Partnership Committee member and former P&Z board member, has been actively involved in the city since 2007.

However, Vincent currently is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by former Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city, alleging he violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws as chair of the Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach while also serving on the P&Z board.

Vincent said Nov. 27 after grappling with the decision, he could not picture himself “sitting on the dais with two commissioners that voted to sue me and two others that are content to continue with the suit.”

He said he would have had to recuse himself from votes dealing with the suit, which he said would likely continue for at least a year.

Additionally, Vincent said, as CNOBB founder and chair, he has been pushing “free and fair elections” and would not feel comfortable being appointed.

“Now we will have three of five commissioners on the dais that either were appointed or ran unopposed,” Vincent said.

Vincent said he is supporting Lynch.

“We’ve had some good conversations and I can tell he really cares about what’s best for the city,” Vincent said Nov. 27.

If the vote for the appointment is split between the mayor and commissioners, the city again will determine the winner by a card draw for the third time in three years.

The special meeting to appoint the fifth commissioner will be at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

AMI-mainland bridge openings reduced by Coast Guard

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The Cortez Bridge bascule opens for a sailboat passing through on the Intracoastal Waterway. Islander File Photo

Some people say they don’t mind waiting on the bridge for boats to pass.

But if you’re among the people who loathe waiting for the drawbridge, some relief has arrived.

The U.S. Coast Guard has reduced the number of bridge openings from three times to twice an hour at the Anna Maria Island and Cortez drawbridges, as well as drawbridges at Stickney Point Road and Siesta Drive in Sarasota County.

The Cortez and Anna Maria Island drawbridges will now be limited 6 a.m.-7 p.m. daily to openings on demand from boaters at 15 and 45 minutes after the hour. Both bridges are required to open on signal from boaters from 7 p.m.-6 a.m. daily.

David Hutchinson, executive director for the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, notified Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and Mayors John Chappie of Bradenton Beach and Bob Johnson of Holmes Beach of the change in a Nov. 27 email.

The order as issued by Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown of the Seventh Coast Guard District in Miami is in effect.

The MPO and the three island mayors made the request in February to reduce the number of bridge openings, saying the surge of traffic formerly associated with winter-spring tourism is now a year-round consideration.

The Florida Department of Transportation, which owns and operates the bridges, also approved the change.

“The Coast Guard is modifying the four bridge schedules to provide for the reasonable needs of navigation and those of land transportation,” according to the ruling.

The Coast Guard reported receiving 118 comments in favor of the reduction and seven against.

The bridges will open twice per hour throughout the year, according to Jennifer Zercher of the Seventh Coast Guard District Bridge Office in Miami.

“Not allowing these bridges to open at least twice an hour would place an undue burden on the marine community,” according to the Coast Guard ruling.

The timing of bridge openings means a maximum wait time of 10 minutes for vessels, according to the Coast Guard.

Public vessels — those owned and operated by the U.S. government — and tugs with tows may request an opening at any time.

Cortez Bridge on State Road 684-Cortez Road spans the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway between Cortez and Bradenton Beach. The bridge has a vertical clearance of 22 feet.

Anna Maria Island Bridge on Manatee Avenue West spans the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, connecting Holmes Beach to Perico Island. The bridge has a vertical clearance of 24 feet.

White wedding

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Charter Capt. David White and Heather Booth celebrate their marriage with their daughter, Layla. The wedding and celebration were Nov. 2 at Anna Maria’s Bayfront Park. White and Booth became engaged on Egmont Key about two years ago. They planned a romantic view of Egmont from the park during their wedding vows, which they wrote. Booth’s parents are Anne Marie and Christopher Booth of Moore Haven. White’s mother is Helen Davis of Danville, Illinois. Stepmother Trisha and brother JD also were part of the wedding, with JD serving as a groomsman. Family attended from the Carolinas, Pennsylvania and California. The White family resides in Cortez. Islander Courtesy Photo