Anna Maria settles federal case with developer, avoids trial

The case between developer Shawn Kaleta and the city of Anna Maria is resolved — for now.

Judge James D. Whittemore dismissed the case of Shawn Kaleta and Beach to Bay Construction LLC v. city of Anna Maria Oct. 11 in a document filed after the city’s notice of settlement in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida.

The dismissal was “without prejudice,” giving either party an opportunity to reopen the case for 60 days “with good cause.”

After 60 days, Whittemore ordered “dismissal shall be with prejudice” — meaning the decision will be final.

“We are very pleased with the settlement,” said Kaleta attorney Louis Najmy, principle with the Najmy Thompson law firm, adding the agreement is not “completely finalized.”

In an Oct. 13 text, Najmy said the plaintiffs were pleased to achieve an “economic component” to the agreement, but “cannot release the amount until the final settlement is signed.”

About the city apology, he added, “the city leaders collectively and correctly feel Shawn Kaleta is a valuable member of the community and he and the city should work together to make the city even better.”

Attorney John T. Conner of Dean, Ringers, Morton and Lawton PA, provided under the city’s $1.5 million Florida League of Cities insurance policy, filed the notice of settlement.

Mayor Dan Murphy told The Islander he had “absolutely nothing” to say on the topic.

Along with a monetary settlement of an undetermined amount, the city also has agreed to non-monetary terms.

After a shade meeting to settle the final details, Anna Maria commissioners unanimously approved a resolution for the non-monetary part of the settlement.

The resolution retracts “any and all statements made by any city official that Mr. Shawn Kaleta and/or Beach to Bay Construction LLC … were ever banned from obtaining permits in the city of Anna Maria. This ban simply never happened.”

In addition, the city retracts statements from September 2015 that said Kaleta “repeatedly performed unpermitted work and endangered the city and its citizens,” describing such statements as untrue.

“The city recognizes that these statements may have harmed Mr. Kaleta and his business,” the agreement states, adding that Anna Maria “looks forward to a positive relationship with Mr. Kaleta … now and in the future.”

The resolution also requires the city to relocate gumbo limbo trees recently planted in front of 101 Willow Ave., a Kaleta-owned property, as well as trimming and topping Australian pine trees and trimming seagrape trees at that location after sea turtle season ends, and to pay for the cost of the relocation.

Finally, the city agreed to implement a written policy within 30 days that clarifies handling of building permit applications to prevent discrimination.

The agreement, drafted in a resolution, was passed Oct. 12 without public discussion.

Kaleta first filed his case in February 2016, alleging blackballing efforts against him and his development company, Beach to Bay Construction, violated his First and 14th Amendment rights.

Kaleta’s lawsuit sought as much as $12.3 million in damages and was scheduled to go to trial in November.