BB commissioner’s motion for legal support falls flat — again

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Bradenton Beach Commissioner Randy White, left, asks the city to provide an attorney for his deposition in the case of Bradenton Beach versus six former board members during an Aug. 2 commission meeting. Mayor John Chappie, right, reviews White’s subpoena for the deposition. Commissioner Ralph Cole is seated between White and Chappie. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

“I’ll just say it,” Commissioner Randy White said Aug. 2 during a city commission meeting. “I feel like the new kid in the high school cafeteria.”

White is the only commission member ordered to give a deposition in the lawsuit filed August 2017 by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and Bradenton Beach against six former city board members alleging violations of Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws.

At the Aug. 2 meeting, White made a motion requesting “independent legal representation paid by the city” for the deposition, set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, at Vincent M. Lucentes & Associates Court Reporters, 526 12th St. W., Bradenton.

The motion died for lack of support.

The lawsuit alleges some board members of the planning and zoning board and the Scenic WAVES Partnership Committee violated the Sunshine Law by discussing city matters at meetings of the now-defunct Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach.

Additionally, the city is alleging the defendants exchanged emails regarding city business that could have come before them as board members.

The notice of deposition calls for White to produce Aug. 1, 2017-July 6 emails, text messages and Messenger chats with defendants Reed Mapes, Tjet Martin, John Metz, Patty Shay and Rose and Bill Vincent, as well as former Mayor Bill Shearon, former commissioner Janie Robertson and Carol and Mike Harrington, all CNOBB members.

White — who showed support for CNOBB’s cause — was not a member of the organization.

He was elected Nov. 6, 2017.

During public comment, Metz, a former attorney and defendant in the lawsuit, said White deserves representation as a city commissioner.

“I understand some of it was before he was elected, but also if any of it was after the time he was sworn in, I think he certainly should be given a defense,” Metz said.

“Had I not been a candidate, I don’t think this would be going on,” White said, adding the he is a target as the voice of opposition on the commission.

Since his election to the commission, White frequently has questioned the cost to the city for the ex-mayor’s lawsuit.

As of Aug. 2, attorney fees for the city in the suit are $80,085.80.

When White asked for representation at the July 19 city commission meeting, after being subpoenaed but before receiving the court summons, Mayor John Chappie said White should hold his request until he was served.

At the Aug. 2 meeting, Chappie said White hasn’t provided the commission with the appropriate documents to decide on his motion.

“You didn’t give us everything and I don’t know why,” Chappie said.

He said he would like to look at the court-issued summons — a one-page document — before determining if White is being served as a commissioner or a private citizen.

“I have no way of knowing if this is something you did on your own or dealing with city business,” Chappie said.

Chappie also said he doesn’t understand why White didn’t contact city attorney Ricinda Perry or attorney Robert Watrous, first hired by Clarke, but now representing the city — and paid only by the city — in the lawsuit. Clarke was absolved of paying fees by the city.

“I’ve been up here doing my job as everybody else has, and suddenly I have to go for a deposition,” White said. “Clearly, that’s not because I am Randy White, the guy who lives here and has another job on the road. It has to do with city business. I don’t remember being a CNOBB member, but there’s a lot of them that were. How come they’re not being called?” White asked.

White said the city “is putting the onus” on his shoulders and he does not feel supported by the commission.

Chappie said “at the end of the day,” if White was acting as a city commissioner, the city will consider White’s request for representation.

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