Bradenton Beach offers Sunshine suit settlement

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Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, left, Commissioners Marilyn Maro and Ralph Cole, city attorney Ricinda Perry and Commissioner Jake Spooner meet Feb. 28 to discuss settling a lawsuit. Commissioner Randy White attended by phone. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Mediation resulted in an impasse.

Still, Bradenton Beach extended a settlement offer.

At a Feb. 28 special meeting, city attorney Ricinda Perry informed the Bradenton Beach commission that the Feb. 25 mediation for a lawsuit, initiated by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city against six former board members, resulted in a stalemate.

However, she said the city has indicated it would settle the lawsuit, which deals with alleged Government-in-the-Sunshine Law violations, if the six defendants each paid fines of $500 and collectively admitted guilt.

Perry said that “on a number of occasions” at commission meetings, the mayor and commissioners indicated they would prefer to settle but, until now, no offer was made to defendants Reed Mapes, Tjet Martin, John Metz, Patty Shay and Rose and Bill Vincent.

According to Metz, none of the defendants were notified of the special meeting and, therefore, none of them attended.

As of Feb. 28, the suit had cost the city $168,294 and, according to Perry, the cost likely will increase to $250,000, not including appeals, if the case goes to trial.

Perry said some records requested by the defendants were allegedly destroyed or not provided, which could result in additional counts against the defendants, further escalating the cost for the suit.

The attorney presented a one-sheet summary of the lawsuit to the mayor and commissioners and reminded them “this was a case of sue or be sued.”

She said when the suit began in August 2017, the city had been warned that if it did not join Clarke’s suit against the board members, it could also be sued for violating the Sunshine Law.

“Let’s come together, set our differences aside, and if you are willing to acknowledge that you have made the mistakes, pay a $500 fine to the city and you can truly all walk away,” Perry rhetorically said to the defendants. “We will walk away.”

“We’ve been very consistent throughout this whole thing,” Mayor John Chappie said. “I’m in total agreement we need to move forward. Let’s stop this madness.”
Commissioner Marilyn Maro agreed.

“I think the taxpayers would like to see this happen,” she said.

The mayor and commissioners unanimously approved a motion to offer the defendants the agreed settlement terms.

Additionally, Commissioner Jake Spooner motioned for Perry to draft the settlement document and provide it to the defendants and their counsel, as well as disseminate the offer to the public “so the community can see the commission is making an effort to resolve the cost in an efficient manner,” which also passed with a unanimous vote.

As of March 1, the defendants had not said whether they would accept the offer.

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