Bradenton Beach defendants reject new settlement offer

Another offer, another rejection.

The back-and-forth continues in the case of Bradenton Beach and ex-Mayor Jack Clarke v. six former city board members.

And a slew of depositions and a court date draws near.

The offer, which was approved by the mayor and city commissioners at an April 9 shade meeting, would allow the defendants pay legal fees incurred by taxpayers — now $203,118.93 — to end the suit with no admission of guilt.

But the defendants — Reed Mapes, Tjet Martin, John Metz, Patty Shay and Bill and Rose Vincent — have said they will not accept the newest offer proferred by the city to settle the lawsuit alleging they violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.

The defendants were given until May 2 to accept or decline the offer.

The suit claims the defendants discussed city matters at meetings of the grass-roots group Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach, of which the defendants were members while also serving on volunteer city boards. According to the city’s allegations, the meetings were not properly noticed and the defendants also communicated city business through emails, texts and phone calls.

The latest offer also stipulates that the defendants must provide all requested public records to the city’s attorney for the lawsuit, Robert Watrous, within 30 days of agreeing to the terms.

“Where do they think we are going to come up with $200,000?” Martin said in an April 27 interview with The Islander. “Five of the six of us have gone pro se.”

Martin said the five defendants are without legal representation because they can’t afford the expense of an attorney.

In March, the city made an offer that would have required the defendants each pay fines of $500 and admit they violated the Sunshine Law.

The defendants responded with an “offer to compromise,” to make a $10,000 donation to the Annie Silver Community Center or a suitable nonprofit and exclude any admission of guilt and the $500 per-person fine.

Their offer also stipulated that the city and the defendants each would pay their own legal fees.

If no counteroffer is made by the defendants and accepted by the city, the mayor, former Mayor Bill Shearon, city commissioners, some city staff, Metz, Rose Vincent and several former members of CNOBB will be deposed on various dates in May and June. The defendants also hope to continue deposing the city attorney, who also is co-counsel with Watrous.

As of April 27, hearings is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 3, and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, with Judge Edward Nicholas of the Manatee County 12th Judicial Circuit Court.

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