BB Sunshine defendants extend new offer

Less than two months remain until a trial date.

And the six defendants have placed offers to compromise on the table.

The lawsuit against six former Bradenton Beach volunteer board members initiated by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city, alleges the board members violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law by discussing city matters at meetings that were not publicly noticed and through emails, texts and phone calls.

Defendant John Metz’s attorney Tom Shults and defendants Reed Mapes, Tjet Martin, Patty Shay and Bill and Rose Vincent, who are representing themselves in the lawsuit, emailed letters to city attorney Ricinda Perry and Robert Watrous, the city and Clarke’s attorney for the lawsuit, with the same offer to compromise.

Both letters stated the defendants are willing to “settle with the city and Clarke only if they dismiss this lawsuit against all defendants with prejudice.”

The letter from Shults stated that to end the lawsuit the city must pay Metz $42,000 and Clarke must pay $14,000, amounting to 40% of Metz’s attorney fees and costs for the suit as of the end of April.

Mapes’ email stated his settlement will require the city pay $14,000 and Clarke pay $8,400. Martin’s letter stated the city must pay $1,000 and Clarke must pay $600. Shay’s letter stated her settlement will require the city pay $901.52 and Clarke to pay $444. The Vincent’s stated their settlement will require the city to pay $4,000 and Clarke to pay $1,000.

Each letter stated the requested payments represent 40% of the defendant’s costs to date for the lawsuit.

All the offers stated any future proposals would result in requests for the city and Clarke to pay a higher percentage of legal fees incurred by the defendants.

In March, the city made an offer that would have required each of the defendants to pay $500 and admit they violated the Sunshine Law during meetings of the grass-roots group Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach, of which the defendants were members while also serving on volunteer city boards.

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

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

When the mayor and city commissioners declined the defendants’ compromise offer, they agreed that the defendants’ language in the agreement, stating they “may” have violated the Sunshine Law, was not definitive and decided to proceed with the suit and let the court determine the outcome.

Then, in April, the mayor and commissioners presented the defendants with an offer to end the suit without an admission of guilt — if the defendants paid the court costs incurred by taxpayers at that time, more than $165,000.

The defendants declined.

Both offers from the city remain open.

The city has until 5 p.m. Friday, June 7, to respond to the new offers from the defendants.