Bradenton Beach prepares to counter Sunshine suit settlement offer

Deal or no deal?

Mediation regarding a settlement to be recovered by Bradenton Beach from the defendants in a Sunshine Law suit are heating up.

Reed Mapes, one of the six defendants alongside John Metz, Tjet Martin, Patty Shay, Bill Vincent and Rose Vincent, told The Islander Jan. 29 that Metz offered $200,000 to settle with the city after a Jan. 13 closed-door mediation session failed to result in an agreement.

The city has spent $468,433 as of Jan. 29 on attorneys’ fees and legal costs relating to the lawsuit, according to city treasurer Shayne Thompson.

Judge Edward Nicholas of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court ruled in July 2019 that the defendants violated the Florida Sunshine Law by discussing municipal matters at 2017 Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach meetings. At the time, the defendants also served as members of the city’s planning and zoning board or the Scenic Waves Partnership Committee.

The Florida Sunshine Law is a series of policies designed to ensure public access to public records of Florida’s governmental bodies. The law prohibits city officials from discussing municipal business with each other outside of public meetings, which defendants did during meetings of the now-defunct grass-roots group CNOBB.

Nicholas also ruled in November 2019 that the city is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees, with an amount to be determined at a future hearing.

All defendants but Shay are appealing Nicholas’ rulings.

A fees-related court hearing was scheduled for Jan. 27, but was canceled. The hearing has yet to be rescheduled, so the parties met in the shade Jan. 28 to continue mediation.

Shade meetings allow public officials to discuss strategies for pending litigation in private using a municipality’s right to attorney-client privilege. However, transcripts of the meetings must be made public after the litigation ends.

City attorney Ricinda Perry told The Islander Jan. 29 the mediation discussions are confidential so she couldn’t detail the meeting.

She said the city is preparing a counteroffer for the defendants.

Metz did not respond to a Jan. 29 phone call.