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Date of Issue: March 05, 2008

Former pier restaurant operators mediate with Bradenton Beach

If Bradenton Beach city commissioners thought it had seen the last of Karen and Jake Gallo when they gave them the boot in September 2004 as operators of the city pier restaurant, they were mistaken.

The Gallos, operating as Bradenton Beach Pier Cafe Inc., filed a lawsuit in late September 2004 claiming the lease they had with the city was wrongfully terminated by the commission.

After more than three years of court motions and hearings, Circuit Court Judge Peter Dubensky on Dec. 3, 2007, set a trial date for May 19. That order, however, has since been superseded by one from Judge Ed Nicholas who ordered both sides to mediation. The mediation is scheduled for March 7, said attorney Don Scarlett, who represents the Gallos.

In the original lawsuit, the Gallos claim they had paid $200,000 for furnishings, equipment, supplies and inventory when they started the restaurant in 2003. Because of the termination before the end of their two-year lease, they lost all their equipment, they claim.

The lease was terminated at the commission’s Sept. 16, 2004, meeting, just 12 days after storms from a passing hurricane tore off the roof of the restaurant, court documents claim.

The lawsuit alleges that this decision was a breach of contract. Scarlett also alleged in an amended complaint that there was a Sunshine Law violation because some commissioners and the mayor discussed the termination while the meeting was recessed.

The amended motion alleges that during a 12-minute recess at the Sept. 16, 2004, meeting, commissioners and then-Mayor John Chappie discussed the Gallos and the motion to terminate their lease.

According to Scarlett, a court reporter at the meeting left the recorder on during the recess. Scarlett has submitted the tape of the meeting, including the discussion during the recess, as evidence in the case.

Efforts to reach Bradenton Beach Mayor Mike Pierce for comment were unsuccessful. Pierce did not hold any office with the city at the time of the termination.

Attorney Greg Hootman of Sarasota is representing the city through its membership in the Florida League of Cities.