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Date of Issue: July 05, 2007

Latest on lawsuit: The Islander v. Bradenton Beach Mayor Chappie

In response to yet another request by The Islander that the court set the case filed by The Islander against Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie for trial, the latest filing by the city again attempts to avoid a hearing.

The lawsuit is seeking records, documents and information pertaining to the allegations of sexual harassment by one city employee against another, and the subsequent investigation and alleged private meetings and/or phone conversations.

A motion for summary judgment was filed June 27 in the circuit court as to all counts of The Islander’s lawsuit in which the city’s attorney, Ricinda Perry, again attempts to have the court rule without hearing any evidence other than her own version of events.

Perry previously refused to provide any dates on which she or any other witnesses could be deposed, and then filed a motion to prevent the depositions from taking place when they were set without her input on scheduling. Now, after The Islander again asked the court to set the case for trial, Perry has filed her own self-made affidavit giving her account on the matter, providing the court with her own version of events, and asking the court to rule on that alone.

Perry first asserts that alleged meetings between herself and more than one commissioner were not public meetings subject to the Sunshine Law.

Perry also asserts public records compiled during the active and pending investigation of sexual harassment were exempt under Chapter 112, Florida’s whistle-blower act.

She states the claim “is not disputed that Bradenton Beach was conducting an investigation … and as a result of the investigation, defendant’s legal counsel spoke with city commissioners on an individual basis during this timeframe.”

The motion further asserts that “prior to and during this litigation, Bradenton Beach provided plaintiff with all public records not exempt under Chapter 112,” and also made available to plaintiff “all public records previously deemed exempt.…”

In Perry’s affidavit, she states that she conducted the investigation of sexual harassment; and that she contacted Commissioners Shaughnessy, Pierce, Robertson and Shearon by phone on Feb. 23 and March 7.

She further states that no information or content of any commissioner’s conversation was conveyed to another commissioner.

She claims that no information was conveyed “that would require official action by any member of the commission.”

Perry outlined the supposed content of her two conversations, stating that on March 7 she told the commissioners that “McAdam had resigned and the commission needed to meet and hold a special emergency meeting to accept his resignation.”

And she noted that Commissioner Shaughnessy expressed frustration with the lack of information provided to him regarding the complaint and investigation.

Perry notes in her affidavit that she had meetings with Chappie “on a regular basis immediately prior to and during the sexual harassment investigation, that they discussed his role as the administrative head of the city, and how and where the investigation would be conducted.

Perry also claims that during the investigation, she was charged with assisting the clerk with providing all public records for inspection and copying.

Her motion and affidavit still fails to explain, however, how all the commissioners and the mayor decided to take any action if they were not provided any information or documentation in private. Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws requires that city actions be discussed openly in public meetings and that public records be disclosed upon request by any member of the public.