The Islander by ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
August 8, 2017
The city of Bradenton Beach is joining a legal investigation of several planning and zoning board members who allegedly violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws.
At an Aug. 3 city meeting, commissioners and Mayor Bill Shearon voted unanimously to join an investigation initiated by paralegal consultant Michael Barfield, under the direction of attorney Robert Watrous of Sarasota, of several P&Z members for alleged Sunshine Law violations during a private meeting.
Bradenton Beach P&Z members Reed Mapes, John Metz, Patty Shay and Bill Vincent also are steering committee members of the recently formed grass-roots group, Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach. Vincent is chair and founder of CNOBB.
Following a July 27 CNOBB steering committee meeting, where discussion was held on the possibility of a parking garage in the city, city attorney Ricinda Perry distributed an email to the group, mayor and city commissioners, warning that discussion of city matters with more than one member of a board present could result in violations of open meeting laws.
The parking garage was considered by Perry as a land-use issue prohibited for discussion by board members outside of city meetings.
Perry listened to meeting recordings on the CNOBB website, cnobb.org, and then recommended the city take action to prevent it from being “exposed to litigation.”
At an Aug. 3 city commission meeting, Vice Mayor John Chappie motioned to amend the agenda to add the matter for immediate discussion.
“It’s serious stuff with Tallahassee and the ethics board up there,” Chappie said. “They don’t mess around.”
Shearon said the city is threatened “all the time” and until there is something to worry about, the city should not take action.
Chappie said, “This not a casual request, it is coming from our city attorney. Hopefully no harm, no foul, and we can take corrective action if necessary.”
Perry said according to CNOBB meeting recordings, P&Z members were talking about matters which might come before them, including the parking garage, which is included as a possible project in the updated community redevelopment plan.
Perry said Aug. 3 she had been contacted by Barfield with concerns about the P&Z members’ actions. She said his group is investigating the issue and “looking to file a complaint,” which could place the city in legal jeopardy.
Perry said she is concerned CNOBB will continue to place the city at risk.
During public comment, Vincent tendered his resignation from the P&Z board and said he planned to ask Mapes, Metz and Shay to resign as members of the CNOBB steering committee.
“I’ve been naïve, and perhaps misguided in thinking grown adults, knowing about the Sunshine Law, could voluntarily and effectively stay away from it,” Vincent said Aug. 3. [READ MORE]