A former DeFuniak Springs police captain has filed a civil lawsuit claiming City Council members met in violation of the Sunshine Law to plot his firing.
David Krika says he was fired in 2012 after he pointed out “anomalies” — including evidence of Sunshine Law violations — in a city manager candidate’s application process.
Krika’s attorney, Stephen Webster, said what he has seen of City Council members flaunting open-meeting laws boggles the mind.
“It’s so brazen. There just doesn’t seem to be any respect for the law,” Webster said. “It’s not right. It’s just not right.”
The first alleged Sunshine Law violation cited in the lawsuit occurred Sept. 10, 2012, when the council convened to act on DeFuniak Springs City Marshal Mark Weeks’ recommendation that Krika be fired.
At that meeting, Councilman Mac Work, responding to a city resident’s inquiry as to why the council would vote on a police chief’s personnel move, answered, “We are concurring with his recommendation.”
“Unfortunately,” the lawsuit states, “Councilman Work notified the audience of the council’s decision prior to the official vote being taken.”
It claims “several witnesses” saw council members discussing the firing before the meeting convened.
The Sunshine Law bars elected members of a government body from discussing issues they could be asked to vote on when they are outside a publicly noticed meeting.
Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole recently was sanctioned for having a conversation with a fellow member of a civic improvement board. Cole’s conversation took place just prior to a meeting being called to order.
Work, who lost his City Council seat in a Tuesday election, denied ever violating the Sunshine Law in 15 years of public service.
“I’m not worried about that lawsuit. I’m not guilty of anything,” Work said.
DeFuniak Springs City Attorney Clayton Adkinson, who had not looked at the lawsuit in depth, said: “I don’t understand what he (Krika) is trying to do. He’s saying someone made one comment and that suggested the council had met in secret.”
The reason the council was even considering Krika’s termination, the lawsuit alleges, is that City Marshal Weeks had decided to fire him for taking evidence of suspicious city activity to the FBI.
It says Krika was assigned to do a background check on a city manager candidate.
“The council violated the Sunshine Act by having private discussions regarding (the candidate’s) candidacy for the position of city manager,” the lawsuit says.
The candidate ultimately withdrew his name from consideration for the city manager’s job.
The suit also hints at widespread corruption in Walton County.
Webster said his suspicions of local government in Walton County run so deep he chose to file a civil suit and face a judge trial rather than seek criminal sanctions for the alleged Sunshine Law violations.
“I don’t have much faith in anybody over there,” he said.
DeFuniak Springs council members Ron Kelley and Kermit Wright, both of whom were elected in 2011 and won re-election Tuesday, denied ever being party to Sunshine Law violations.
“The Sunshine Law is a communist plot straight out of Stalin. I don’t like it or anything that restricts free speech. It’s against everything I stand for,” Wright said. “I hate it, but I’m not going to jail for it. It’s a law I despise, but I have to honor it.”
Wright said he has gone so far as to remove the telephone numbers of fellow council members from his phone. He said he purposely sits in his truck on meeting nights until just before they start to avoid contact with anyone beforehand.
The Krika lawsuit requests that a judge order the city to desist from “engaging in any further actions which violate the Sunshine Act.” It also requests that Krika’s attorney fees be paid along with “all other relief deemed equitable.”
Adkinson said he will turn the lawsuit over to counsel for the Florida League of Cities.
Original article here.