I am a resident of Holmes Beach, and a city commissioner. Normally I would not comment on any actions taken by a neighboring city. In this case, however, I am so appalled at an action by the Bradenton Beach City Commission that I have to write. Bradenton Beach has decided to sue some of its own residents.
We are small cities, with a population mostly of retirees. It can be very difficult in such small towns to find people to serve on our commissions and committees. Bradenton Beach historically has had difficulty finding people to serve in these capacities. Now that the city is suing several of its citizen volunteers, I can about guarantee that no one will want to serve on any of their, and possibly our, city committees. It is outrageous that the city is suing its citizens.
If a city believes, after some investigation, that people who serve on volunteer committees are in violation of the Sunshine law, they can simply remove the citizens from the committees. According to the Florida Attorney General website: “The local state attorney has the statutory authority to prosecute alleged criminal violations of the open meetings and public records law. Certain civil remedies are also available.”
What would be the civil remedy the city is seeking? Courts award monetary judgements. Bradenton Beach wants punishment money from their residents? Early on in my history as a city commissioner in Holmes Beach, I was outraged that my city was suing its neighbor Bradenton Beach. It would never have occurred to me that a city would even consider suing its own residents. Unbelievable. I hope Bradenton Beach commissioners will come to their senses and quickly back out of this action.