Kaleta to receive $1 million settlement

Kaleta Settlement
Mayor Dan Murphy was named as a defendant in the federal lawsuit that has now been settled out of court. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – Developer Shawn Kaleta and his Beach to Bay construction company will receive a $1 million payment according to settlement terms negotiated to end a federal lawsuit filed against the city of Anna Maria in 2016.

Because of an insurance policy the city holds through the Florida League of Cities, the $1 million payment will be made by the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust and not by city taxpayers. The insurance policy is capped at $1 million in terms of settlement payments.

The financial terms were negotiated by Kaleta’s attorneys and the attorneys provided to the city through the Florida League of Cities.

The federal lawsuit filed with United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida last year named the city of Anna Maria and Mayor Dan Murphy as defendants.

The lawsuit alleged city officials made unwritten and erroneous interpretations of city codes, policies and practices that were applied solely to Kaleta and Beach to Bay’s efforts to construct vacation rental homes. The suit alleged the city’s actions damaged Kaleta and Beach to Bay in terms of lost business, reduced property values and impairment to reputation.

Kaleta’s attorneys sought a declaratory judgement stating the city’s actions violated his rights to free speech, due process and equal protection. They also sought a federal court order for city officials to stop making false and slanderous statements about Kaleta and Beach to Bay.

“In consideration of the promises made herein, the parties release, acquit and forever discharge one another of any and all claims, causes of action, suits, debts, dues, sums of money, damages, judgment and demands whatsoever in any way related to the litigation,” said the mutual release and settlement agreement approved by city commissioners on Nov. 9.

The following day, attorney Louis Najmy commented on behalf of his client.

“It meant a great deal to Shawn Kaleta to now have the apology and retraction from the city. We can now attempt to wipe away the very incorrect and untrue statements made by the city. And we look forward to a city process that is fair and transparent,” Najmy said.

Murphy also commented on the settlement.

“There was no city money, whether from ad valorem taxes or otherwise, used to settle the case. No one from the city was involved in any way with the negotiation or payment of any monetary settlement with Mr. Kaleta. The city at no time admitted any liability to Mr. Kaleta and continues to deny liability. What the insurance company did was the business of the insurance company,” Murphy said.

On Oct. 12, city commissioners unanimously approved the preliminary, non-monetary portion of the settlement agreement.

“The settlement does not admit any fault on the part of the city, but will resolve conflicts involved and will avoid a trial,” said the city resolution presented then by City Attorney Becky Vose.