BRADENTON BEACH – Former Planning and Zoning Board member Patty Shay is now the third Sunshine lawsuit defendant deposed by attorney Robert Watrous.
Shay was deposed Tuesday, June 5, at a court reporting office in Bradenton.
Assisted by paralegal Michael Barfield, Watrous represents the city of Bradenton Beach and resident Jack Clarke as co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed last August. The lawsuit alleges four planning board members and two Scenic WAVES Committee members violated the Florida Sunshine Law by discussing past and potential board and committee business at Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach (CNOBB) meetings and in private emails.
Watrous referenced the Sunshine Law training required of all Bradenton Beach commission, committee and board members. He asked Shay if she referred to that training regarding CNOBB discussion topics. She said she did not.
Watrous reviewed in detail the April 12 and April 19 Planning and Zoning Board meetings that included the board’s review of an updated Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) plan that referenced the possibility of a CRA-funded parking garage.
Watrous used meeting transcripts, agendas and other documents to establish that Shay participated in discussions about a parking garage in her official capacity as a board member.
“If a parking garage was to be built, the proposal would have to come before the P&Z, correct?” Watrous said.
“That is correct, but remember we were an advisory board. We did not make decisions,” Shay said of her planning board duties.
As part of the Sunshine Law, Florida Statute 286.011 says, “Any public officer who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a noncriminal infraction.”
The definition of a public officer in Florida Statute 112.313 includes “any person serving on an advisory body.”
“I don’t need people seeking to coach the witness.”
Robert Watrous, Attorney
At one point, Watrous said it was brought to his attention that some in the room, including at least one co-defendant, were nodding their heads yes or no in response to his questions. Watrous and Barfield said they heard some in the room saying yes or no in response to Watrous’ questions. Watrous said he would bring these concerns to the judge if the behavior continued.
“I don’t need people seeking to coach the witness,” he said.
“I am under oath and no one has done anything to suggest that I answer in a certain way,” Shay said.
Watrous produced a copy of a June 14 email co-defendant Bill Vincent sent Shay, Reed Mapes and John Metz when they were all planning board members. The email pertained to CNOBB’s upcoming inaugural meeting. It was obtained from Shay in response to a records request Barfield made.
Watrous noted Vincent, Metz and Mapes did not include that email in their records request responses.
“I would not know why they would not have done that,” Shay said.
Vincent’s email said, “There is no intent whatsoever to violate Sunshine Laws. In my opening comments it will be made clear that no discussion or conversation on the comp plan, LDC (land development code) or charter or pending issues will be permitted.”
During a July 25 CNOBB meeting that was recorded and posted at the group’s website, then-planning board member Mapes proposed a citywide prohibition on parking garages. The recording is referenced in the lawsuit complaint that seeks a judge’s ruling on whether Sunshine violations occurred.
“When issues discussed in the April 12 and April 19 P&Z meetings did start being discussed at a CNOBB meeting, didn’t that alert you to the fact that you should say something or do something because this was a Sunshine Law violation?” he said.
“I did not consider it a violation of Sunshine Law,” Shay said.
“No budget, no date and the fact that it was not in agreement with the comprehensive plan. I didn’t see it as something that would be in the foreseeable future,” Shay said regarding the potential construction of a parking garage.
Shay’s statement about parking garages not being in agreement with the comp plan is contrasted by current comp plan language that allows parking garages in some land use categories.
Last month, the Planning and Zoning Board reviewed two City Commission-requested ordinances that would amend the comp plan and the LDC and prohibit parking garages citywide.