The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 30 - April 28, 2010


Spring crowned national pie champ

On Sunday, Andrea Spring made history as the first professional to win the Crisco American Pie Council National Pie Championship twice.

“This year I gave it everything I had,” she said. “I tried to do everything as well as I could. I stayed extremely positive and focused.”

The winning entry was her chocolate raisin walnut combination that won first place in the raisin category. Another of her entries, Hula Hula Pineapple with fried crust, won first place in the cream category.

Spring was national champion in 2007 with her key lime pie. That year she also won a first place with her chocolate espresso explosion. In 2008 she won first place with her Key West crunch pie and honorable mention with her apple oatmeal crunch.

Spring and her husband, Ed, who own the Sign of the Mermaid restaurant in Anna Maria, and her sister, Dawn Dugger, traveled to this year’s competition near Orlando on Friday in a rented refrigerated truck.

“I cooked all day Saturday,” she said. “I was supposed to make 10 pies, but I only had time to make five. I picked my favorite ones. Then I got up on Sunday and put the finishing touches on them and had to turn them in by 8:30 a.m.”

There were 170 entries in the professional division. Spring’s other entries were key lime cream cheese in the citrus category, apple with a crumb topping in the apple category and cherry in the classic cherry category.

“I couldn’t have done it without Dawn and Ed,” Spring said. “Dawn kept me straight and helped me decide which pies to make, and Ed drove the truck and stayed by me.”

Spring received a $5,000 check, ribbons and a trophy, and customers can look for the winning entry on the menu at the Sign of the Mermaid soon.

In addition, Spring is waiting for word from Random House on her proposed cookbook on Florida regional pies and pastries.

County cracks down on Cafe's 'lobbying'
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The drawing shows Rosedale Cottage on the left with the
garden cafe to the right of the cottage, a new buliding
behind the garden and Beach Bums on the right.

HOLMES BEACH – Petitions urging Manatee County to reconsider its second place ranking of Café on the Beach’s bid for the concession contract and signs urging people to contact county officials regarding the ranking have all disappeared from the Café.

“I took everything down immediately,” Dee Schaefer said after receiving a letter from the county stating that such activities are illegal.

“It has come to my attention that you or your firm’s agents have been asking individuals, including customers and other persons in the community, to contact county employees and officials including county commissioners to advocate against the current negotiations and/or to advocate for your firm’s proposal, which was not the proposal selected for negotiations under the county’s RFP review process,” purchasing official Rob Cuthbert said in a letter to Schaefer last week. “The actions noted above cannot be interpreted any other way than as clear violations of the anti-lobbying law.”

Three weeks ago, a county committee recommended that United Park Services (UPS) provide concessions at both Manatee and Coquina public beaches with Café on the Beach as the second choice for Manatee Beach. Cuthbert said the provisions of the anti-lobbying law would apply to all the people involved in the process, including UPS.

Tom Vayias and John Menihtas, of Café on the Beach, lease the concessions from Dee and her husband, Gene, who first got the concession contract in 1992. They had hoped to continue the operation with the Schaefers continuing to run the gift shop.

Since the ranking, signs and petitions appeared at the café and local newspapers have been flooded with letters and e-mails protesting the decision.

“I honestly didn’t know.” Schaefer said Friday. “I knew I couldn’t talk to the county commissioners, but I didn’t know I couldn’t put out petitions. Now we can’t do anything.”

In the letter, Cuthbert also warns Schaefer that he can impose sanctions.

“I must remind you and your firm that § 2-26-32 of the code provides that I may issue sanctions for non-compliance with this provision including termination of existing contracts, suspension or debarment.

“While I am not at this time electing to exercise that level of sanction, I am finding your firm in violation of the code, and per my authority, I am issuing you this written warning and reprimand.”

Cuthbert said all such conduct must cease until the county commission acts on the contract with UPS, which is expected to come to the board for approval on May 11.

“At that public meeting, where a decision to award or not to award the contract will be made, the commission will certainly be able to hear any arguments against the award,” Cuthbert said.

“However, until the agreement has been negotiated, drafted and presented to the commission, any arguments as to its final terms and conditions can only be speculative.”

Last week, Holmes Beach commissioners sent a letter to county commissioners citing concerns about the lack of Island representation on the bid selection committee and lack of consideration for the city’s zoning code.

The letter stated, “This facility is currently serving the needs of our community including a tremendous number of visitors in season. Parking is an ongoing issue and is already impacting neighboring private parking areas.

“The beach concession is non-conforming under our zoning code and as such an expansion or change in the type of business operation would not be permitted.”

Charges swirl around recall drive

ANNA MARIA — Supporters of a petition seeking the recall of Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus say they are being “threatened” and intimidated, according to the person who started the petition drive.

“We’ve had people threatened that if they sign this petition that they will have to turn over all their records and all their e-mails,” said Bob Carter, who chairs the Recall Stoltzfus Committee.

Stoltzfus came under fire when legal consultant Michael Barfield, working for the Pine Avenue Restoration, LLC, made a public records request in March asking that Stoltzfus turn over all communications regarding city business sent to or received from his private electronic media – a request allowed under the state’s Sunshine Laws.

A group of citizens has stepped forward with the recall petition, and Stoltzfus’ supporters are informing people that anyone who signs the petition will also have to provide all their records.

The claims, which were made on a blog that supports Stoltzfus, ( and in a letter from city resident Terry Schaefer, are empty, according to the First Amendment Foundation, a private not-for-profit group whose purpose is to protect and advance the public’s constitutional right to open government.

“That the records of people who sign the petition would be subject to public records request is just not correct,” said Jim Rhea, who is counsel to the Foundation. “They are not delegated by the city to perform any city duties, nor are they acting on behalf of the city.”

Rhea said the committee and anyone who signs the petition are acting as private citizens and that is their right. It’s provided for under state statute.

Committee members have stated that anyone who signs the recall petition is automatically a member of the committee — something that Rhea said still makes no difference. Their records are private, though their names will become public once the petition is turned into the city clerk.

But the recall attempt is nothing but a “kangaroo court,” according to Schaefer.

“This action, which has never occurred in Manatee County, is an attempt to usurp the judicial process, which protects our society from renegade, vigilante justice, without due process and the protection of our inalienable right of being innocent until proven guilty,” Schaefer said in a letter to the editor.

Schaefer added that he feels the recall effort is something that will further divide the city “at a time when we should be taking a deep breath, sorting out all the facts, enforcing our codes and moving forward.”

Legal opinion sought

Meanwhile, an 11-year resident of the city has hired an attorney to provide an outside opinion on the whole e-mail situation.

Dick York said he hired the lawyer after reading an editorial in The Sun that called for an independent evaluation of the case.

“I gathered some of the e-mails, and I hired an attorney at my own expense. I sent him the e-mails and sought his opinion,” York said. “I will make the (attorney’s) letter available with the petition. That way people can read it themselves and make their own judgments.”

York said the attorney he hired was Cliff Walter of Blalock and Walters, of Bradenton.

'Threats' reported

Carter said he’d heard numerous reports of people being intimidated by what he called the “threat” of having their e-mails collected. He said others were worried about retribution from people opposed to the petition and recall effort.

“There is a fear factor on some people’s part,” Carter said. “They fear revenge against those who sign the petition.”

Carter said several people had told him, “I can’t sign because I don’t know what they’ll do.”

Carter said he stepped forward himself after reading the Stoltzfus e-mails. “This is a matter of the Sunshine Laws for me,” Carter said. “This is not the way we want our government to operate. I’ve never participated in Anna Maria politics, but this isn’t about politics for me. It isn’t about PAR (Pine Avenue Restoration LLC), it’s about stepping forward and doing what’s right.”

Carter said that in his opinion, people survive their public officials.

“We survive our presidents,” he noted. “We survived some of the worst of them, largely because of the resilience of the people.”

Carter said that especially troubling to him were the e-mails where Stoltzfus exhibited a willingness to bulldoze commercial properties and a willingness to help finance a lawsuit against the city if he could do so anonymously.

“Those are the ones that send a chill up my spine,” he said.

Social settings pressure

“One elderly lady who had already signed the petition, called to ask that her name be removed because she had been ‘shunned’ in a social setting by Stoltzfus’ supporters,” said Janet Aubry, a member of the recall committee. “Of course we took her name off immediately.”

Other city residents have reported similar situations, and a letter stating that anyone who signed the petition would be subject to a records request was passed out at the April 22 city commission meeting.

“We’re moving forward and doing what it is our duty as citizens to do,” Carter said. “This isn’t a comfortable position for us, but it’s our responsibility as citizens. It’s our democratic right and duty.”

City may pay Stoltzfus' legal fees

ANNA MARIA — A lawyer representing Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus put the city on notice Monday that he’ll be looking to them to pay his client’s legal fees.

“This correspondence is to advise the city of Anna Maria (hereinafter, the 'city') that Commissioner Stoltzfus will seek reimbursement from the city of all attorney’s fees, costs and legal expenses incurred by him in defense of this recall effort. Commissioner Stoltzfus is entitled to such reimbursement as a matter of right under the law of Florida,” Richard Harrison wrote in a letter to the mayor, the city commissioners and City Attorney Jim Dye. “Accordingly, the city should begin planning immediately for what may be a potentially significant financial liability.”

Harrison, who is board certified in city, county and local government law, cited a case, Thomber v. City of Fort Walton Beach, as discussed by the Florid Supreme Court, as the basis for the demand for fees.

Harrison states that the commissioner’s recovery of legal expenses in defense of the recall effort is discussed in detail in that case.

“As acknowledged in Thomber, Florida Courts have long recognized that public officials are entitled to legal representation at public expense to defend themselves against litigation arising from performance of their official duties while serving a public purpose,” Harrison wrote.

The attorney stated that Stoltzfus’ defense against the recall effort servers a public purpose.

“While the city does not have any interest in the outcome of a recall petition, because any individual, not any specific person can be the office holder at issue, the City does have a decided interest in protecting its officers from untimely and illegal recall petitions,” Harrison said in his letter.

He added that it’s the city’s responsibility to insure that the recall committee follows proper procedures and is legally sufficient.

“In short, Florida law recognizes that an elected official should not have to incur personal expenses to ensure that a recall committee follows the proper procedures,” he concluded.

Mayor Fran Barford said Monday that the city attorney has a copy of the letter, and he’s researching case law but is not yet prepared to comment on the letter.

Volcano ‘fallout’ reaches Island

A volcanic cloud of ash over Europe is creating fallout for businesses on Anna Maria Island, even though the ash itself is a continent away.

“Europeans can’t come here and our visitors can’t get back there,” said Mary Ann Brockman, president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

A five-member British family left the Island last week after their vacation, but discovered at Tampa International Airport that they could not get home, so they came back to the Island and went to the Chamber for help.

By that time, the motel where they had stayed was booked, but Palm Tree Villas had cancellations from guests who could not get out of France and Great Britain to get to the Island.

“We found ourselves in the middle of it,” said owner Ashok Sawe, who was able to accommodate the family.

Another stranded British family called from Cocoa Beach and decided to try out the west coast of Florida for a few days, arriving at Palm Tree Villas last week, he said.

The ash cloud is not expected to have lasting effects on local tourism.

“Fortunately, this is not the high European travel season,” said Larry White, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, adding that overseas visitors usually begin arriving at the end of June and stay through September or October.

The ash also affected Island Florist. When Holland airports shut down because of the ash, tulip shipments stopped just before a customer needed them for an anniversary party, according to the owner, who was able to provide tulips of a different color.

The volcano is producing less ash, but is still active, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Island rallies for free trolley rides

ANNA MARIA – The planning and zoning board will recommend that the city commission approve a preliminary site plan for a two-building mixed-use property at 308 Pine Avenue in the city’s residential/office/retail district.

The city planner informed the board that the preliminary site plan was in compliance with city codes and ordinances.

Pine Avenue Restoration is developing the site.

The PAR attorney noted that when a plan complies with city codes, it must be approved or the city is at risk of a lawsuit.

“You’re always being threatened by these lawsuits, said Jeremy Anderson, an attorney with Lobeck and Hanson, whose firm has lodged two lawsuits against the city. Anderson represents William and Barbara Nally. He disputed the planner’s point of view, saying that the density requirements of six units per acre would be exceeded if the site plan should be approved. He stated that the Florida Department of Community Affairs had serious questions of the city in response to a challenge that he and his clients lodged against the city in an earlier site plan approval.

Robert and Nicky Hunt and the Muzzys also have a challenge against the city with DCA that was filed by Anderson’s office.

City Attorney Jim Dye differed with Anderson’s statements.

Under the new site plan ordinance, the P&Z board is charged with making a recommendation to the city commission, which has the final authority.

The P&Z board voted 5-1 to recommend that the city commission approve the preliminary site plan.

Frank Pytel was the sole vote against the recommendation of approval.

Board member Margaret Jenkins was absent. She said she had mixed up the days and thus did not attend the meeting.

Recall Stoltzfus petition circulating

ANNA MARIA — One city resident felt so strongly about what is happening in her city that she postponed a trip to visit her mother in Pennsylvania to ensure she could sign the petition to recall City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus.

“I feel I was misled,” Mady Iseman said. “If I had known that he’d take part in lawsuits against the city, I’d never have voted for him.”

Iseman stepped forward one other time in the city in 2000, a time when personal animosities on the city commission practically ground city business to a halt.

There was controversy over whether the city charter mandated that the mayor is responsible for running commission meetings and setting the agenda or whether that responsibility was invested in the vice chair of the commission.

“I was very upset with the meetings and with the conduct of the commissioners,” Iseman said.

She gathered enough signatures on a petition to force a review of the city charter, which is now mandated every five years.

It’s with that same strong feeling that Iseman said she felt compelled to delay her trip to give her the opportunity to sign the recall petition, which began circulating on Thursday, April 22.

As of Monday, April 26, 125 of the city’s 1,368 registered voters had signed the petition.

Once someone signs the petition, he/she becomes a member of the recall committee, explained Carol Carter, who brought the petition to Iseman to sign.

The first step in a recall is to collect the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in the city. That would be 137 voters.

“But we will collect at least 200 to make sure that we absolutely have enough,” committee chair Bob Carter said.

Once those signatures are obtained, the petition must be turned into the city clerk within 30 days of when the first registered voter signs.

The clerk then forwards the petition to the Supervisor of Elections who has 60 days to verify the signatures.

At that point, if enough signatures are verified, Stoltzfus will have five days to submit a 200-word statement in his own defense.

The recall committee then has 60 days to get the signatures of a minimum of 15 percent (or 205) of the registered voters.

If the signatures are verified, a recall election would be set “no sooner than 30 days after a five-day notification period and no later than 60 days,” the state statute on recall elections reads.

Each person who signs the petition is being asked to contribute a dime to cover the cost of verifying his or her signature.

The petition is being circulated door-to-door and in other places around the community.

Anyone who would like to sign can call 527-6302.

Recall effort not the first on the Island

BRADENTON BEACH – While it has been a long time – 22 years to be exact – Anna Maria’s recall effort is not the Island’s first.

This city holds the distinction of having two recall efforts in 1988, one against Mayor Lynda Barrett-O’Neill and two city council members and one against three city council members.

The recall against the mayor was initiated by then-resident Joe Kane and also included council members Don Barton and Dennis Hundt over the removal of Police Chief Dennis Robarts from office in December 1987.

According to newspaper accounts, Barrett-O’Neill said Robarts spent too much time on drug investigations. At the time, her son was under investigation for drug use. The Sheriff’s Office cleared her of allegations that she knew about the investigation of her son.

Robarts was reinstated as chief but quit in March 1988. Kane called off the recall movement in June after the mayor and council voted to hire Mike Mooney as police chief.

Another recall over police

The second recall movement against council members Gale Carter, Leroy Arnold and Hundt began in November 1988 after they voted to fire Mooney and hire Paul Fairbanks as police chief. It was the city’s sixth change of police chiefs in 18 months and the 11th in 11 years.

John Chappie, who later served on the city commission and as mayor and is now a county

commissioner, organized the recall campaign. In December, the council fired Fairbanks and hired John Maloney, but Chappie said residents wanted to continue with the recall. The recall committee removed Arnold from the petitions because he was up for re-election in December and said he would not run again. According to state statute, a special election to remove the other two from office had to be held before March 3, 1989.

In February 1989, Carter and Hundt sued the city, the city clerk and Chappie in an attempt to stop the election. A judge set the election for April 4, and Carter and Hundt filed injunctions to stop the election.

In March, a judge grated the request for a permanent injunction to prevent the election saying that Chappie failed to show that they acted improperly when they voted to fire Mooney and replace him with Fairbanks.

Judge orders Stoltzfus to preserve computer records

Manatee County Circuit Court Judge Stephen L. Dakin refused to grant a request that an image be taken of the hard drives of an Anna Maria city commissioner’s computer and other electronic media devices.

Judge Dakin had agreed to hear the request from legal consultant Michael Barfield and his attorney, Valerie Fernandez, to order the capture of the information on Commissioner Harry Stolozfus' hard drives. He set aside an hour on April 21 for an emergency hearing.

In mid-March, citing the public records laws, Barfield had requested all of Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus’ e-mail and other electronic records dealing with city business sent from or received by his personal accounts.

“On four separate occasions, he told the city clerk he had produced everything, and then he ‘found’ more,” Fernandez informed the judge.

She also noted that Stoltzfus had notified the city clerk that he had found some more e-mails that he’d accidently deleted.

City Clerk Alice Baird is responsible for maintaining the public record. She had been subpoenaed to testify in the court proceedings, and she confirmed Fernandez’ statements. She also testified that the city attorney had given a class on the Sunshine Laws in mid-November and that Stoltzfus had attended that meeting.

“We told them that we strongly suggest that they use their city e-mail accounts and not use their personal computers so we can capture the records,” Baird testified.

Richard Harrison, an attorney whose practice includes governmental law, represents Stoltzfus.

He questioned Baird closely about the how the city instructs elected officials and members of boards and committees to handle electronic correspondence. He emphasized that the city requires electronic mail received on or sent from private devices to be copied to the city clerk in a timely manner.

“What’s the definition of timely manner?” Harrison asked Baird. “Where is in a timely manner defined?”

At that point, the judge, who had announced at the beginning of the hearing that he had a jury out in another case, had to leave the room to hear the verdict in that case.

When he returned, it appeared he thought the request was that Stoltzfus’ computer itself, or his hard drive, be confiscated and held in the hands of the clerk of courts.

“That’s not so, your honor,” Fernandez said. “We merely want to take an image of the hard drive as it exists today. When you delete a file, it doesn’t go away. It’s still there on your hard drive somewhere, but the more you use the computer, the more likely it is that that file will be over-written and then lost forever.”

Judge Dakin said he had misunderstood what Barfield and his attorney were asking.

“I didn’t understand that that was what you were requesting,” he said. “It’s not your fault. It’s not anybody’s fault. The fact is I set aside one hour for this proceeding, and I’m not authorized to allow any more time. This isn’t even my case.”

Judge Dakin suggested that Fernandez contact Judge Edward Nicholas, who is the judge assigned to the case, to ask for an expedited date.

Judge Nicholas is set to hear the case May 7 at 3:30 p.m.

Originally the court proceeding was to apply to both Stoltzfus and Jim Conoly, a member of the planning and zoning board, but Conoly agreed to turn over all his records and provide access to his e-mail server, so he’s no longer a part of the case.

Volunteers needed for emergency training
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A CERT volunteer learns to use a fire extinguisher.

County officials are seeking Island residents who would like to be part of a team to be trained to assist in emergency situations.

The program, called CERT, means Community Emergency Response Team, and its trained members will work with emergency services personnel on basic response following a disaster.

“This program is neighbors helping neighbors and the community,” Dick Haynes, the county’s CERT coordinator explained. “We asked if the Island and the West Manatee Fire Rescue District would like to support a team and they said they would.”

Haynes said the county received a grant to fund the training, which will be held at West Manatee Station 1 in Holmes Beach. Each Island city is allotted eight volunteers.

Training dates and topics are:

• Wednesday, June 16, 7 to 9:30 p.m., general preparation, all hazards;

• Saturday, June 19, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., triage, disaster first aid, disaster psychology, critical incident stress;

• Wednesday, June 23, 7 to 9:30 p.m., team organization, terrorism;

• Saturday, June 26, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., small fires, search and rescue, hazardous materials.

Graduation will be on June 26, and all graduates will receive a CERT identification.

Sign up is at city hall in Anna Maria, and the police departments in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach. Brochures on the program are available at city halls and police departments.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper