The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 3 - October 31, 2012


New parking plan proposed for city

ANNA MARIA – After fellow commissioners rebuffed her suggestions for paid and permit parking, Commissioner SueLynn presented a new plan last week.

“I’m coming back with another proposal – Mike Coleman’s suggestion,” she said. “There would be no parking in the city’s rights of way after 10 p.m. with the exception of the ROR commercial or a special permit that has been obtained from the city to allow parking until 1 a.m. for a special event on a specific date.”

She also suggested that parking be banned on lawns and said the benefit of both suggestions would be to limit the number of people and vehicles present at rental properties.

Chair Chuck Webb pointed out that it would also limit residents, and Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said it is too restrictive and would punish everyone for the problems created by a few.

“When you ride around at night, there are very, very few people that park in the right of way except at the rental properties,” SueLynn countered. “This commission has done absolutely nothing to limit the number of people who can stay in a property.

“Right now the scale has not been tipped toward the number of multi-bedroom properties outnumbering the number of year ‘round residents, but that’s the trend. If this commission doesn’t do something to stop it we’ll be another Daytona Beach.”

Webb said the commission discussed occupancy limits, but no one wanted to impose them because it also would impact residents. He said he could agree to two permits per residence.

However, Mattick said that’s not reasonable because there are three adults with vehicles at her house.

Other ideas

Commissioner Dale Woodland said they should pursue the repeal of HB 883, which prohibits a municipality from creating legislation that would regulate rentals because “it makes everybody fit in the same box.

“That makes more sense to me. Concentrate on the things we can do. Permits and all these things are a waste of time. We do have some responsibility to provide reasonable parking for visitors.”

“I don’t agree that we should not do anything,” Webb said. “I think we should keep working on this. The residents may have to give up something to gain peace and quiet. I think the commission is uncomfortable with our options right now.”

He said they could wait and see what happens when season comes or adopt an ordinance and if the HB is repealed, they could rescind it.

Commissioner John Quam pointed out that permit parking would require more signs, which would be costly and unsightly. He said the problem is parking near the beaches, and they should concentrate on those areas and added, “We can’t shut down everything.”

To which SueLynn responded, “We cannot accommodate every person who wants to come to this Island and have a parking space. The residents I spoke to don’t have a problem with it.”

She said it is ironic that the county’s Tourist Development Council has adopted a new brand – Real. Authentic. Florida,” yet it has spent thousands on marketing that has taken away from Anna Maria being “laid back old Florida.”

Webb said they could solve the sign problem by having one sign at the entrance to the city stating, “Parking by permit unless otherwise indicated,” and see if it is challenged.

He asked the others to come up with other ideas.


Despite Dr. Phil, Morris death still classified a suicide

BRADENTON BEACH – Despite claims of murder on the Dr. Phil show last week, the 2009 death of Sheena Morris in a Bradenton Beach hotel room remains, for now, a suicide.

Bradenton Beach police found Morris, 22, hanging from a dog leash tied to a showerhead at the BridgeWalk resort on New Year’s Day, after hotel guests called 911 and reported an overnight disturbance in the room she shared with her Tampa boyfriend, Joseph Genoese.

Genoese was not charged in the case.

Police determined the death to be a suicide, but Morris’ mother, Kelly Osborn, and her father, Dave Morris, told Dr. Phil they believe their daughter was murdered by Genoese.

Genoese took a polygraph test for the show and failed it.

That doesn’t change the Bradenton Beach Police Department’s determination of suicide, Chief Sam Speciale said.

Speciale said he and Detective Lenard Diaz, who investigated the case, declined an invitation to appear on the program, and that he did not plan to watch it.

“Unless they come up with new physical evidence and not a polygraph, nothing is going to deviate me from the task of doing the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) recommendations,” said Speciale, adding that that 60 Minutes and 48 Hours also have called for interviews. “Going to a reality show isn’t going to change the fact we have to do these tasks.”

The procedural tasks, which Speciale has not detailed, were recommended by FDLE’s Specialized Multi Agency Review Team (SMART) after Osborn’s repeated requests that FDLE revisit the case in light of information she obtained from investigators she hired that the suicide scene may have been staged.

Diaz met with FDLE staff twice last week to work on completing the tasks, Speciale said.

In a message that Speciale wrote to the Dr. Phil show that was posted on the program’s website, he explained that the SMART team has reviewed the facts and evidence from the crime scene, including photos, 911 calls, medical examiner’s reports and law enforcement reports.

He wrote, “Then on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, we met with F.D.L.E., which at that time they presented us with the S.M.A.R.T. forensic and investigative suggestions for this case. We are in the process of prioritizing these suggestions and with the assistance of F.D.L.E. are evaluating each suggestion. We have felt comfortable prior to and after the S.M.A.R.T. was convened regarding our original findings and plan on acting on all suggestions submitted by the S.M.A.R.T. We will then resubmit the case to the State Attorney’s Office for their review. Note: Due to the case being administratively opened, we are unable to disclose any of the suggestions at this time.”

Claims that the police department reopened the case to reinvestigate it are not true, he said.

“We never reopened the case. We left it administratively open so we could do the recommendations,” most of which are procedural, he said.

The showdown

On the Dr. Phil program Thursday and Friday, Genoese said that he believed his girlfriend was suicidal in the days leading up to her death.

“She told me that she tried to commit suicide when she was 15 years old” with pills and vodka, he said, and that she had spent three days in bed over the Christmas holiday until he persuaded her to get up and go to her mother’s house for Christmas.

Genoese said Morris also was having problems with Osborn, her mother, and had blown up when he called his son to wish him Happy New Year’s the night of her death.

“If you thought she was suicidal, why would you leave her alone stranded on an island in a hotel after a fight with you?” Dr. Phil asked him.

Genoese said he feared their late-night argument, which included banging on walls, may have prompted a phone call from hotel guests to the police, and he did not want to be arrested. The couple also had snuck two dogs into the hotel room, he said.

The 911 call from the neighbors, played on the program, mentioned loud noises.

Genoese said he suggested they leave the hotel, and Morris refused. He broke up with her, left, drove home to Tampa, spoke to some people who saw him at his home and went to bed, he said.

Morris made a 911 call, too, to say she was afraid her boyfriend took her keys and would wreck her home, that he had scratched her and she had taken photos and that she was stranded at the hotel without a car or money.

Genoese said he texted her several times, reiterating that he was done with the relationship.”

She was found dead the next day.

Genoese told Dr. Phil he was tired of being accused of being a murderer on Osborn’s website,, and that Osborn called Genoese’s current girlfriend to tell her she and her children are in danger.

Osborne responded that she has a disclaimer on the website stating the family is not calling him a murderer. She also admitted she called his girlfriend after suggesting that his girlfriend had approached her first.

The key to the mystery?

In an audience teaser, Dr. Phil held up a key in an evidence-type plastic bag and suggested it could unlock the mystery of her death, but it fell far short.

Osborn said the hotel clerk told her the couple had checked out two keys, and that Genoese could have gotten back into the room after he left. One key was in Sheena’s purse, she said, and “the second showed up on our kitchen counter after Joe told detectives he didn’t have a key.”

Genoese said he didn’t remember what happened, as it was three years ago.


Jan Johnson, the crime scene analyst hired by Morris’ parents, told Dr. Phil she was suspicious of the evidence that Morris had sand on her feet but no sand was in the shower or on the floor of the hotel room.

“If she walked into the shower, some would have come off onto the floor,” she said, adding that the position of her clothing was wrong for a hanging death and that the dog leash around her neck would not have supported the weight of her body.

She was critical of the police investigation, concluding that the scene had been staged.

A friend of Morris’ told Dr. Phil he had once witnessed the couple fighting and that Genoese had pulled a gun from his belt.

Genoese responded that sometimes he carried a gun, but had a concealed weapons permit and didn’t recall pulling the gun out during that incident.

He also answered an accusation by Osborn that he had given Morris a piece of glass instead of a diamond engagement ring, which she discovered when she had her daughter’s body exhumed and removed the jewelry for testing.

Genoese said Morris knew he couldn’t afford a diamond and he had told her the ring was glass.

Osborn questioned why her daughter had a conversation with her about whether the ring was real.

More unanswered questions

The two-day look at the case left some viewers unsatisfied, according to more than 200 responses on the program’s website.

Many expressed frustration with police work, such as the person who commented, “Is this the only hotel in America that does not have surveillance cameras everywhere?” and the blogger who wondered why no mention was made of pinging Genoese’s cell phone records or measuring how far he traveled by checking his gasoline receipts and his car gauge.

Others criticized the program for bringing up questions and leaving them unanswered, such as Johnson’s comment about the dog leash not being strong enough to support a suicide by hanging.

“Well then how could the leash be strong enough to have been strung up by an angry man with a dead body?” one viewer wrote.

The polygraph test

Dr. Phil dramatically revealed the results of the polygraph test Genoese agreed to take for the program, saying, “Your polygraph asked, “Did you kill Sheena?” That answer was… deceptive.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Genoese said. “I don’t know if this is good for TV or what, but… I went home that night, I was there all night, people saw me there. I would never do anything like what you guys are trying to say.”

Dr. Phil snapped back that he resented the implication that the polygraph was a TV gimmick.
“Kelly,” Genoese addressed Osborn, “I didn’t murder Sheena, and we really just need to do another polygraph.”

He said he had been nervous at the test.

Everyone’s nervous during a polygraph test, polygraph technician Jack Trimarco said, adding he had told Genoese not to take the test if he couldn’t pass it.

“But you’re either lying or you’re telling the truth,” he said.

“But I told the truth,” Genoese said.

The test is not admissible in court and is about 90 percent reliable, Dr. Phil said.

“You know whether you’ve done this or not. If you have, you need to own it and if you’ve not, you need to do what you need to to prove your innocence.”

He had a word for Osborn too.

“My advice is step back and let the process work and let the professionals do their jobs,” he said. “You fought the good fight, and your daughter must be very, very proud of you.”

Copeland honored in Anna Maria
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Doug Copeland accepts the Citizen
of the Year plaque from
former Mayor Fran Barford.

ANNA MARIA — Long-time resident Doug Copeland has been honored the city’s 2012 Citizen of the Year.

“This is one of the nicest things we do in the city of Anna Maria, and I’m so proud to be a part of the committee,” former Mayor Fran Barford said prior to making the presentation.

With tongue in cheek, Copeland thanked the committee for their “momentary lack of judgment” for honoring him.

He also thanked his wife, Pat, and said, “It has been a privilege to serve in this fine community. Over the 20 some years that I’ve been a part of this city, the staff, along with the committees and commissioners, have made my job a lot easier, and I thank you all.”

Copeland, who has lived in the city since 1974, became a member of the city’s development committee at the urging of Mayor Ray Simches.

Then he served on the planning and zoning board for more than 20 years, and was the chair of that board for many of those years. He retired from that board in 2003.

Then from 2005 to 2009, he returned to city’s service to lead the P&Z board in revising the city’s land development regulations to bring them into harmony with the comprehensive plan.

Last year, at the request of Mayor Mike Selby, he worked on a committee to make further revisions to the city’s land development regulations.

Through the development committee, Copeland was instrumental in developing the Historical Park on Pine Avenue, which was formerly the city dump. The park design includes a beach dune area in the front and a maritime forest area on the side to compliment the mangroves along the canal in the back.

He also secured a donation of 15 palm trees, organized a group of volunteers and landscaped the Bean Point beach access with native trees, shrubs, grasses and ground cover, transforming it from a scrubby path filled with sandspurs to a beautiful lush pathway to the beach.

Copeland joins an impressive list of former citizens of the year. Former honorees are (Mayor) Ernie Cagnina, Ellen Marshall, (Mayor) Ted Tripp and George O’Connor, Ed Callen, (Mayor) Ray Simches, (City Commissioner) Mary Ross and Carolyne Norwood, Mike Miller, George Norwood, Gene and Elizabeth Moss, Environmental Education and Enhancement Committee, Sinclair and Martha Stewart, The AMI Sun Newspaper, Roser Memorial Community Church and Tom Turner.

This year’s Citizen Recognition Committee was comprised of former Mayor Fran Barford, Mady Iseman, Margaret Jenkins, Tom Turner Karen DiConstanzo and Flora Webb.

Fire damages Anna Maria house
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

ANNA MARIA – An observant neighbor who smelled smoke and saw it coming from an old frame house at 206 Magnolia Ave. Monday morning around 8 a.m., and called the fire department, saving the two-story structure from further damage. West Manatee Fire Rescue responded with four units and Longboat Key sent one and the fire was extinguished shortly after that.

There were no occupants in the house and no injuries, according to Battalion Chief Rich Losek. The staircase suffered fire damage and there was extensive smoke damage on both floors. The cause of the fire was undetermined by Monday afternoon, but officials said it was probably caused by an electrical short.


maggie field | sun
Smoke billows from this house as a West Manatee
Fire Rescue firefighter works to put out the fire.

Sandpiper saga intensifies

BRADENTON BEACH – In new court filings last week, Sandpiper Co-op Resort claims that the city of Holmes Beach is improperly using public funds for private purposes in violation of the Florida Constitution.

In a counterclaim filed on Friday, Oct. 26, by Sandpiper attorney Chuck Webb in the case of Holmes Beach vs. Sandpiper Co-op Resort Inc. and the city of Bradenton Beach, the mobile home park requests an injunction prohibiting the expenditure of attorney fees paid to the Holmes Beach city attorney for what it calls a “private purpose” in violation of the Florida Constitution.

The private purpose is alleged to be the use of 27th Street, the subject of the suit, by Holmes Beach Commissioner John Monetti, who owned property adjoining the street, objected to Bradenton Beach quitclaiming the property to Sandpiper in 2009 and spurred Holmes Beach to sue Bradenton Beach for that decision, according to the suit.

Monetti raised the issue last year after Sandpiper installed a gate in an opening in the fence along 27th Street, claiming that the gate hindered Holmes Beach residents’ access to the public. He was not available for comment at press time.

Sandpiper has not removed the gate or the signs, claiming that it owns the right of way along 27th Street subject to the Bradenton Beach quitclaim.

Holmes Beach claims that Bradenton Beach violated its city charter by conveying public property to a private entity, making the transfer to Sandpiper void.

Sandpiper also filed a second motion to dismiss on Friday, alleging that the circuit court has no jurisdiction to hear the case because Holmes Beach did not challenge the 2008 Bradenton Beach ordinance that quitclaimed 27th Street to Sandpiper in 2009 in time. Webb stated in the motion that under the state’s rules of civil procedure, the court loses jurisdiction to review a quasi-judicial proceeding if it is not challenged within 30 days.

The two filings are the most recent in the legal action that began in May with

Holmes Beach filing for declaratory relief against Bradenton Beach and Sandpiper. In the action, Holmes Beach requested that the Manatee Circuit Court declare that Sandpiper does not own 27th Street, which borders both cities, and that it is wrongly preventing the public from using the street by installing gates and “no trespassing” signs.

Bradenton Beach filed a motion to dismiss in July, Holmes Beach filed a motion for default in August, Sandpiper filed a motion to dismiss in September, Holmes Beach responded to both Bradenton Beach’s and Sandpiper’s motions to dismiss in September and Sandpiper filed a second motion to dismiss and a counterclaim last week.

Commissioner asks: Do you want a pier?

HOLMES BEACH – Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore is asking residents to let her know if they still want the pier at Manatee Public Beach replaced.

The pier, which was demolished in December 2009, was closed in February 2009 due to continued deterioration to the structure. County commissioners agreed to replace it with a 300-foot pier, but later said there was no money for the project.

Whitmore said she is the county’s liaison on the Florida Association of Counties regarding the county’s share of the settlement from BP as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Commissioners had asked for a portion of the settlement to build a pier at the Manatee County Beach.

She said there are two options – a 300-foot pier with a T-end or a 600-foot pier with a T-end. She said either would be 15 feet high unless the county can prove that the previous pier controlled erosion.

“There’s been two major storm events this summer, and we haven’t lost any beach,” she noted. “So that’s not looking good for us.”

“I’m working on another way to fund it, but I don’t know the flavor of the Island. Do the citizens still want it and what do they want? I don’t want to spend all this time and money if on one wants it.”

Chair David Zaccagnino asked why the county couldn’t use Tourist Development Council funds. He said city commissioners were not in favor of an elevated pier.

“The tourist tax won’t pay for it because it’s not erosion control,” she replied, “but the engineers are still looking at it.”

Commissioner John Monetti stressed, “We want a pier,” adding that he favored the longer pier, while the others favored the shorter pier.

“People ask me, ‘When is that pier going to be replaced?’” Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens said. “We need that pier back.”

Red tide worst since 2007

The patchy red tide bloom in the Gulf of Mexico is being called the worst since 2007, according to START (Solutions To Avoid Red Tide).

Whipping winds from Hurricane Sandy on the east coast have blown red tide toward the west coast, leaving dead fish on Anna Maria Island beaches last week and causing respiratory complaints from beachgoers, according to START.

“Scientists… theorize that it is a combination of changing wind patterns pushing red tide closer to shore, nutrient-laden runoff fueling the inshore blooms and the red tide algae’s natural growth cycle,” according to a START news release.

Red tide can cause respiratory irritation in healthy people and more serious respiratory problems in people with underlying lung diseases, such as asthma. It also can kill marine life and contaminate edible shellfish.

Very low to medium concentrations of red ride were found alongshore of Manatee County last week; the bloom extends from Pinellas County south to Collier County , according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Concentrations are listed on a five point scale in ascending order of severity – not present/background, very low, low, medium and high. Very low concentrations can cause respiratory irritation and shellfish harvesting closures. Low concentrations can cause fish kills.

The Florida Department of Health continued to list local water quality as good last week at eight testing sites on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key and two testing sites on the Palma Sola Causeway.

Current information on red tide and other beach conditions is available online at Mote Marine Laboratory’s Beach Conditions Report, or call 941-BEACHES.

Board moves forward on site plan ordinance

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners agreed to proceed with an ordinance requiring a building permit to be issued subsequent to site plan approval and establishing a sunset for site plans.

The ordinance was the result of Mayor Rich Bohnenberger’s call last month to revoke the site plan for the Mainsail project at the corner of Marina and Gulf drives. He claimed it is an abandoned construction site, there has been no activity for five years and it is a public safety issue.

Bohnenberger’s claims were met with fierce resistance from Mainsail Development, Company President Joe Collier, who said company officials plan to apply for a building permit soon and break ground by the end of the year or shortly thereafter.

The ordinance states that a building permit must be applied for within 90 days of site plan approval, and a 90-day extension can be granted upon written request of the applicant.

It further states that failure to obtain a building permit or maintain an active building permit will render the site plan void. Site plans expire three years after the date of approval unless certain conditions are met.

Establishing a deadline

Bohnenberger said he met with Collier and said, “He said he plans to kick start the project, and he is concerned about the city rescinding the site plan. His concerns were legal issues.

“He said they would clean up the site and have an open house. At this point I think we’re starting to get into some expensive legal charges. My recommendation is to wait and see.”

Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens suggested giving Collier a deadline of Dec. 31.

“I talked to Mr. Collier, and he said he would have no objection to having his site plan amended to put in some specific deadlines,” City Attorney Patricia Petruff said.

“I would recommend you give him a chance to some in and explain to you what his future plans are, show you his schedule and then you can approve something.”

Chair David Zaccagnino said he would invite Collier to make a presentation to the commission, and Haas-Martens suggested the Nov. 27 meeting/work session.

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