Commissioner deposed regarding Sunshine lawsuit

Bradenton Beach commissioner deposed
Commissioner Randy White, front right, was questioned last week about his connections to the disbanded CNOBB group. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – City Commissioner Randy White has been deposed as part of the discovery process for the city-initiated 2017 lawsuit that alleges six city advisory board members violated the Sunshine Law.

White is not a defendant in the lawsuit and has not been accused of any wrong-doing in connection with the lawsuit filed before he took office in November 2017. White was the first non-defendant to be deposed in this lawsuit.

Representing the city of Bradenton Beach and co-plaintiff Jack Clarke, attorney Robert Watrous told White the Wednesday, Nov. 14, deposition would pertain only to events that transpired before he became a city commissioner. Paralegal Michael Barfield assisted Watrous with the deposition.

White was represented by attorney Hunter Norton. The deposition took place in the conference room at the Vincent M. Lucente & Associates court reporting services building in Bradenton.

Clarke attended the deposition. So did defendant Reed Mapes and his attorney, Jim Dye; defendant John Metz and his attorney, Thomas Shults; and defendants Tjet Martin, Patty Shay, Bill Vincent and Rose Vincent. All six defendants are former city advisory board members and former members of the now-defunct Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach (CNOBB) political action committee.

Former Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon and former city commissioner and CNOBB member Janie Robertson also attended the deposition.

The 2017 civil lawsuit alleges four Planning and Zoning Board members and two Scenic WAVES Committee members violated the Sunshine Law by discussing past and potential board business – including a prohibition on parking garages – via private email exchanges and during CNOBB meetings that were not properly-noticed city meetings.

The questions Watrous posed, the answers given and the documents reviewed during the deposition did not indicate any wrong-doing by White.

During the deposition, White confirmed that the handwritten notes he previously turned over to the city clerk’s office in June were written by him. City Attorney Ricinda Perry requested the notes White had on the dais with him during a commission meeting discussion regarding payment of an invoice from Watrous and a same-day discussion about four charter amendments proposed by Mapes, Metz and their Keep Our Residential Neighborhoods (KORN) political action committee.

White has been the only commissioner to oppose payments to Watrous and the only commissioner to support KORN’s unsuccessful request to have its proposed charter amendments placed on the ballot for the recent city elections.

White said the notes he turned over in June were all written by him during his campaign and before he was elected.

Watrous asked White about his handwritten note that said, “Can I talk about CNOBB meetings and state for the record that you guys did not break any Sunshine laws that I witnessed in CNOBB meeting?”

White said that note was written in preparation for a candidate’s debate and as a response to a potential media questions.

“If it comes up, I will state for the record I personally believe they didn’t break any laws,” White said.

Watrous asked White if any concerns about Sunshine Law compliance were voiced at the CNOBB meetings he attended.

“The Sunshine Law was spoke of at the beginning of a meeting. I don’t think there was concern whether it was followed or not. I guess it was assumed it was followed. I didn’t know anything about it, I was just ‘John Q Public’ who showed up at these things,” White said.

Watrous asked White if he recalled any discussion about parking garages during CNOBB meetings.

“Yes, it was brought up,” White said.

White’s two-hour deposition and the emails received from him and others as part of the pre-trial discovery process also shed light on White’s relationships with the defendants, CNOBB and the support he received from them during his 2017 campaign.

“CNOBB was founded by people I know very well, people I’ve known for years,” White said.

He then acknowledged that some of those people were currently sitting in the conference room.

“It kind of started with Mayor Shearon and then I met the Vincents and went from there,” White said.

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