BRADENTON BEACH – Several court filings have been made recently regarding the Sunshine Law lawsuit filed against six former city advisory board members.
On Friday, March 21, one day after deposing City Attorney Ricinda Perry, defendant John Metz’s attorney, Thomas Shults, filed a motion to dismiss Perry as the co-counsel representing the city of Bradenton Beach in the Sunshine Law lawsuit. The filing notes Perry is listed as a witness for the city.
Citing rules regulating the Florida Bar, Shults’ motion to dismiss says, “Ricinda Perry cannot serve both as an advocate at trial for the city and a witness on the city’s behalf.”
Attorney Robert Watrous is the lead attorney for the city of Bradenton Beach and co-plaintiff Jack Clarke in the efforts to determine if six former city board members violated the Florida Sunshine Law in 2017. Perry serves as co-counsel and paralegal Michael Barfield is providing Watrous and Perry with additional legal assistance.
Right after Perry’s March 20 deposition, Watrous said he has not yet decided whether he will call Perry as a witness in the trial currently scheduled to take place in July.
On Friday afternoon, Barfield and Watrous were asked if they thought the motion to dismiss Perry had legal merit.
“We don’t think so. Motions to disqualify one’s counsel is one of the most disfavored motions there is,” Barfield said. “The citizens of Bradenton Beach wisely rejected Mr. Metz as a candidate for elected office. Mr. Metz is free to be frivolous with his own funds, but it’s sad when he wastes taxpayer resources in his personal crusade against the city attorney.”
Sunshine Law questioned
On March 15, Shults filed a notice of filing return of service of constitutional question on Florida’s Office of the Attorney General. The court document includes a copy of the certified mail receipt sent to Attorney General Pam Bondi in Tallahassee.
On Oct. 10, 2017, Shults previously filed a notice of constitutional question that questions whether the Florida Sunshine Law enacted by the Florida Legislature in 1995 infringes on an individual’s First Amendment rights regarding free speech, assembly, association and petition rights. The 2017 filing also questions whether the Florida Sunshine Law is “vague and overbroad.” The 2017 filing was sent to Bondi’s office when it was filed.
According to Perry and Barfield, representatives of the Attorney General’s Office have expressed interest in potentially joining the city and Clarke as co-plaintiffs in this case.
Mapes going pro se
On March 14, defendant Reed Mapes’ attorney, Jim Dye, filed a motion for withdrawal of counsel informing the 12th Judicial Circuit Court that he would no longer be representing Mapes. On Friday, March 21, Judge Edward Nicholas issued an order approving that request. Mapes now joins Tjet Martin, Patty Shay, Bill Vincent and Rose Vincent as pro se defendants who are representing themselves.
More depositions scheduled
On March 14, Watrous filed notice of taking depositions for defendant Rose Vincent and former CNOBB member Mike Bazzy on May 8, former CNOBB member Carol Harrington and continued deposition for former CNOBB webmaster Michael Harrington on May 14, former CNOBB members Connie Morrow and Janie Robertson on May 20 and former Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon on May 24.
On March 14, Shults filed a notice of taking depositions for Mayor John Chappie and Commissioner Ralph Cole on May 31, City Planner Alan Garrett on June 12, Building Official Steve Gilbert and Commissioner Jake Spooner on June 13 and Commissioner Marilyn Maro on June 18.