Sunshine defendants make offers to compromise

Sunshine defendants make offers to compromise
Lawsuit defendant John Metz made an offer to compromise last week that seeks $42,000 from the city of Bradenton Beach. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – The six defendants in the Sunshine Law lawsuit have proposed compromise offers that seek financial reimbursement from the city of Bradenton Beach and co-plaintiff Jack Clarke.

Collectively, the six defendants seek $60,902 from the city and $24,444 from Clarke.

The offers to compromise include no admission of wrongdoing or errors made regarding compliance with the Florida Sunshine Law, which is at the center of the civil lawsuit the city and Clarke filed in 2017.

Defendant and former Planning and Zoning Board member John Metz was the first to present his offer to attorney Robert Watrous and others last week. Watrous represents the city and Clarke.

Metz is the only defendant still retaining legal counsel. His offer was prepared by attorney Thomas Shults and dated May 28.

Metz’s offer was followed by similarly worded offers from the other five defendants: former Planning and Zoning Board members Reed Mapes, Patty Shay and Bill Vincent and former Scenic WAVES Committee members Tjet Martin and Rose Vincent.

The financial reimbursements sought differ for each defendant.

“Mr. Metz will settle with the city and Clarke only if they dismiss this lawsuit against all defendants with prejudice. The city must pay Mr. Metz the amount of $42,000 and Clarke must pay Mr. Metz the amount of $14,000. The total of these sums represents approximately 40 percent of Mr. Metz’s attorney fees and costs as of the end of April. This offer shall remain open until 5 p.m. on June, 7. Unless the case is resolved by that date, any future proposals by Mr. Metz shall require the city and Clarke to play a higher percentage of his attorney’s fees incurred,” Metz’s written offer says.

Attorney Jim Dye had been representing Mapes, but Mapes discontinued those legal services in March. Mapes’s offer seeks similar settlement terms and $14,000 from the city and $8,400 from Clarke.

The other defendants discontinued Dye’s legal services in early 2018. Martin seeks $1,000 from the city and $600 from Clarke. Shay seeks $901.52 from the city and $444 from Clarke. The Vincents seek $3,000 from the city and $1,000 from Clarke.

At press time on Monday, the city and Clarke had not responded to the offers. The city commission will meet at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, and it’s possible the defendants’ offers may be discussed at that meeting.

Settlement language

“It appears to be lost on the city commission and Mr. Clarke that they are exposed to substantial monetary liability in this case. This liability consists of not just the attorney’s fees and cost the city will expend for the trial and the appeals thereafter, but also the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by all defendants,” Metz’s offer says.

“The Open Meetings Law permits the award of attorneys fees and costs against the city and Clarke if the court finds this suit was filed in bad faith or was frivolous. The city and Clarke can rest assured that Mr. Metz will pursue his right to such award if this matter is not resolved,” Metz’s offer says.

The defendants’ latest offers were in response to a settlement offer the city commission made on April 23. That offer proposed the defendants collectively pay the city $203,118 to settle the lawsuit with an acknowledgment that errors may have been made as it related to the Sunshine Law. The $203,118 represented the city’s attorney fees and legal costs to date.

Metz’s offer to compromise says it’s puzzling that the city commission would make a proposal they knew he would never accept.

The city’s previous March 1 settlement offer included language that said errors were made regarding Sunshine Law compliance and sought $500 from each of the defendants.

The defendants rejected that offer and proposed a counteroffer that instead said errors may have been made. They also offered to donate $10,000 to the Annie Silver Community Center. The city commission rejected that offer because it did not include an admission of errors made.

The case is scheduled for a nonjury trial beginning July 15, to be preceded by a city-requested summary judgment hearing on June 20.

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