MAY 22, 2019
Harringtons deposed in Sunshine Law lawsuit The former residents were subpoenaed to testify under oath as part of the pre-trial discovery process. BY JOE HENDRICKS SUN CORRESPONDENT | email@example.com
BRADENTON – Former Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach (CNOBB) members Carol and Michael Harrington have been deposed as part of a Sunshine Law lawsuit. On Tuesday, May 14, attorney Robert Watrous deposed Carol Harrington under oath for the first time and her husband, Michael Harrington, for the second time. Assisted by paralegal Michael Barfield, Watrous represents the city of Bradenton Beach and co-plaintiff Jack Clarke in the 2017 civil lawsuit. The former Pines Trailer Park residents no longer live in Bradenton Beach and are not named as defendants in the lawsuit. They were subpoenaed to testify as witnesses as part of the pre-trial discovery process. The lawsuit seeks a judge’s ruling as to whether former Planning and Zoning Board members Reed Mapes, John Metz, Patty Shay and Bill Vincent, and former Scenic WAVES Committee members Tjet Martin and Rose Vincent, violated the Florida Sunshine Law. The lawsuit alleges the six defendants violated the Sun-
JOE HENDRICKS | SUN
Attorney Robert Watrous, left, deposed Michael and Carol Harrington, right, last week. shine Law when discussing city matters at CNOBB meetings that could have foreseeably come before them in their official capacities as board members. During the July 25, 2017, CNOBB meeting, Mapes, Metz, Martin, Shay and Bill Vincent were among those who discussed the possible pursuit of a citywide ban on the construction of a parking garage. The never-pursued parking garage prohibition is also referenced in several CNOBB member emails obtained by Watrous and Barfield. Last week’s depositions took place at the Vincent M. Lucente & Associates court reporting services office in Bradenton. Verbatim transcripts of the sworn testimony will be provided to 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas to review before the case goes to trial on July 15.
CAROL HARRINGTON DEPOSED
Watrous asked Carol Harrington several questions about how CNOBB meetings were noticed to the public. According to Florida Statute 286.0114(2), which is part of the Sunshine Law, “Members of the public shall be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on a proposition before a board or commission.” As non-city meetings, CNOBB meetings were not noticed by the city clerk’s office. Nor did the informal CNOBB meeting notices state that one or more city advisory board members might be present. Harrington said she was responsible for emailing CNOBB meeting notices to the local newspapers for inclusion in the meeting calendar sections. Harrington recalled sending notices to The Islander but wasn’t sure if she sent them to The Sun.
Harrington said before CNOBB started she didn’t know the Island had two local papers. “I didn’t read two local papers, I might have read one. I wasn’t political. I didn’t dig into stuff, I just did what I was told,” she said. Watrous asked if there were occasions when the meeting notices were not published. He also referenced an email Martin sent Harrington about a notice that was not published. Harrington said she did not check to see if the notices were published. After the deposition, Barfield said he checked the back issues of both papers and found several instances were CNOBB meeting notices were not published. Watrous asked Harrington if she knew CNOBB meetings were recorded. “Yes,” she said, noting there was some confusion as to who would record them. Watrous asked Harrington if she recalled any discussions about the Sunshine Law at CNOBB meetings. “I think at one of the meetings there was discussion about the Sunshine Law, short discussion,” she said. Watrous asked Harrington if she and her brother, Bill Vincent, ever discussed whether CNOBB might be violating the Sunshine Law. “I don’t know if we discussed that,” she replied. SEE HARRINGTONS, PAGE 39
Sunshine depositions continue Former CNOBB member Connie Morrow was deposed as a witness on Monday, May 20. Former Mayor Bill Shearon and former commissioner and CNOBB member Janie Robertson are scheduled to be deposed on Friday, May 24. Defendant John Metz is scheduled to be deposed on Thursday, May 30. Mayor John Chappie and commissioner Ralph Cole are to be deposed on May 31. Commissioners Jake Spooner, Marilyn Maro and several city staff members are scheduled for depositions in June. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for June 20 to address the city’s request for a summary judgement as to whether it was reasonably foreseeable that parking garages and other city matters discussed at CNOBB meetings could have come before the advisory board members in their official capacities. It was noted at a previous hearing that this is the crux of the case.