ELRA opposes city’s motions to dismiss, substitute parties

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

Owners of the BeachHouse Restaurant have opposed a motion to list Bradenton Beach as the defendant in a lawsuit filed against the mayor, saying the mayor bears all the responsibility of alleged wrongdoing.

Robert Lincoln, the attorney representing BeachHouse corporate owner ELRA Inc. and its owner, Ed Chiles, has opposed a motion from the city to substitute parties and to dismiss portions of the lawsuit filed in February against Mayor Bill Shearon.

Charles F. Johnson, of Blalock Walters, representing Shearon on behalf of the city, filed a motion to substitute parties March 3, arguing the real party interest is the city, not Shearon, and the lawsuit should reflect that.

However, Lincoln responded that the city isn’t the problem and substituting parties would not make sense. Lincoln did not return phone calls from The Islander.

ELRA’s lawsuit challenges a pattern of past behavior and statements made by Shearon. It alleges he overstepped his authority and has a conflict of interest in another ongoing lawsuit, Meilner-Martin v. ELRA-Bradenton Beach, to terminate a development agreement between the city and ELRA for a parking lot on the beach.

Johnson alleges the city charter provides for a weak-mayor system of government and claims that Shearon has tried to remold the position to reflect his position.

According to Paul Ferber, part-time city resident and former political science professor at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, the biggest difference between the two systems is that in a strong-mayor system, the mayor has the authority to hire and fire the department heads.

“Only the full commission has the power to do this in Bradenton Beach and, thus, what we clearly have here is the weak-mayor system,” Ferber said in an email.

However, the ELRA suit alleges Shearon was acting as a “strong mayor” when he threatened department heads if they failed to provide evidence to sway the commission to deny the development agreement.

Shearon has denied those allegations.

“I was elected by the people to run the city in the best way I can,” he said. “They seem to have a problem with how I’m running the city and thoughts about how I should be running the city, yet, neither one of them live here. Maybe they should move here and run for mayor.”

If Shearon where part of a strong-mayor government, he would have more executive authority over the city and would not be able to vote on the commission, according to Ferber.

At the March 20 commission meeting, Vice Mayor Janie Robertson motioned to reaffirm the mayor as the administrator of Bradenton Beach as described by the city charter and employee handbook.

However, her motion died for lack of a second. Robertson asked if the city would adopt an organizational chart in the future, and Shearon said that was his intent.

The lawsuit also alleges that Shearon has a conflict of interest in the Meilner-Martin lawsuit, which originally listed Shearon, fellow planning and zoning board member Jo Ann Meilner, and Shearon’s partner Tjet Martin as plaintiffs.

Shearon withdrew from the lawsuit after winning the November municipal election, but ELRA claims Shearon still has a conflict because his significant other, Tjet Martin, remains a plaintiff.

Shearon said that while he and Martin are a couple and run a business together, they are not legally married and do not share bank accounts.

“She is funding the lawsuit on her own,” Shearon said. “I pulled out of that lawsuit before I was sworn in and have not spent a dime of my money on that case, therefore, there is no conflict of interest.”

The ELRA v. mayor lawsuit also alleges the mayor violated Florida’s Sunshine Laws through email communications. It also alleges he spoke with Meilner privately on city business in 2012 when they both served on the P&Z board.

Meilner denied any wrongdoing, saying their conversations were not about agenda items, merely a friendly exchange between colleagues about routine items.

“They are reaching here,” she said. “They must be desperate if they are throwing around these accusations. Bill and I never discussed city issues outside city chambers.

Shearon said that while he has no animosity toward ELRA, there has been a perceived difference of opinion concerning the lawsuit.

“What’s really disappointing to me is that they could have come and talked to me about this disagreement but, unfortunately, there has been a lack of communication on Mr. Chiles’ part,” Shearon said.

“With all the problems facing the city, (the lawsuit) is a waste of my time and taxpayer money,” he said.

 

Bradenton Beach lawyers want city, not mayor named in lawsuit

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

ELRA Inc., owner of the Beachhouse Restaurant, amended on Feb. 24 its lawsuit against Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon that challenges his capacity as mayor.

Sarasota attorney Robert Lincoln filed the original lawsuit Feb. 6 on behalf of ELRA Inc., alleging Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon overstepped his authority and has a conflict of interest in the ongoing litigation to terminate a development agreement between ELRA and the city.

ELRA Inc. lists Ed Chiles as president/director on the government-sponsored website sunbiz.org.

The lawsuit asks that the court to issue an order determining how Shearon should act in certain future situations.

Charles F. Johnson, of Blalock Walters, the law firm representing Shearon on behalf of the city, said it was his opinion that the court should not pre-judge future events or in any way limit future authority or conduct of the mayor. He says the court should not make a speculative decision on the unknown.

ELRA Inc. also alleges that two emails sent by the mayor to Bradenton Beach commissioners violate Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law. Lincoln alleges the mayor and commissioners can’t discuss matters of public policy without being in a public meeting. No other complaint has been made.

According to a memorandum sent by Johnson, it wasn’t the initial emails but the responses that allegedly violated Chapter 286 of Florida statute.

Johnson said the law firm is investigating those claims, and has filed a motion to dismiss, as well as a motion to substitute parties.

The motion to substitute parties argues that the real party interest is the city, rather than Mayor Shearon, and the lawsuit should reflect that.

The motion to dismiss argues that portions of the suit are moot because of the other suit against the city filed by former planning and zoning board member Jo Ann Meilner and Tjet Martin. That lawsuit has been ongoing since June 2012.

It originally included Shearon, Martin’s life partner and business partner, as a plaintiff, but Shearon withdrew after being elected mayor in November 2013.

Blalock Waters invoiced the city $3,093 to file the motions. Commissioners unanimously approved the expense during their March 20 meeting.

A new judge has been assigned to the lawsuit brought by Martin and Meilner against the city.

On Feb. 28, 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan entered an order disqualifying herself from the case, citing a conflict of interest. The case has been re-assigned to Judge Gilbert Smith, also of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court.

Shearon, Martin and Meilner filed the 2012 lawsuit challenging the city’s approval of an agreement with ELRA Inc., allowing construction of a parking lot on a vacant parcel south of the BeachHouse Restaurant.

At the time of the planning and zoning board review, the board found the application inconsistent with the comprehensive plan and that the proposed parking lot impeded on an erosion control line developed by the state in 1992.

According to ELRA’s attorney, in 2006, the city initiated a code enforcement action against ELRA regarding the use of the vacant parcel. However, ELRA’s evidence at the hearing showed the parcel had been used for parking since the restaurant opened in the 1970s. It was considered “grandfathered” — exempt from regulation. The parties then compromised, allowing up to forty cars to park on the parcel.

Between 2008 and 2012, ELRA Inc. claims it worked with the city to ensure parking on the vacant lot did not violate sea turtle nesting regulations.

In March 2012, the city approved the joint agreement with ELRA to improve the parking lot, install handicap-accessible parking spaces and improve access for city residents. The project included creating a dune west of the lot to protect city hall — across Gulf Drive — from storm surge. The joint agreement gave both entities non-exclusive access.

The P&Z recommended against the agreement, and Shearon and Meilner resigned from P&Z following the approval by the commission.

ELRA’s lawsuit also alleges Meilner and Shearon were observed by an unnamed witness talking in the parking lot following a P&Z meeting, violating the Sunshine Law, but no complaint has been made to that effect.

The lawsuit filed by Meilner and Martin against the city has been stalled in the court system, without mediation, arbitration or a hearing date.

 

Stabbing suspect faces additional charges

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

A man arrested after allegedly stabbing a woman multiple times March 15 in the Holmes Beach apartment they shared with another man now faces additional charges after the victim reported finding a homemade weapon in the apartment.

Helderman

Helderman

Andrew Helderman, 23, 300 block of Clark Drive, now faces new charges of making or discharging a destructive device and possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon in addition to the charges of aggravated assault and attempted first-degree murder.

The initial second-degree attempted murder charge was dropped March 31 and replaced with the first-degree attempted murder charge because officials now believe the attack on the victim was premeditated, court documents state.

Helderman also injured his male roommate in the March 15 attack.

The attorney representing Helderman, Franklin Roberts, entered a plea of not guilty to all charges and requested a jury trial.

According to the HBPD police report, the 31-year-old victim discovered the “bangstick” — capable of firing a 12-gauge shotgun round — while moving out of the apartment.

She was released from the hospital after recovering from a series of lacerations she suffered during the stabbing. She is planning a move to Tampa.

HBPD Officer Steve Ogline stopped by the apartment March 20 when he noticed the tailgate of a vehicle parked at the residence was open.

The woman showed Ogline a weapon that, according to police, Helderman built only a few days before he attacked her.

She said Helderman had showed it to her and fired it at least once into a wooded area across the street from the apartment.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office assisted the HBPD in determining if the device was operational.

It is made of metal tubing, vacuum cleaner parts and electrical tape, and was determined to be capable of firing a bullet when packed with gunpowder, according to the report.

Helderman is a felon who served six years in prison in Glades County. He was convicted of battery on a detention officer, false imprisonment, criminal mischief, grand theft auto, escape from a juvenile detention facility and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He is prohibited from owning a gun.

Helderman is being held at the Manatee County jail on a $174,000 bond.

According to the court website, the arraignment scheduled for April 11 at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W, Bradenton, was continued.

 

Paging Doctor Sleep

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Published Sunday, March 30, 2014 12:05 am

I remember watching the movie The Shining as a child. It was one of those films created to scare the bejeezus out of you, so bad that you remember your reaction even in adulthood.

Screen shot 2014-03-29 at 6.08.03 PMEveryone has a generational movie that scared the living daylights out of him or her. Both of my parents were most affected by The Exorcist even though they didn’t’ know each other at the time.

After seeing the movie, my mother made my uncle sleep with her at her apartment, even though they were adults. My father said he had visions on the drive home after witnessing 12-year-old Regan become possessed by her childhood friend “Captain Howdy.”

To me, The Shining was even more frightening. I remember closing my eyes, just as Danny Torrance had done in the movie, and waiting for the hallucinations that only Hollywood could create to disappear from my room (think leprosy woman in room 237).

But the movie was nothing. The book was much worse. In middle school, just as my fears of the leprosy woman had faded, I decided to read the book, by legendary author Stephen King. Suddenly leprosy woman was back in my room, only this time there were others, such as undead people taking over my dreams in the middle of the night.

Remember in Friends when Joey hides the book in the freezer?

Why did I put myself through this trauma? Well, because it was fun. Being scared, especially in your teen years, is the most legit “thrill” your parents will allow.

I could almost imagine my father packing up our family and moving to a resort in Colorado where we would be snowed in for the rest of the winter with roomies that happened to be un-living.

We had been snowed in once before, on a family vacation to North Carolina. That experience was as close to the nightmare at the Overlook Hotel as I ever wanted to get. While the horror we experienced was a little different from that of the Torrance family, the water heater broke, the car was stuck in the snow and the only movie available to watch was Weekend at Bernie’s. It was still quite a dreadful experience for a Florida family.

In the movie, isolation in the mountains gave the dad, Jack Torrance, a kind of cabin fever brought on by a spiritual presence in the hotel. The little boy, Danny, starts seeing ghosts because of a sixth sense he possessed. The Overlook had it too, and so did the cook, Dick Halloran, who gave the psychological gifts a name. He called it “the Shining.” Dick warned Danny it would come out at the hotel. He told him to close his eyes to make the visions go away.

And there I was, 14 years old and following Halloran’s instructions. I closed my eyes waiting in my dark room until leprosy lady went away.

The shining allowed Danny to see the undead lingering around the facility. Or were they dead? I mean ghosts don’t usually leave residue in the shower do they?

They do in King’s 2013 novel Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining.

The book starts with Danny as an adult. The first part developing him as an alcoholic transient moving from one town to the next in hopes of drowning his experience at the Overlook at the bottom of a bottle of booze.

The Shining is such a famous novel that King was smart enough to take a different approach with the sequel. Dan doesn’t revisit the Overlook Hotel, at least, not in its former state. And although he is dealing with skeletons of his  childhood, the book focuses instead on Dan’s psychic ability.

Leprosy lady only shows up once, while Danny is still a child and he and his mother, Wendy Torrance, are living in Tampa. That’s when Halloran comes up from the Florida Keys and tells Danny he has to put his ultimate fears, or those Overlook characters that can use his mind to manifest into the real world, into a lockbox in his head.

That’s the last we see of ol’ Halloran. The book follows Dan Torrance to until he’s middle aged. He now has a steady job in New Hampshire, is sober and frequents AA meetings, applying the twelve steps to his daily life and his mental abilities.

He also applies the shining to his new career at Hospice. The boy once known as “doc” due to his love of Bugs Bunny now becomes “Doctor Sleep” in adulthood.

With the help of a death-predicting cat, Dan helps patients pass on to the next world, but Dan’s real calling is to rescue a twelve-year-old girl, Abra Stone, from being taken by tribe of undead people called the True Knot who use the shining to gain immortality and prey on pre-teens in their prime state of paranormal psyche.

Stone has the brightest shining the True Knot have ever seen and they believe she will save their clan from an outbreak of measles that seems to be killing them one by one. Dan pairs up with the girl to defeat the clan in a classic tale of good verses evil.

While the tale The Shining is one unsurpassable in the minds of horror enthusiasts, it’s refreshing to see that King didn’t try to make a sequel similar to the plot of the legendary book. Instead, it’s a totally new take on Dan Torrance and I think it was the right call,

Woman dives from pier, escapes police

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

A handcuffed Holmes Beach woman was arrested March 28 after she escaped from police custody by running on the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach and jumping into the water.

Thurman

Thurman

Rani Kristina Thurman, 33, is facing a charge of escape and three counts of contempt of court for not answering a court summons.

An officer had made contact with Thurman on Bridge Street around 1 a.m. after learning there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest.

She was placed in handcuffs but took off running before the officer could get her into the patrol car, according to a police report.

Thurman allegedly ran onto the pier and adjacent floating dinghy dock and jumped into the water to escape.

BBPD officers yelled several times for her to stop, before Officer John Tsakiri gave chase, jumping in the water after her, the report said.

However, Tsakiri was unable to locate Thurman.

BBPD called in the aid of the U.S. Coast Guard from the Cortez station and conducted a search of several boats anchored nearby.

The clothes Thurman had been wearing were found on one sailboat, while she was located on another boat, the report said.

Thurman told officers she had nothing to lose. As they took her into custody, she said, “I could’ve gotten away if I kept swimming but the water was just too damn cold.”

This isn’t the first time Thurman has evaded law enforcement. She has a history of violating probation and not answering court summons, according to court documents.

Thurman’s contempt of court charges relate to a case that has been reopened after she failed to appear for a March 19 hearing at the Manatee County Judicial Center.

She was originally charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest in 2012 after two Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies were injured while trying to pry a broken crack pipe from her hand.

The MCSO said Thurman was walking in the 2600 block of 13th Street West in Bradenton when MCSO deputies stopped her for not using the sidewalk.

When deputies asked if she had anything on her, she said “no,” then emptied her pockets revealing a small glass pipe, according to the report.

Thurman attempted to flee, but fell down and broke the pipe.

She was convicted March 28, 2013.

As of Islander press time, Thurman remained in custody at the Manatee County jail on a $30,000 bond. Her arraignment is scheduled for 8:20 a.m., April 29 at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave., Bradenton.

2 BBPD officers injured while making arrest

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

Police arrested a Bradenton woman March 29 after she allegedly bit one Bradenton Beach Police officer and caused another to break his hand while placing her in custody.

Pettigrew

Pettigrew

Katlin Marie Pettigrew, 22, faces charges of resisting arrest with violence, disorderly intoxication and two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer after her alleged erratic behavior sent the officers to the emergency room.

Around 11 p.m., BBPD responded to reports of a fight in the 100 block of Bridge Street.

When officers arrived, about 50-75 people were standing in front of Sports Lounge observing a verbal altercation between Pettigrew and a man, according to the police report.

BBPD Sgt. James Gill reported he told Pettigrew to stop yelling and to sit on the curb so officers could assess the situation, but Pettigrew, who appeared intoxicated, acted aggressively toward Gill.

When he tried to restrain her, she swung her arms erratically and yelled obscenities, the report said.

At that point, Officer John Tsakiri aided Gill by grabbing Pettigrew’s other arm, and she bit his right bicep, according to the report.

The officers reported they took Pettigrew to the ground and put one handcuff on her, but had trouble placing the other cuff on her wrist because she was squirming.

At some point, Gill’s hand was broken.

Many spectators were taking video of the incident, the report said.

When the two officers tried to lift Pettigrew, she again began kicking and screaming and required further restraint before she could be placed in the patrol car.

West Manatee Fire Rescue and Emergency Medical Service were called to treat Tsakiri’s bite. However, while medics were treating him, Pettigrew escaped from one handcuff and smashed her head against the window of the patrol car.

Pettigrew was pepper-sprayed and re-cuffed, the report said.

She was treated by EMS for a facial laceration.

After Pettigrew was controlled, Tsakiri noticed abrasions to his knee and that the sole of his shoe had been ripped off.

Witnesses told police that Pettigrew bit at least two other people inside the bar and also punched several people.

EMS transported both officers and Pettigrew to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.

During the trip, Pettigrew said she had been celebrating because she got a new job.

She was cleared of any injuries and was taken to the Manatee County jail where she remained on $8,620 bond. Her arraignment will take place at 9 a.m. Friday, April 25, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton

 

New BB noise ordinance causes confusion, complaints

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

Bradenton Beach folks are making some noise.

Business owners are confused and residents have complained about a noise ordinance that was adopted March 20 by the Bradenton Beach City Commission.

Frank Padula plays accordion in the food court at the Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton April 5 — at a fluctuating decibel level of 90-plus and minus any complaints. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy - See more at: http://www.islander.org/2014/04/new-bb-noise-ordinance-causes-confusion-complaints/#sthash.gE4dxx1p.dpuf

Frank Padula plays accordion in the food court at the Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton April 5 — at a fluctuating decibel level of 90-plus and minus any complaints. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

During public comment at the commission’s April 3 meeting, several business owners voiced concern about where the decibel reading should be measured in the event of a complaint.

“As the law is written, someone can stand outside my bar with a decibel-reader application on their cellphone and, if it’s over the legal limit, they can call police,” Joe Cuervo, owner of Drift In, said during public comment. “Am I right? Because it seems to me like that’s the way this law is written. ”

Mayor Bill Shearon said he didn’t plan to discuss the ordinance because it was not on the agenda, but there have been a lot of complaints in reference to the new ordinance. He said where the decibel level can be read is “still to be determined.”

According to Steve Gilbert, city building official, two references in the ordinance have created confusion and could be subject to legal interpretation.

“The first reference is fairly clear, in that it points to taking the sound-level measurements ‘at the receiving land,’ which I would interpret to mean the property where the person making the complaint resides,” Gilbert wrote in an email.

However, Gilbert added, the second reference of “receiving land” now appears “ambiguous in nature due to revisions made to the ordinance during the public hearings.”

In the original ordinance, officials were planning to take measurements at the property line of the noise source, and also at the property line of the receiving land, so they could accurately frame the noise based on the distance, weather conditions and other factors.

“One could make the argument that the “receiving land” could be just across the street, or even on the sidewalk,” Gilbert said. “However, the intent was to refer to the residence or business of the person making the complaint.”

Amanda Escobio, who spoke on behalf of the Bridge Street Merchants, said there has been nothing but confusion since the ordinance was passed.

“Our position when we came here on March 20 was to take some more time passing the ordinance and it was the commission that insisted on voting that day,” she said. “I’m wondering why and how, if it’s law, there are still things ‘to be determined,’ as you said, mayor.”

Commissioners unanimously approved the new noise ordinance with a clause allowing the decibel levels to be measured from the property line of the complainant rather than at the source of the sound at their March 20 meeting, after hearing more than an hour of public comment on the topic inside chambers.

While commissioners were in favor of the sliding scale of allowed decibel levels, they said they would allow the sound to be read from the complainant’s property line rather than from the source.

The ordinance became law that day, as it was the final advertised public reading of the ordinance.

Under the new noise ordinance, outdoor music is allowed until 10 p.m., and live indoor music can take place until 1 a.m. Establishments can provide music at 85 decibels 7 a.m.-7 p.m., but that number shrinks to 75 decibels between the hours of 7-10 p.m., and then must be turned down to 65 decibels 10 p.m.-2 a.m. It decreases again to 55 decibels 2-7 a.m.

The original version of the ordinance would have lowered the allowable commercial decibel levels in order to address resident’s concerns related to live entertainment and amplified music offered at and around businesses in the Bridge Street area.

The city planning and zoning board held several meetings on the topic and recommended lowering the decibel levels in the commercial district, but after hearing more than 50 business owners who opposed the measure, commissioners entered a last-minute clause that some say ended up allowing increased the decibel levels of music rather than lowering the sound.

The city commission decided to consider the matter further at a future meeting.