In a special meeting last night, the Treasure Island city commission voted unanimously to pay $450,000 in attorney’s fees for the three hoteliers who sued the city in November 2014. The hoteliers won the suit and are entitled to attorney’s fees under Florida statutes. In addition, the city has incurred in excess of $250,000 for its own attorneys to contest the case.
The settlement agreement outlines why the city disputed the attorney’s fees. The city remains precluded from engaging in or permitting vehicular traffic on the beach except for reasons of public safety and clean up .
The city had allowed parking on the beach in front of the hoteliers’ properties during special events, and the hoteliers sued saying such action violated Florida Statute 161.58, which bans on “vehicular traffic” on the beach. The court agreed, and its decision was upheld on appeals.
For more details, see our previous reporting on this matter.
The $450,000 amount was an offer by the hoteliers to settle for less than their actual attorney’s fees. A hearing on attorney’s fees was scheduled for February 1st. By settling the matter, risk was avoided by both parties. Arguing in court over legal fees would itself have been costly and with no certain outcome for either side.
The city commission that in November 2014 voted to fight the lawsuit in the first place is now gone. Neither then mayor Bob Minning nor then commissioners Phil Collins, Tim Ramsberger, Carol Coward and Alan Bildz are on the commission. Gone are also then city attorney Maura Keifer, a likely victim of her bad advice on the matter, as is then city manager Reid Silverboard.
“Although the city has fully executed the agreement involving attorney’s fees, I will have no comment until we have received payment,” said Arthur Czyszczon, owner of Page Terrace Motel and one of the three hoteliers who had sued the city. “We expect to receive payment in the next few months after the city has amended its budget to pay us $450,000.”
The $700,000 or more that this matter cost the city in attorney’s fees and court costs, both their own and that of the plaintiffs, is a substantial portion of its $25 million per year budget. It’s an even larger portion of its $4.6 million capital improvement plan. No decision has been made as to what expenditures to put off or taxes to raise to make up for the $700,000.
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