Sarasota News Leader

11/15/2013

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Sarasota News Leader November 15, 2013 OPINION Page 86 SLIGHTLY HACKNEYED THE VENERABLE SPORT OF SHOOTING THE MESSENGER By Robert Hackney Opinion Editor COMMENTARY Citizens for Sunshine sued the City of Sarasota and two commissioners for violating the state's Government in the Sunshine laws. While the city seeks to settle this latest suit, the sixth such occasion in little more than a year, there is no shortage of outrage by some locals. settlements, an amount that could approach $130,000 in only 14 months after this latest suit is finalized. However, a typical law firm of similar size would have to produce annual billings of at least half a million dollars to be considered even marginally successful. So the notion that her firm is "getting rich" off of these lawsuits is laughable. Unfortunately, the outrage is directed at the organization that keeps calling local governments on their failure to adhere to the law. No one, it seems, wants to admit that violations occur. The first round of negotiations for a settlement always seems to include the request that no admission of a violation is acknowledged by the defendants. When one reads the complaints in these lawsuits, and compares them to the Florida attorney general's opinion on how local government officials should apply the law, they do not leave much doubt — assuming the facts in the complaints are correct — that violations have occurred. And, if the facts were different than the allegations in the latest complaint, no rational legal advisor would advocate for an out-of-court settlement. That would mean that Citizens for Sunshine, represented by the Mogensen firm, is accurately calling into question real violations of state law by local officials. I certainly understand the resentment expressed by many at the frequent lawsuits over Sunshine violations. I just do not understand why the blame is directed at the ones pointing out the violations. Some claim that attorney Andrea Mogensen is using these violations to fund her practice, "profiting" off the awarding of attorney's fees in the settlements. I do not deny that her firm receives attorney's fees as part of the So given this, why does the question continue to be, "Why are these opportunistic lawyers always suing the poor local governments for no good reason?"

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