Sarasota News Leader

02/28/2014

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HANGING SEPARATELY The final item of the evening evokes the old Benjamin Franklin quip: "We must hang together, gentlemen … else, we shall most assuredly hang separately." Franklin's gang hung together; Sarasota's gang is split. The issue is payment of legal fees to defend Chapman against a lawsuit filed by Citizens for Sunshine. Originally, the suit included the city and Commissioner Suzanne Atwell. They settled out of court, but Chapman maintains she did nothing wrong. Further, she maintains the plaintiff is trying to expand radically, by judicial means, the scope of Florida's Public Meetings Law by banning two or more voting members of the same board from attending the same meeting with constituents. Last December, the City Commission voted 3-2 (with Mayor Shannon Snyder and Commissioner Paul Caragiulo in the minority) to pay Chapman's fees for three months. The period expires March 3, the day of the next regularly scheduled board meeting. Chapman's legal pleadings warn that if the plaintiffs can bully the commission into set- tling cases to avoid legal fees, no city advisory board member is safe from legal blackmail. Citizens for Sunshine has filed a number of Sunshine suits in the past year, either win- ning them or getting the city to settle out of court. In response, the city conducted an educational blitzkrieg among advisory board members and commissioners. % Sarasota News Leader February 28, 2014 Page 63

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