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Skoks of Sarasota and attorney Gary Robinson of Orlando for its legal work. "We've got the experts," said Rappaport. INVOICE ANALYSIS Invoices from earlier in the fiscal year show Norton, Hammersley charged $275 per hour to work on BID issues. In August, it appears the firm acted as a campaign manager for the BID's second referendum. Only people who own commercial property on St. Armands Circle could vote (by mail) in the Sept. 17 election. At no point was a political action committee established as the BID attempted to sway the voters. Hammersley's firm billed the BID to "review and revise letter to go out with the brochure," according to an Aug. 25 invoice. The same bill charged $1,347.50 to "pre- pare individualized ballots for each property owner in District for upcoming referendum." In addition, the Hammersley firm collected addresses and confirmed property ownership. All totaled, the BID paid $9,188.20 for legal services during the second referendum campaign. In reaction to a newspaper article about sched- uling special events on St. Armands Circle, the BID — which does not schedule events — paid $1,817 in legal bills. This included an interest fee of $26.40 for a past-due bill. In October, the group was asked to furnish records after public comments were made about members' use of private email accounts for city business. While that practice is not illegal, it opens up the user's private com- puter to "forensic analysis" to find city-related communications. The BID spent a total of $21,650.85 in legal fees in that public records case. BID board member John Meshad said Tuesday, "We're spending a lot of money on legal fees we should get back. We need to resolve this reimbursement." "I do not feel, ethically, that the landlords [should] assess themselves to defend us," replied Rappaport. The City Commission may feel otherwise. The Downtown Improvement District (DID) — which represents property owners in that part of the city — fell afoul of the same pri- vate-computer/public-documents allegation last year. It, too, racked up legal fees. The city charged the DID's budget to pay them. % St. Armands has distinctive statuary standing in green space around the Circle. Photo by Norman Schimmel Sarasota News Leader February 14, 2014 Page 55

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