PB: What are you hiding Mayor Stanczyk?
An SDM commenter shared the following nugget from a recent Village Update email from Mayor Shelley Stanczyk. The Mayor was recounting some of the actions taken at a recent meeting:
The attempt to remove the confidential status of Attorney-Client meetings has been brought up repeatedly since the election. These meetings are held in accordance with a Florida Statute to discuss litigation settlement. While eliminating the confidential status of the sessions has been labeled by some as a transparency issue, it is not. It is not a wise plan to disclose litigation strategies to the other side during the process of a lawsuit. This would put the Village at a disadvantage during negotiation. All transcripts of attorney-client sessions become public after settlement is complete.
SDM has covered this issue repeatedly over the past several months (see PB: Made in the Shade for full discussion of the legal issues). SDM reminded the council multiple times that the statute says the village council “may” hold shade sessions, which means they are not required to do so.
The Palmetto Bay Village Council has voted to hold shade sessions, which by definition means they have decided to be opaque (i.e., the opposite of transparent) on the many, many questions surrounding the Palmer litigation.
Mayor Stanczyk and others on the council claim that publishing the Palmer transcripts would “put the Village at a disadvantage during negotiation.” Yet, neither she nor any other council member deigns to tell us why. What exactly is at issue in the “negotiation” at this point? The village already granted Palmer’s development order so there do not appear to be any public policy questions remaining to be decided.
SDM suspects the remaining issue to be decided has to be the money: how much, if anything, must the village pay to Palmer to compensate the school for the expenses they incurred in defending their rights?
So, what could be in those transcripts that, if disclosed, would increase the amount the village would pay to Palmer? (SDM would hope that if anything in the transcripts served to reduce any possible payout that our intrepid council would publish the transcript in the Miami Herald tomorrow.)
Since the Mayor and the council prefer to keep us in the dark, SDM will speculate wildly:
Could the transcript show that members of the council were influenced by – or colluded with – outside parties to reject a settlement?
We know that shade sessions cannot be used to take action on settling a case, only tactics can be discussed. Did the council actually come to an agreement at one of these sessions and thereby violate the law?
Did one of the council members attend a session and then disclose the substance of the discussions to some of the other parties to the Palmer suit? Was Palmer prejudiced by a disclosure so that the school had to spend more to its expensive lawyers?
Was any particular member of the council particularly or unusually vehement in a position favoring the continuation of the litigation?
Did the council ignore the advice of their own lawyers and continue the litigation anyway?
SDM is having trouble figuring out how any of these questions really changes the “negotiation.” Palmer has some kind of claim for compensation; it’s either valid or invalid. Palmer has a list of expenses and they are either permissible or not. What exactly do the shade sessions hide that so benefits the village?
SDM Says: All of this secrecy tends to make people wonder what is going on behind those closed doors and whether the council is acting on behalf of residents or in their own political interests. Hmmm….
SDM Message to the Mayor: The transcripts must be released at the conclusion of the litigation, not when you reach a settlement. So long as you are committed to keeping us in the dark, at least do it correctly.