PB: Shade Sessions Are Out
Thanks to SDM’s hero, David Singer, the notorious Palmetto Bay Village Council shade sessions have been released to the public. After reading two of the transcripts, SDM can safely observe the following:
Kress Court Reporting, which may or may not be an entity related to the village’s communications director who SDM refers to as Kaptain Kreepy, has a great gig doing these transcripts. Nice to see the village keeps the business in the family.
On a more serious note, the session SDM will excerpt today follows a long discussion where former Justice Raoul Cantero explains what the court did in ruling against the village and explains that he believes the village has a 70% chance of failure should it decide to appeal further.
The fact that the council decided to continue with the appeal given this stark probability is troubling on its face. More troubling, however, is that most of the attorney/client shade session was discussing matters not related to settlement and certainly not related to litigation expenditures.
SDM would argue that village taxpayers would have benefited from Mr. Cantero’s analysis of the court’s opinion and that there was no reasonable explanation as to why the council kept the attorney’s legal interpretation of the court’s order and reasoning secret at the time.
Below, SDM has excerpted the very end of the transcript dated January 7, 2012. This session occurred right after the court returned a devastating order essentially demanding that the village grant Palmer Trinity 1150 students.
Before we get to the actual words, SDM wants to share a part of a legal case that talks about the limits of what councils can do in shade sessions. Keep these words in mind as you read the careful tap dance as the council comes to a consensus and a likely violation of the sunshine law.
The Sunshine law “simply provides a governmental entity’s attorney an opportunity to receive necessary direction and information from the government entity. No final decisions on litigation matters can be voted on during these private, attorney-client strategy meetings. The decision to settle a case, for a certain amount of money, under certain conditions is a decision which must be voted upon in a public meeting.” Sch. Bd. of Duval County v. Florida Pub. Co., 670 So. 2d 99, 100 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996) Emphasis added by SDM.
Now, let’s move on to the entertainment for today. Do you hear a final decision being made or not? [Snarky comments in brackets.]
MS. BOUTSIS: I don’t think that he is including the zoning. It’s the Petition, it’s the Motion to Enforce Mandate, our Motion for Clarification, their response to the motion to that and this one. It’s five times that the Eleventh Circuit has heard this matter, it has nothing to do with the rezoning that went up to the district.
And I ‘m sorry Councilwoman Lindsay, since you were conflicted, what is your position?
Right now I don’t have three votes it seems yet to go forward. Consensus. [Remember, no final decisions on litigation matters can be voted on during these private, attorney-client strategy meetings.]
MS. LINDSAY: Just as I said a few moments ago, when I came here today I had not made a decision. I decided that I would listen to Justice Cantero and take his advice. The strongest advice that I am hearing from him is that he feels that the Court did not uphold the law and I think that it is my bound and duty to the people who elected me to move forward to see that the Court upholds the law, so I would vote for an appeal. I’m sorry, my consensus, I am not voting I used the wrong word, excuse me. [Nice save!]
MS. STANCZYK: Thank you for that correction.
MR. PARISER: Is this going t o come for a vote in front of Council?
MS. STANCZYK: We are just going to announce that the appeal is going forward. [No final decision here, please move along.]
MR. FIORE: I prefer a vote.
MR. TENDRICH: I’d ask for a vote.
MR. FIORE: I am going to say it anyway, I don’t care.
MS. STANCZYK: It wasn’t meant to be less than transparent or to hide the fact. [Oh no, definitely not.]
MR. TENDRICH: I think it does hide the fact by not having a vote.
MS. STANCZYK: That’s fine, Howard, the point was to protect you two guys. [Hmmm...when was this decided?]
MR. FIORE: I don’t need anybody’s protection.
MS. STANCZYK: Go for it.
MR. FIORE: And in the end here what did we win? Nothing. The taxpayers lose. Have a good day.
MS. STANCZYK: The meeting is not adjourned, Mr. Fiore. [Is this where she learned to jump up and run out before a meeting is adjourned? ]
MR. FIORE: It is for me.
MS. STANCZYK: Please make a note on the record that Mr. Fiore is going to leave the room.
MR. FIORE: I haven’t left yet, I am going to get some water.
MR. PARISER: To what extent does it go before we cancel this discussion, can we say based upon the advice of counsel?
MS. BOUTSIS: Yes. I would ask that no substantive discussions be had on the dais, that’s the whole reason for a shade session. And I don’t want to have that privilege waived, but the decision to move forward can be announced on the dais and/or voted upon on the dais. The only thing I ask is please don’t get into the merits of the litigation.
MS. STANCZYK: What exactly would be the merits of litigation? In other words, how far can their opinion be expressed without having opened the door to the attorney/client session and discussing the merits of the litigation?
Because I want that clear since we have two people that want to vote and a vote has usually got an opinion expressed and discussion. [Have you ever heard of anyone who wants to control others more than this lady?]
MR. TENDRICH: When we have a vote for anything it’s yes or no, we don’t discuss it.
MS. STANCZYK: Sure we do. I am trying to get you safe, Howard, and you are walking a thin line. [Pot meet kettle.]
MS. BOUTSIS: You can take a motion to vote for it yes or no, and please refrain from further discussion.
MR. TENDRICH: Fine, I agree with that.
MR. FIORE: I don’t agree with that. I am going public and I am going to state this is my opinion and I am against this appeal. [Damn straight, Patrick. The public needs to know!]
MS. STANCZYK: How can we sanction him for breaking attorney/client?
MS. BOUTSIS: That’s not breaking it, he is against the appeal.
MS. STANCZYK: We don’t know how far he is going to go , he says he is going to discuss it.
MR. FIORE: I am going to go public and say I am against the appeal.
MS. STANCZYK: That’s what your vote says.
MR. FIORE: That’s what I am going to say in the meeting on Monday.
MS. BOUTSIS: It’s not taking it any further.
MR. WILLIAMS: Eve, you and the Justice are going to get together on a budget on this so that I can bring that back to the Council?
MS. BOUTSIS: Just so I am clear, he is authorized to start working?
MS. STANCZYK: Yes.
MR. FIORE: No. [Consensus?]
MS. BOUTSIS: So Justice Cantero is authorized by consensus, the majority consensus, to proceed with the appeal, but we will also in the interim prepare a budget, so we need to amend my legal fees budget accordingly.
Alright, we are adjourned. It’s quarter to 12.
SDM Says: Now we understand why Mayor Stanczyk fears these transcripts worse than her words on pbcheckstherecord.org. They are damning in so many ways.
Programming Note: We only read two of the 23 transcripts so there is definitely more to come. It’s going to be a long summer Mme. Mayor.