Case in point: The Ron Exline lawsuit. For those who are not aware of the claims here, the City is being sued for potential Sunshine Law violations in turing over negotiation authority to staff and an elected official in a series of meetings relating to the purchase price and ultimate density for a project known as Las Palmas - fomerly the First Union Bank buidling. The suit also alleges that the City Manager polled commissioners out of the "sunshine". Furthermore, it alleges that the City did not go through the proper channels (read: "procedure") in that the determination whether certain property should be considered surplus was not forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Board for its recommendation as required by Section 2.1 of the City's Code of Ordinances. The applicable section reads as follows:
(b) Declaration of surplus property. (1) When the city commission finds that any real property owned by the city is unuseable or not needed for city purposes, after receipt and review of an advisory recommendation of the planning and zoning board, the commission may declare the real property to be surplus property by a simple majority vote. A list of surplus property shall be reviewed at least once a year for public sale. A property may be withdrawn from the list at any time upon the concurrence of the majority of all the members of the city commission. The inclusion of a property on such list shall not constitute an offer to sell the property.
Now, what is so difficult about that? I am not going to weigh in on the merits of the case and do not know the details regarding its status, other than it is an going lawsuit against the City. But, one must ask that if we had followed the established procedures, would we be facing this lawsuit at all?
As of August 28, 2006, the City has accumulated a total expense of $79,525.76 in legal fees in defense of this legal action. What else have we lost? Here is a brief list: Another blow to level of trust the citizenry has of its municipal government, a delayed project which results in vacant land immediately adjacent to our downtown; continued questions regarding the legitimacy of City actions, etc.
I can assure you that as commissioner I will insist that we go "by the book" in all matters - especially as it relates to the disposition of real estate. Note to the administration - the City's Code of Ordinances is not a "pick and choose" set of guidelines - it is the law.