TARPON SPRINGS — Three months ago it appeared an ongoing dispute between the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce and two local businessmen had been resolved.
After months of negotiations, the chamber was poised to pay Tim Dorr and Dale Jacquay $90,000 to settle a 2-year-old civil suit.
Now, the case is heading back to court after chamber officials told Dorr and Jacquay they don't intend to honor the settlement agreement.
Chamber officials won't say why they decided to go back to court, but said they're still interested in bringing the case to a close.
But Dorr, 32, and Jacquay, 37, who sued the chamber in 2006 for breach of contract and libel, are angry. They say they reached an agreement with the chamber and want it to be honored.
"There's nothing ambiguous. The terms were agreed to by all parties," said Dorr, owner of Sun N' Fun Maps.
In the civil suit, filed in January 2006, Dorr claimed chamber officials libeled him in March 2005 when they printed a letter on the front of their newsletter that he said misrepresented his handling of a business deal with the chamber.
A judge later struck down that argument, and Dorr appealed the decision. An appeals court is scheduled to hear the case later this month.
Jacquay's claims in the lawsuit have not yet been ruled on. Jacquay, owner of the Rustic Apple, alleged chamber officials hurt him financially when they reneged on a contract for him to publish the chamber's newsletter.
Both men claimed that former chamber president Theajo "Tj" Davis made false accusations against them in public settings.
Davis, whose three-year tenure was marked by controversy, resigned in August and a new chamber board was elected in October. Dorr and Jacquay said they approached the new board in December about settling the suit and that chamber officials agreed to enter into negotiations.
In response, the two put their lawsuit on hold.
In February, after three months of negotiating, it appeared the two parties reached an agreement, said David A. Townsend, Dorr and Jacquay's attorney.
The chamber would pay Dorr and Jacquay a total of $90,000, reinstate their previously revoked memberships and offer a public apology. In exchange, Dorr and Jacquay promised to drop any other claims against the chamber and shut down their newsletter, The Chamber Disconnect, and Web site, which were critical of the chamber.
Dorr and Jacquay said they upheld their end of the agreement. The Web site was taken down in April.
But several weeks passed without word from the chamber, they said.
Dorr and Jacquay said chamber officials told them in April they didn't intend to honor the settlement agreement.
Chamber president Sue Thomas declined to discuss specifics about the case but said the chamber was still interested in coming to an agreement with Dorr and Jacquay.
"We don't want a lawsuit. We would love to settle it as much as they do. It would just have to be equitable on both sides," she said.
Thomas referred further questions to board member and local attorney Herb Elliott.
Elliott, too, declined to talk about the particulars.
"It's a very complicated matter and we expect to have something worked out soon," he said.
Jacquay said he was hopeful a new board would be more responsive about the matter than previous leaders. Now, he's convinced otherwise.
"It's a different team, but it's the same stupid game," he said.
Dorr said he and Jacquay have spent about $90,000 on legal fees and other costs associated with the lawsuit.
He said he just wants chamber officials to "right the wrongs" and keep their word.
"We're not looking to destroy the chamber," Dorr said. "We just want it over with."
Rita Farlow can be reached at far
[email protected] or (727) 445-4162.