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More than 15,000 residents to be removed from lawsuit on Pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Former City Council member Kathleen Ford has agreed to drop more than 15,000 petitioners from a lawsuit seeking to force a public vote on the fate of the Pier.

Ford agreed Monday to refile an amended complaint by Friday that will list only four or five registered voters as plaintiffs.

Joseph Patner, head of litigation for the city, said he is relieved that Ford agreed to eliminate the petitioners. Residents who signed the referendum petition, he said, have deluged his office with calls asking to be removed from the case. "I'm happy for those folks who got dragged in," Patner said. "We can now proceed."

Ford declined to comment after the hearing.

The city has 10 days to respond to Ford's amended complaint, though both sides will still hold a mediation session on Friday in an attempt to resolve the case.

Ford sued in August, seeking to force the city to hold a referendum to amend its charter so as to "preserve and refurbish the iconic inverted pyramid" that is St. Petersburg's current Pier.

The suit seeks a temporary injunction to halt demolition of the 1973 structure pending the court's ruling and outcome of a vote.

More than 15,000 petitioners supported the referendum drive by voteonthepier.com, a group headed by Safety Harbor resident and Northeast High School graduate Tom Lambdon.

In December, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Amy Williams ordered the two sides to early mediation. Patner asked the judge to dismiss the suit on technical grounds.

Williams granted his request in part, but held that Ford had the basis for legal action and allowed her to file an amended suit naming each of the 15,652 petitioners.

After the hearing, Lambdon said he hopes Ford and the city will reach an agreement Friday on a potential referendum question that could go before voters.

His group actually solicited more than 23,000 signatures in its petition drive. "The voters in the city want to be heard," he said.

More than 15,000 residents to be removed from lawsuit on Pier 01/14/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 11:53pm]
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