Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Pete Beach leader says legal foe seems willing to settle lawsuits

ST. PETE BEACH — As the city's development-related legal wars enter a sixth year, settlement talks are in the wind again.

In the past few weeks, city officials, lawyers and residents took different tacks with one goal in mind — to end the myriad lawsuits that, along with a tough economy, have paralyzed growth in this beach community.

Commissioner Jim Parent announced last week that he had met privately with Bruce Kadoura, a resident whose legal fight against the city's development regulations is under review by the Second District Court of Appeal.

Kadoura appears willing to settle his lawsuits and "can get other guys to go along," Parent told the commission. Other residents suing the city include Bill Pyle, Richard McCormick and Jim Anderson.

In a letter sent to the commission last month, Kadoura said the lawsuits "have expended vast amounts of time and treasure." He called for a "different approach" and a "more cooperative spirit," and suggested the residents suing the city and commissioners meet without their attorneys present to explore exit strategies from their legal battles.

"We fear that we will be looking at many more years of litigation this community cannot afford," Kadoura warned.

On Monday, Kadoura's attorney, Ken Weiss, sent a letter to the city's attorneys offering to dismiss some of the lawsuits to reach a "compromise solution." But Weiss also made clear that some of his clients' legal battles with the city are not over.

He renewed his demand that the city's attorneys stop asking the city to pay for defending them for alleged legal misconduct.

Susan Churuti, one of the city's attorneys, responded in an e-mail to Weiss that she and other members of her firm are city "officers" under the city's charter.

As such, she said it is "appropriate" for the city to reimburse its attorneys for legal costs.

This latest phase of legal disagreements over development rules was triggered in 2006 when a group of residents concerned that skyscrapers could line the beach succeeded in changing the city's charter to require voter approval of building height changes.

That charter change was repealed by voters last year, but a legal battle over a 2008 comprehensive plan, also approved by voters, is still working its way through the courts.

Kadoura suggested that the city reconsider a settlement that was proposed in 2009 during failed mediation talks.

"If this can end the lawsuits, it will save us some money," Parent said.

Although other commissioners were skeptical that Parent's talks with Kadoura would end the suits, they urged him to continue his efforts.

"Please forgive my skepticism, but they don't act in good faith," said Commissioner Bev Garnett.

Garnett, a former member of a pro-development group that originally proposed the embattled comprehensive plan, has been a target as well.

Last week, she emotionally declined the commission's unanimous decision to pay her latest legal bill, incurred during her successful defense against multiple elections and ethics complaints filed against her since her election in 2009.

"My attorney believes that if I accept, it can open the city and me up again for more lawsuits," Garnett said.

"It's harassment, pure and simple," said Commissioner Marvin Shavlan.

St. Pete Beach leader says legal foe seems willing to settle lawsuits 10/04/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 3:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays set to activate Tommy Hunter from DL


    The Rays plan to activate RHP Tommy Hunter from the DL for Thursday's series finale against the Angels.

  2. Reporter says Republican candidate in Montana body-slammed him (w/video)


    HELENA, Mont. — Witnesses said the Republican candidate for Montana's sole congressional seat body-slammed a reporter Wednesday, the day before the polls close in the nationally watched special election. Authorities said late Wednesday that Greg Gianforte has been cited for misdemeanor assault over incident with …

    Greg Gianforte, right, receives congratulations from a supporter in Helena, Mont., in March. [Associated Press]
  3. Culpepper falls just short on 'Survivor' finale

    Human Interest

    In the end, Tampa lawyer Brad Culpepper fell just short, and the ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneer lost Survivor: Game Changers and the $1 million prize to Sarah Lacina, a police officer from Iowa.

  4. Families dispute claims that slain Tampa Palms roommates shared neo-Nazi beliefs


    TAMPA — Andrew Oneschuk never liked making small talk on the phone, his father said, but the last time the two spoke, something seemed off.

    Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman lived in a Tampa Palms apartment with Devon Arthurs and Brandon Russell. Oneschuk and Himmelman reportedly planned to move out.
  5. Brad Culpepper makes it to final 3 on Survivor, but jury picks Sarah

    The Feed

    UPDATE, WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Tampa's Brad Culpepper make it to the final 3 on Survivor, but jurors chose Sarah as the winner of the $1 million.

    Original report follows:

    "The Tables Have Turned" - Brad Culpepper, Tai Trang and Hali Ford on the fourth episode of SURVIVOR: Game Changers on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS Entertainment