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St. Pete Beach attorney is gone already

City attorney Ralf Brookes has resigned after serving less than three months in the position.

The announcement came Friday in a letter Brookes sent to the commission and staff. In it, he did not explain why he was leaving but included an invitation to call on him for specialized legal services in the future.

"He just said it was personal," City Manager Mike Bonfield said, adding that Brookes had agreed to stay on until a replacement was found.

Hired in the midst of political turmoil, Brookes said that he had hoped to help bring together a community and commission divided over development issues. The extent to which that happened is not yet clear.

City staffers have contacted the other three finalists considered for the position in February, including attorney Michael Davis, who represented St. Petersburg for nearly two decades.

Davis and Brookes found themselves caught in a controversy surrounding the position when arguments and confusion broke out over the process the commission had used to make its selection.

Then-Mayor Ward Friszolowski had suggested a tally system that would have made Davis the first choice, but three commissioners had chosen Brookes as their top choice.

In the end the majority won out and Brookes was hired.

Mayor Michael Finnerty, a commissioner at the time, was particularly critical of the selection and questioned why the commission would select an applicant who lived so far away. Brookes lives in Cape Coral, a two-hour-plus commute.

"That was not good for him and not good for the city," Finnerty said.

In his time as city attorney, Brookes has been a key player in settlement discussions with the Save Our Little Village political group. The group filed a lawsuit when the commission failed to act on its land-use initiatives.

Brookes was friendly with SOLV's main attorney, Robert Lincoln. The discussions resulted in a special election for the initiative items, scheduled for June 3.

A special commission meeting has been tentatively scheduled for
7 p.m. Thursday to discuss filling the position.

Nick Johnson can be reached at
nickjohnson@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8361.

St. Pete Beach attorney is gone already 05/06/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 8, 2008 12:10pm]
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