Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

St. Pete Beach couple in court again over private beach

ST. PETE BEACH — The First Amendment Foundation has entered an appeals case alleging that the City Commission violated the state's Sunshine Law.

The court action involves an ongoing and sometimes bitter dispute over the public use of beach property in front of a Pass-a-Grille home south of the Loews Don CeSar Hotel.

Chet and Katherine Chmielewski began their battle with the city in 2006 because of city-sponsored events they say encourage the public to use their private beach.

The couple purchased their home in the 1970s at about the same time the city acquired several adjacent lots from the federal government. Now the site of the Don Vista Community Center, the property includes a federal restriction against public beach access from the center.

The Chmielewskis won the 2006 case in federal court. The city agreed in a formal settlement that the couple owns the beach-front property all the way to the mean high water line on the Gulf of Mexico.

The settlement also stipulated that the Chmielewskis' beach property was "dedicated to the use of the property owners … for beach and bathing purposes, and no tents, vehicles nor structures of any kind shall be permitted."

In 2009, the Chmielewskis took the city to court again, alleging that the city was still using their land, a practice they said amounted to illegal taking without compensation.

They contended that their property was being "consistently invaded by the public traversing across their property, peering into their windows, sitting and leaning on their back patio, (and) walking dogs along their property walkway."

The case is before the U.S. District Court in Tampa. As part of that case, the Chmielewskis' lawyers asked for copies of a private meeting between the City Commission and its attorneys that occurred in a 2008 before the 2006 case was settled.

When the Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over the Sunshine Law, denied that request, saying the underlying cases were essentially the same, the Chmielewskis took the matter to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

In its amicus brief filed last week, the foundation supports that appeal.

According to the foundation, if the lower court ruling were allowed to stand it would "substantially expand the limited exemption to Florida's Sunshine Law" that applies to government entities and their attorneys.

The group also argues that because of the year's time between the two cases, the 2008 shade meeting transcript was effectively made public and could not revert to protected status under the Sunshine Law.

The foundation also stresses that a 1993 amendment to the Sunshine Law allows government entities to meet privately with their attorneys "only to discuss settlement negotiations or strategy related to litigation expenditures."

"The stated basis for the trial court's ruling is contrary to Florida law … If the trial court order is allowed to stand, government entities will be allowed to keep shade meeting transcripts out of the public eye long after litigation is concluded — perhaps in perpetuity," the foundation brief states.

The Chmielewskis are seeking the shade meeting transcripts because they think the commission and its attorneys may have discussed how to circumvent the federal court to allow public use of the beach in front of their home, their attorney Stephen Turner said Tuesday.

"It is an interesting case. The question is, do the Chmielewskis have rights and are those rights being trampled on," Turner said.

Susan Churuti, one of the city's attorneys, maintains that the two cases are still active and connected and therefore the closed meeting is protected by the Sunshine Law.

Comments

Florida boy, 6, dies of rabies contracted from a bat

ORLANDO — A 6-year-old Florida boy has died from rabies he contracted after being scratched by an infected bat.The father of Ryker Roque told NBC that the boy died Sunday at an Orlando hospital.Father Henry Roque said he had found a sick bat, put it ...
Updated: 9 minutes ago

Pasco man fatally struck on Interstate 70 in Kansas

SALINA, Kan. — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Florida man died after he was hit by a car as he walked along Interstate 70 near Salina.The patrol says 35-year-old Cody Nordlund of New Port Richey died Sunday night.He was walking in an eastbound lane...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
North Korea calls Trump a ‘lunatic’ and a ‘loser’ in response to nuclear button tweet

North Korea calls Trump a ‘lunatic’ and a ‘loser’ in response to nuclear button tweet

North Korea’s official news agency responded Tuesday to President Donald Trump’s controversial "nuclear button tweet," describing it as the "the spasm of a lunatic," according to AP."The spasm of Trump in the new year reflects the desperate mental st...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Forecast: More warm weather, but frigid conditions are returning to Tampa Bay

Forecast: More warm weather, but frigid conditions are returning to Tampa Bay

The sunny skies and warmer temperatures that took hold on Martin Luther King Day will extend into Tuesday across Tampa Bay.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area They will last only a day, however, as the region will see a shor...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Boat fire claims 42-year-old mother of two; cold kills fish, attracts vultures, Licht on Bucs’ ‘brutal’ year; warm returns, for a day

The Daystarter: Boat fire claims 42-year-old mother of two; cold kills fish, attracts vultures, Licht on Bucs’ ‘brutal’ year; warm returns, for a day

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• It will actually warm up just a tad before another cold front arrives and sweeps east across the Gulf coast. Tuesday’s highs will be in the 70s but expect cooler temperatures...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Help wanted: Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa has 250 jobs to fill

Help wanted: Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa has 250 jobs to fill

TAMPA — Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is holding a hiring event next week to fill more than 250 positions. The event will take place in the Hard Rock Cafe from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 24. Available positions include culinary, beverage, hotel, spa, ...
Published: 01/16/18
Thanks to Hurricane Irma, you need a boat to get to Shell Key again

Thanks to Hurricane Irma, you need a boat to get to Shell Key again

AT THE SHELL KEY PRESERVE — From a boat puttering along in the water, the sandy beach seems to go on and on. Then, abruptly, it ends at a mass of tangled, overturned mangroves where a great blue heron sits on an exposed root.And there, stretching for...
Published: 01/16/18
Bill to ban orca breeding filed in House faces pushback from SeaWorld

Bill to ban orca breeding filed in House faces pushback from SeaWorld

A bill that would outlaw the breeding and performing of killer whales in Florida has cleared the initial hurdle that kept it off the table last year: getting a lawmaker to file it in the first place. In an effort to solidify a voluntary policy change...
Published: 01/16/18
Vultures drawn by fish killed during cold snap pose hazard for MacDill flights

Vultures drawn by fish killed during cold snap pose hazard for MacDill flights

TAMPA — The recent cold snap has been more than just an inconvenience for Floridians. It’s been tough on fish and potentially hazardous to flights at MacDill Air Force Base.The National Weather Service says temperatures in early January fell to as lo...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18