The St. Pete Beach Commission met Tuesday night to select a new city attorney from four qualified applicants.
They announced that Attorney Ralf Brookes, who is board certified in city, county and local government and runs a private practice out of Cape Coral, had been chosen to replace Timothy Driscoll, who will be leaving at the month's end.
Brookes, who currently represents Bradenton Beach, beat out Michael A. Connelly, who represents Madeira Beach; James L. Yacavone, who represents Tarpon Springs; and Mike Davis, who represented St. Petersburg for 19 years.
Despite some questions brought up about his experience, the commission set a meeting for Tuesday to finalize the contract.
Then confusion set in.
The commission had agreed to rank each applicant from one to four in order of their preference, one being the first choice.
The totals for each applicant would be calculated, with the lowest number resulting in the commission's first choice.
After each commissioner and the mayor submitted their rankings to the city clerk, Teresa McMaster saw that three of the five had ranked Brookes as their first choice and announced him as the winner.
Michael Finnerty, the only commissioner to rank Davis first, said he was dumbfounded when he heard Brookes announced as the winner. It didn't add up.
He discussed it with the city manager, Mike Bonfield, who later did the math and released a memo explaining the mishap.
"In review of the rankings, the city clerk saw three top rankings for Ralf Brookes and announced him as the top candidate without following the ranking process of totaling all votes, which was agreed to at the beginning of the meeting."
As it turns out, Mayor Ward Friszolowski and Commissioner Mike Finnerty both ranked Brookes last.
If you total up each applicants ranking, Brookes' score is 11 and Davis' score is 9. That would make Davis the first choice, Brookes second.
"She made a mistake. Let's get beyond this and go forward. Mr. Davis is the attorney of St. Pete Beach," Finnerty said.
But for Commissioners Linda Chaney, Harry Metz and Ed Ruttencutter, who ranked Brookes first, there is no question that he was selected.
"The way I read it, when they go to approve the contract it's still a 3 to 2 vote," Ruttencutter said. "I thought the way we were doing this was screwy anyway and this is the reason why."
Friszolowski, who ranked Brookes fourth and Davis second, said the commission should stick with the agreed upon system.
Ruttencutter said, "It will probably be Mr. Brookes, but if not, it will be Mr. Davis, and they are both very qualified."
Nick Johnson can be reached at email@example.com or 893-8361.