Former board member seeks help
BY TOM VAUGHT | SUN STAFF WRITER BRADENON BEACH – A former member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) is concerned about possible litigation from somebody after he was given a public records request from a local attorney.
Rick Bisio asked the City Commission last Thursday if the city would stand behind him if the request by attorney Michael Barfield turns into legal action.
Bisio said he had read the request and doesn’t understand it. He said he asked the mayor for legal representation and was refused.
“There is nothing in this that I’m worried about, but I don’t know what he wants, and I’m afraid I won’t produce everything and I will look bad,” Bisio said. “I ask that you reconsider your position that you won’t provide representation.
“This request is dated the 26th and there is a 30-day period,” he added. “If I don’t get an answer I will provide my own and bill the city.”
Mayor John Shaughnessy suggested Bisio call Barfield, and he said he did.
“He told me it was none of my business,” he said.
City Attorney Ricinda Perry said Barfield specializes in public records cases and was involved in the case against Harry Stoltzfus, an Anna Maria city commissioner who was removed from office, and was able to find files that were thought to be erased in computers.
“He is very aggressive and very well known for getting public records,” Perry said. “It’s good for the city to provide legal representation, but there’s nothing on the city’s books about it.”
Barfield sent requests to other members of the P&Z who resigned earlier this year, expressing frustration that the City Commission was not following their recommendations. They voted not to recommend a project on the beach south of the BeachHouse restaurant that would include sand dunes and a parking lot. The project is on BeachHouse property and city property and the BeachHouse would pay for the permits and some other expenses.
Commissioner Gay Breuler asked if the city has a choice, and Perry said yes.
“You have to consider, though, that if the city pays for Rick Bisio, it would have to provide it for others,” Perry said. She said she talked with Anna Maria City Attorney Jim Dye, and he said the city paid for Stoltzfus’ representation until it became known that he was not producing all the public records and then it quit.
Commissioner Jan Vosburgh expressed fear that if the city does not stand up for its volunteer board members, nobody would want to serve.
Perry said elected officials and board members should use only city e-mail accounts for city business.
“If you use your own accounts, then you bear the burden of producing the records,” she said,
Shaughnessy said he would try to contact Barfield to see what he wants and then the city could make a decision.