INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - A story in the Clearwater Gazette April 19 mistakenly reported that the City Commission had not been informed that the city was a defendant in a lawsuit brought by one of the city's residents.
In fact, the commission was told about the suit by Andy Salzman, the City Attorney, in his report at the February 13 meeting, the same day that the action was served on Mayor Bill Ockunzzi.
What attracted attention was that the Pinellas County Circuit Court entered a default judgment against the city in the suit brought by resident Ned Holsopple because the action was supposedly not responded to in a timely manner as the legal procedure called for.
But Salzman said last week that the default judgment had been entered erroneously and was done so before the time elapsed for the city to properly respond.
Salzman also said that all the usual and normal procedures were followed by the city after Holsopple's suit, which concerned a controversy over a dock he wanted to build, was served on the city.
Letters written in March and April of 2006 by Holsopple's lawyer, David Levy, seeking to resolve the problem were not responded to and this caused no little concern on Holsopple's part.
The lack of response was by the then city manager, Al Grieshaber, who, for reasons now unknown did not reply to Holsopple's lawyer. That lack of response led, some nine months later, to the filing of the lawsuit which was a complaint for declaratory judgment.
Salzman said that when the city is a defendant in a lawsuit that is handled by insurance and that he, as City Attorney, does not get involved unless coverage is denied.
The court granted the declaratory judgment after finding Indian Rocks Beach, mistakenly the city now alleges, in default because of not responding in time.
That was followed on March 26 by a Partial Final Judgment signed by Judge Bruce Boyer which found that Indian Rocks Beach properly issued a permit to Holsopple for construction of a new dock, that the city's stop work order of November 17, 2005, was dissolved, that Holsopple was entitled to resume construction of his dock, and that the court would entertain Holsopple's request for damages.
With that order in hand, Holsopple's construction man went to IRB city hall. There he was told that the original permit to build the dock was "null and void."
The Roper & Roper law firm of Apopka was hired by the insurance company handling the case for Indian Rocks Beach and was brought in to handle the motion on vacating the default judgment which is where the case currently stands.
Indian Rocks Beach is asking the court to hear its defense to Holsopple's charges in addition to setting aside the default judgment.
Salzman also responded, in a detailed letter to Commissioner Jose Coppen, to allegations made by Coppen in an e-mail that he distributes to residents.
Coppen moved at the April 10 meeting to formulate a request for proposal from law firms to replace Salzman as City Attorney.
Among the criticims that Coppen listed were that Salzman
failed to fully protect the interests of the city in a contract with Grieshaber, was non-responsive when Coppen advised him that Grieshaber was not a member of the city manager's association which the city Charter requires, allowed an improper and inadequate affidavit from Grieshaber in lieu of receipts for Grieshaber to collect money from the city, and failed to divulge to the commission that he was the director of a bank that was seeking to do business with the city.
Salzman denied, in detail, all of Coppen's assertions in a five-page, single spaced letter last Thursday. He pointed out his 20 years as a lawyer with a top peer review rating and his performance over 16 ½ years as the Indian Rocks Beach City Attorney.