VoteOnThePier Petitioners No Longer Part of Lawsuit Against City
The court-ordered mediation will go on as planned this Friday between the City and attorney Kathleen Ford.
The City of St. Petersburg and attorney Kathleen Ford, representing VoteOnThePier.com, have reached an agreement to move forward with Friday's court-ordered mediation.
More than 15,000 petitioners will be removed from a lawsuit seeking to force a citywide vote on the future of the St. Petersburg Pier.
Monday's hearing in St. Pete was requested by the city, in order to delay the Jan. 18 mediation. That mediation will not be delayed.
The hearing took less than five minutes, as Circuit Court Judge Jack Day announced that the parties had reached an agreement, or agreed to a "stipulation."
Joseph Patner, representing the city, said today's "stipulation" is a step in the right direction to make sure no unwilling citizens are a part of the lawsuit.
"We were able to get those innocent citizens who were just petition signers who were dragged into this lawsuit without their knowledge, they’re all out," Patner said outside the courthouse Monday. "And we can now proceed along."
Only a handful of petition signers are expected to remain on the lawsuit, according to Patner.
Chairman of VoteOnthePier, Tom Lambdon, also said that he was pleased by the agreement.
Monday was "only about moving it to the next stage," Lambdon said Monday.
Despite names being removed from the suit, Lambdon said the suit is still valid because the same issues for the public not being allowed a vote exist.
He said the parties will be acting in good faith in mediation on Friday and they are hopeful both parties can come up with ballot language for a referendum on the future of the pier.
However, Lambdon said that meeting the deadline for the March elections is unlikely, so a mail ballot or special election may be more likely.
"We’re hopeful that the voters will finally have the final word, and hopefully soon," Lambdon said.
Ford is arguing that the public should have a vote on the future of the St. Petersburg Pier.
Ford first filed suit in August 2012, after the City Council decided not to hold a pier referendum. The individual petition signers' names were not included in the suit.
Then on Dec. 5, 2012, Circuit Court Judge Amy Williams ordered that all the names to be listed as "plaintiffs" and that there should be a mediation.
After that meeting, Ford sent postcards notifying petition signers that they were a party in the suit.
The inclusion of the petition signers prompted some people to ask to be removed from the lawsuit.
"Having all the people in the suit without their consent or authorization would not be legally appropriate," Patner said.
Among those who asked to be removed from the lawsuit were a few city employees who signed affidavits.
The St. Petersburg Pier is set to close May 31 and scheduled for demolition in August.