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Kathleen Ford's Report on the Save The Pier Lawsuit

All of the petitioners have to be in the lawsuit as either plaintiffs or defendants because the Court will make this decision once

Below is an update on the  Save the Pier Lawsuit from Kathleen Ford.

33HI, Everybody,

I did not see a newspaper article this weekend, but none of this surprises me. Let me be clear, however, that the Court ORDERED me to name all of the plaintiffs.

The reason ALL of the petitioners must be named in this lawsuit is because each and every one of them has an interest (the right to a referendum on the preservation of the Pier) that will be impacted by the Court’s decision. The petitioners are “necessary parties.”

The Court does not want to face 15,652 lawsuits. Rather, there should be one lawsuit with everyone joined. Thus, all of the petitioners must be included. (And, that is why I originally referred to them as “15,652 petitioners.”)

Furthermore, I do not need all of the petitioners’ “permission” to be included in the lawsuit because they are “necessary parties.” Their participation in this lawsuit is indispensable to the Court ruling on any one petitioner’s complaint. Now that we have to name them, however, it is appropriate to give them notice of the lawsuit. And, we have prepared a notice to be mailed and posted.

All of the petitioners have to be in the lawsuit as either plaintiffs or defendants because the Court will make this decision once. I am representing the plaintiffs without charge for legal fees. (And, Vote on the Pier.com has paid court costs and, many have donated to cover those costs so that we can bring this action and mediate as ordered by the Court).

If a petitioner does not want to be a plaintiff, then he or she will be a defendant. There should be no risk to any petitioner for being liable for the City’s attorneys’ fees and costs because there is no statute that allows prevailing parties’ recovery of attorneys’ fees in this Petition for Writ of Mandamus and this is not a frivolous lawsuit. Some contracts and state laws allow a prevailing party to recover attorneys’ fees and costs. That is not the case here.

Now, if a petitioner wants to be a defendant there could be a fee for serving a summons and a copy of the Amended Complaint that we would be facing. Then that petitioner would have to hire their own attorney or represent themselves. I am including my contact information on the notice so that I can apprise them of that. We will just have to see how people respond.

Regarding what the winning party in a lawsuit can recover:

At a final hearing the prevailing party can recover costs.

57.041 Costs; recovery from losing party.—

(1) The party recovering judgment shall recover all his or her legal costs and charges which shall be included in the judgment; but this section does not apply to executors or administrators in actions when they are not liable for costs.

(2) Costs may be collected by execution on the judgment or order assessing costs.

THERE IS NO RECOVERY OF ATTORNEYS’ FEES

The only party who has incurred costs, thus far, are the Petitioners-the $375.00 filing fee and the $120.00 service of process fees. I paid for the subpoena of the City Clerk and the Court reporter for the hearing.

There is no basis for the Times reporter suggesting that the petitioners would be liable for the City attorneys’ fees and costs. There is no statute that allows the City to recover its attorneys’ fees and I have received no letter from the City seeking statutory FS §57.105 fees, a precursor to the City seeking recovery of attorneys’ fees for a frivolous lawsuit.

The issues for the Court to decide re the petitioners is: whether they have standing to bring this action (the Court ruled that the petitioners I identified in a Notice of Filing – a copy of the 513 page document from the Supervisor of Elections validating the 15,652 petitioners did have standing.) and whether they are all properly before the Court. With the filing of the Amended and Restated Petition, they are all properly before the Court.

The Court also noted that the proper defendant is just the City (because the City Council is a part of the City) and thus I dropped the City Council as a body (although they would be the subject of the Writ of Mandamus) and the CRA which can make decisions about CRA district property. I made my point-the City should not use the CRA to do an end run around a ruling directed towards the City Council relating to the Pier. I included the CRA for the 3rd Count of the lawsuit where I am seeking an injunction. I was hoping that the Court would rule fairly quickly on this issue so that an injunction would not be necessary.

Now someone may have been whispering in the reporter’s ears that seeking an injunction is expensive. It is. That is why I am the only plaintiff seeking an injunction (and not any of the 15,652 petitioners) in the amended Complaint. And, I will seek an injunction only if there is enough money to do so. Seeking an injunction requires a bond (10% of the anticipated costs of staying in status quo-here that would mean the construction delay costs if the Court enjoined the City from demolition activities pending a vote on the Pier.) and expert testimony (potentially) about the condition of the Pier. Several of us have noted the additional allocation of $500,000 to Skanska relating to the pier and we suspect this is to pay for the expert testimony to suggest that the inverted pyramid structure is not structurally sound in the event that mediation fails and the Court fails to make a ruling in the Petitioners favor and I appeal to the Second District
Court of Appeals.

At the hearing I pointed out to the Court that we moved as quickly as possible to get this issue resolved because we knew that the bridge needed to be replaced. The Court asked if “time was an issue”. Unbelievably, the City attorney said no (guess who is playing the delay game here). I said we wanted to get a ballot question for the spring elections. Thus, the Court ordered mediation within 60 days.

The Court will review at final hearing whether the required number of petitions were obtained and certified ( a Notice of filing requests that the Court take judicial notice of the Supervisor of Elections’ records) and determine whether the governing body for the City (City Council) had a ministerial duty to put forth a referendum question on the Pier and failed to do so. I will submit affidavits from a few petitioners stating that they were denied their right to vote when City Council failed to put forth ANY language whatsoever regarding the Pier. The Court then decides. The case law is heavily in favor of the petitioners and against the City. I suspect that is why the City alleged in its Motion to Dismiss that the City was ready, willing, able and eager to put forth ballot language, that the petitioners just could not agree. Simply BS. And, the Court pointedly referenced those words at the hearing and ordered mediation within 60 days.

Thank you for all that you are doing to give the citizens of St. Petersburg the right to vote on the future of at least one portion of our precious waterfront! After reviewing all 15,652 names (two current clients, one past opposing party-no conflicts!) prior to filing I was stunned, once again, that all but one elected official has consistently the people and ignored the impact to the public purse!

Sincerely,

Kathleen Ford

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

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Bill H. December 21, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Thanks for the update.
Rider December 21, 2012 at 06:33 PM
YES, GO Kathleen GO!!!!
Johann December 21, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Are the petitioners and/or regular citizens allowed to contribute to the legal fund to pursue the injunction, if necessary? Great work Mrs. Ford!! Your hard work does not go un-noticed or un-appreciated!!
Woody Richey December 22, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Kathleen: As usual, you are our hero! Thank you for a thorough and comprehensive update on this litigaton. St Petersburg City Council has a history of pissing off the residents of this wonderful city. Why? Who knows. I cannot wait for a chance to vote on the Pier issue. THANK YOU! And Thank you, Doc Webbs for your continuing insight.
Tom Lambdon - VOTEONTHEPIER.COM December 22, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Legal fees are being paid by contributor's donations to VOTEONTHEPIER.COM Political Committee. Go to the VoteOnThePier website - if you would like to help financially: http://voteonthepier.com/donate.php Thanks for your support!
Babak December 22, 2012 at 09:06 PM
I find all of this funny. You elected a council to represent you. You elected a mayor to represent you. My understanding is that they are now in their positions to make decisions on your behalf. When they do... Mrs. Ford (who by the way lost- again from what I undestand) decides the decisions that are being made are not the right ones so the voters should make them. Ah, they did... at the polls! This is how it works... Same at the State level, same at the Federal level. Then we all complain for the next several years till election time and start all over again. Funny! Maybe just once someone should remember this cycle! Instead Mrs. Ford is taking it to the courts... okay, well lets think about that. Who is paying for the city's case? You got it- YOU ARE- the tax payers! Thanks Mrs. Ford for that adding to the city's crippling debt issues they seem to have. So while it is all being sorted out and will come down to there is NOTHING that can be saved structurally, you loose the people that were going to build something, and now you are left with nothing...
JW December 23, 2012 at 01:22 AM
It this succeeds my bet is that nothing is built ever. Every day that passes means less dollars available to build. It s already been in permitting for months. Starting over would delay this years while people continue to fight about what to do next then even less money would be left to build. Ofcourse then people what stuff that requires subsidy. This referendum requires appropriation of money which isn't suppose to happen.
Nicolas Weathersbee December 23, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Can you explain why the petition process exists in the city charter? If we are simply supposed to sit on our hands while they blunder in office, why even bother with having a petition process? Petitions exist to address grievances of the officials that are elected into office. They make mistakes, that's why the petition process exists, and your argument is old and used up.
DC St Pete December 23, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I certainly did not vote for Foster and when I vote I do not expect that my participation in civics affairs is no longer warranted . These officials do not and should not have carte blanche to do as they please under the guise of what is good for me. The waterfront is literally the last vestige of unspoiled beauty that remains of our city. It is invaluable and voters have en masse voted to protect it time and time again. Any changes to it must be the will of the people period. Sorry Babak but this is how real democracy works. The people demand their voices be heard. This is not the personal fiefdom of the mayor and the city council. To date Wengay Newton is the ONLY member with the people's interests at heart. This will be remembered. As far as the money spent on the courts? It could have been avoided if not for arrogance. Hey they can use the red light bonanza to pay for it. How fitting.

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