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Date of Issue: July 05, 2007

Bradenton Beach mayor's 'confidential' memo released

While secrecy prevails still over the complaint of sexual harassment against the city made by Bradenton Beach code enforcement officer Gail Garneau against former building official Ed McAdam, some records - four pages, including one document previously provided - were produced by city clerk Nora Idso and city attorney Ricinda Perry that set off sparks at city hall.

What first was paid administrative leave for Garneau and McAdam quickly evolved into McAdam's resignation on March 8 and a hastily called city meeting where commissioners, without any discussion or apparent reason, based only on the letter from McAdam, voted to accept his resignation.

The Islander newspaper sought public records on the matter. Repeatedly, The Islander was told there are "no such records."

The Islander further attempted to request information and records from Perry, who evaded phone calls to her office.

At no time during the initial two-week flurry over the secrecy of the two employees' administrative leave did the clerk or Perry offer to The Islander any explanation for the absence of records, and during that time, they failed to cite any statute which would allow any such records to be exempt under Florida's strict policies and guidelines in the Sunshine-in-the-Government Law.

The Islander's attorney, Kendra Presswood, then sought to resolve the matter with Perry to no avail, and a lawsuit ensued.

As a result of that lawsuit, some records were made public last week by Perry and clerk Idso.

The four pages of documents provided include:

  • A notice to McAdam from Mayor John Chappie dated Feb. 23 and labeled "confidential memorandum," stating a complaint of sexual harassment had been made against McAdam, and that the city "will conduct an investigation of the complaint...."
  • A March 9 fax memo from attorney Gregory Hootman to Dave Cominsky and Irma Cohen (of the Florida League of Cities) that states, "Attached is a copy of [Garneau's letter of complaint] I received today from a local reporter (Paul Roat of The Islander). The code enforcement officer worked for McAdam, who may have reacted badly when the affair was over. The matter was investigated by the Lewis, Longman & Walker firm, and by copy of this memo to Ricinda Perry of that firm, I'm asking that she contact you and provide the results of the investigation."
  • A March 12 letter from Hootman to Perry, confirming their telephone conversation that day regarding Garneau's potential claim. "I subsequently spoke with Dave Cominsky, director of the property and casualty division of the Florida League of Cities, who requested that your firm send him a copy of the investigation which was conducted...."
  • A photocopy of Garneau's notice to the city stating she intended to file a complaint of sexual harassment sent to Hootman by Roat.

The Islander received a letter directly from Hootman, in response to its request for any investigative reports made by the Florida League of Cities, stating that his law firm is not subject to public records laws and that he had no authority to respond to the request on behalf of the Florida League of Cities. Hootman has his own Sarasota-based firm, but frequently represents government entities, including Bradenton Beach, on behalf of the FLC.

While the information on three new pages of documents released June 29 by clerk Idso and a motion filed with the court June 27 by Perry for summary judgment are revealing, there is no clue as to the result of Perry's investigation, no evidence that McAdam was guilty of harassment, and no reason has been revealed as to why Perry's investigation continued almost four months after McAdam resigned. There is no investigative report or opinion provided, despite Perry's claim that she was conducting an investigation all that time.

It appears, however, that Perry's threat to city staff that they could be prosecuted for violating Chapter 112, the whistle-blower act, if they talked to anyone about the matter of the complaint, has been lifted.

Folks are talking, but it appears it's all gossip and speculation.

The secrecy surrounding the claim of sexual harassment, any evidence of that claim and the result of any investigation into the matter prevails.

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