INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The city is in active litigation and most of the City Commission does not know about it.
The mayor knows (dating back to February 9 for sure) and one of the commissioners, for sure, knows (having learned of it since the last commission meeting) and the City Attorney knows (first having knowledge possible litigation was coming as far back as March, 2006).
But neither Mayor Bill Ockunzzi nor Andy Salzman, the city's lawyer, have bothered to tell the City Commission, even though it would seem that the commission should have had knowledge if not giving outright permission to hire an outside law firm which has been brought into the latest stage of the law suit.
The reason it is known that Commissioners R.B. Johnson, Terry Hamilton-Wollin and Bert Valery and presumably Jim Palamara and Ed Piniero before them (the latter two losers in the March election) have no knowledge of the litigation is because it has never come up at a commission meeting.
Commissioner Jose Coppen knows about it because Ned Holsopple, the Indian Rocks Beach resident involved in the legal action, contacted him.
There is no way for commission members to know anything as a group unless it comes up at a meeting or at an allowed private session with the city's lawyer.
Neither has ever happened.
Which raises the question of why?
Why did Salzman not inform the commission that he had a letter from a lawyer representing the city resident, Ned Holsopple, seeking resolution of a problem arising from Holsopple's desire to build a dock.
That letter, from David Levy, a lawyer, to Salzman, the city lawyer, was dated March 14, 2006 - more than a year ago.
According to Holsopople, the letter was ignored.
A second letter from Levy, a little more stern in tone, was addressed to the City of Indian Rocks Beach saying that it was "Formal Notice" in respect to Holsopple's claim and advises that a suit will be filed unless an amicable resolution is reached.
The second letter was dated April 27, 2006, exactly one year ago.
It was ignored.
In accordance with the rules, Holsopple and his lawyer gave the city its allowed six months to make a response, but none was forthcoming.
Finally, at the end of January this year, Levy filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment seeking relief for Holsopple.
The complaint was served on Ockunzzi, as mayor, on February 9, 2007.
Ockunzzi has never informed the commission that the city was served, through him, with a lawsuit. Why?
On top of that, the city never responded to the legal action. Why?
On or about March 20, almost 40 days after the city was served through Ockunzzi with the lawsuit, the Pinellas Circuit Court, in the absence of any response from the city, entered a default judgment against Indian Rocks Beach.
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 obtained by Holsopple was "null and void."
Further exploration of the subject with the city revealed that the city had taken an appeal on Judge Boyer's default judgment and that an outside law firm has been brought in to handle that.
The firm, Roper & Roper, is from Apopka.
Presumably, the members of the IRB commission with the exception of Ockunzzi and Coppen will learn of these developments with the publication of this story.
They will learn that key information regarding litigation was withheld from them - information they are entitled to know - and they no doubt will be asking why? in very loud tones.
The commission meets again next Tuesday, April 24.
Perhaps information on the litigation will be forthcoming by then from Salzman, the city's lawyer who has consistently failed to respond to queries from this writer.