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Reporting from Bar Harbor, Maine:
COLLIER COUNTY — Naples resident John Lundin has 10 minutes to make his pitch Tuesday that Collier County should pay his $8,738 legal bill for his lawsuit that claimed two commissioners violated the Sunshine law when they visited Jackson Laboratory in Maine.
Lundin is scheduled to address the board during public petitions on the agenda. The commission does not take action on petition items but could schedule it for consideration at a future meeting.
“I performed a civic duty in the public interest by exposing the Sunshine violation by filing the lawsuit,” he said in his petition.
His claim that the public meetings’ law was violated was never proven; he dropped his complaint Feb. 4 after the proposed Jackson project was halted in January.
There was the potential for the county to go after Lundin to recoup the county’s expenditures for its defense but that appears to be too late, said Commission Chairman Fred Coyle.
“It was disappointing to me, to say the least,” Coyle said.
Because of the Presidents Day holiday, County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow was unavailable.
County leaders regarded Lundin’s lawsuit as meritless. The county spent $3,600 in outside legal assistance and $2,600 in internal staff time for a total of $6,211 for its defense until Lundin dropped the complaint.
His suit alleged Commissioners Donna Fiala and Jim Coletta violated the law when they traveled _separately _ last July to Bar Harbor for a fact finding trip about the nonprofit genetics research institute.
Lundin hired Fort Myers attorney Steve Carta who argued in the lawsuit that there have been rulings that fact-finding trips are subject to the law’s requirement of public notice and minutes. Carta cited a 2008 decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeal that found the Seminole School Board violated the Sunshine law when members took a bus trip for school rezoning purposes.
Lundrin dropped the lawsuit because the remedy for a violation of the Sunshine law was no longer applicable after the Jackson project was terminated. The remedy is for decisions on the matter at hand to be voided.
On another Jackson-related item on the consent agenda, the board is expected to accept a revised cost report that $109,852 was spent by county staff and outside legal counsel since last year to review the proposed genetics research lab project and legal matters.
A report presented to the board two weeks ago said $95,000 was spent, but that report didn’t include expenses when Fiala, Coletta and Klatzkow went to Maine last summer or when Coyle went the year before. The earlier report also left out expenses incurred by the Clerk of the Courts Office.