VIDEO: Collier commissioners ignore Naples man's request to pay legal fees for Jackson Lab lawsuit

Citizen asks city for money back

John Lundin ask commission to pay his ...

John Lundin at a Collier County Commission meeting on July 28, 2010.

File Photo

John Lundin at a Collier County Commission meeting on July 28, 2010.

— Naples resident John Lundin will have to pay his lawyer’s bill for his lawsuit against Collier County which claimed a Sunshine Law violation occurred last summer.

Commissioners on Tuesday rejected Lundin’s petition request that the county pay his $8,738 tab to his Fort Myers attorney for the lawsuit he filed last year.

He claimed Commissioners Donna Fiala and Jim Coletta violated the state’s public meetings law when they traveled separately last July to Maine to tour Jackson Laboratory.

The two commissioners said they went out of their way to avoid each other and avoid any appearance of violating the law, which prohibits talking about government business in private.

Lundin dropped the lawsuit last month after the proposed genetics research lab project with Jackson was halted.

Nobody on the board offered to bring Lundin’s petition request back as a regular item on a future board agenda to consider.

“No one wants to bring it back so we are finished with this thing,” Commission Chairman Fred Coyle.

But Lundin’s petition spawned a one hour debate about the state’s public meetings law, a 2008 case against Seminole County School Board members and what constitutes a fact finding trip which was the purpose for both Fiala’s and Coletta’s trip.

Commission Chairman Fred Coyle wanted to file a motion in court to go after Lundin to try and make him pay for the county’s defense expenses but there wasn’t support from other commissioners.

Henning was the first to speak out against it, followed by Commissioners Georgia Hiller and Coletta.

“That is chilling of free speech in my opinion,” Henning said, adding that it would be appalling to consider filing court action against a citizen.

Coletta, on the other hand, had suggested Lundin refile his lawsuit and which ever party prevailed could go after the other for attorney’s fees and costs.

“I know we would prevail,” Coletta told Lundin, but also told him to “give it some thought.”

Lundin later said he did not plan to refile his complaint. He also admitted it was absurd to ask the county to pay his bill with Fort Myers attorney Steve Carta.

“I think I saved the county a lot of money by not proceeding with the case,” he said. He estimated he would have to spend $40,000 to continue the lawsuit and the county would also.

Earlier, Assistant County Attorney Jackie Hubbard told the board that Lundin’s lawsuit had no merit and that the two commissioners had asked permission to go to Maine for personal reasons to learn more about Jackson.

“They did not go on a fact finding trip on behalf of the Board of County Commissioners. They went on behalf of themselves,” Hubbard said. “When you go (somewhere) on behalf of the board, you are obligated to come back and give a report to the board.”

Connect with health-care reporter Liz Freeman at www.naplesnews.com/staff/liz_freeman

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Comments » 1

RayPray writes:

Jim Coletta & DNA Donna....

The aboriginal Dumb & Dumber!

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