Recent developments in Treasure Island may indicate a shift in position in its legal battle with some Gulf front hotel owners.
At Tuesday's meeting of the City Commission, City Attorney Maura Kiefer resigned her position rather than submit to a performance review. In a move that may be related, the city has reversed its earlier position and resumed raking its beaches.
Earlier in the meeting, Arthur Czyszczon, General Manager of the Page Terrace Hotel and one of the plaintiffs presented the results of a Freedom of Information Act request covering all fees paid to Kiefer. Cyzyszczon said some of her cases could have been resolved inexpensively, instead of being litigated, generating larger fees for Kiefer. She has billed the city more than $600,000 in the past two years.
Earlier this month, WUSF 89.7 News reported on the lawsuit and what the city called "The unintended consequences" of a Pinellas County judge's ruling earlier this year. Those consequences include curtailing of beach raking and revoking vendors' and researchers' ability to drive on the beach. City manager Reid Silverboard told WUSF the changes were to comply with the ruling, but the hotel owners in the lawsuit and at least one of the vendors claim the decision was no more than a choice being made by the city.
At the contentious commission meeting, Silverboard seemed to grant his opponents their point. He was briefing the commission on the city's plan to contract for beach raking while the city awaits the arrival of a new tractor. Silverboard wanted beach raking to resume, citing deteriorating conditions and an increase in complaints. Commissioner Alan Bildz asked Silverboard if the crews would be arrested.
Silverboard said "No. Since the order is under stay, they wouldn't."
That brought up the question of whether vendors could begin using their vehicles again. Silverboard replied that it would be up the commission.
Kiefer said she will remain with the city through the end of September, meaning she will not be present when the city's appeal is heard this fall. A fact that opens the door to talk of a settlement before then.