Sunshine Lawsuit Update – March 6, 2017

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Judge Voids Housh Ghovaee’s Appointment to the Madeira Beach Board of Commissioners

The City of Madeira Beach, Mayor Palladeno, and Commissioners Lister and Hodges Violated the Florida State Sunshine Law

Ghovaee was appointed to the City Commission in July 2016 to fill the District 4 seat vacated by Pat Shontz. This ill-advised and illegal appointment contained a variety of errors on the part of city officials.

The actions of the Mayor and Commissioners violated the state’s Sunshine Law. The appointment of Ghovaee was made in the “shade” and not in a public forum at a Commission meeting.

The Commission never met publicly to interview the candidates, review their backgrounds and solicit public comment. Instead, Crawford tabulated ratings provided by each commissioner, confirmed Ghovaee’s appointment and directed his administrative assistant (also his domestic partner) to notify the candidates of the outcome. This occurred four days before the public Board of Commission (BOC) meeting.

The court emphatically rejected City Attorney Trask’s effort to “cure” any potential Sunshine Law violations at a BOC workshop and at the BOC’s regular meeting held on July 12, 2016 because:

  • The rankings of the candidates made by each Commissioner were not announced in public, and
  • There was no discussion of the candidates’ qualifications and their relative merits at the meeting

Based on the facts of the case, the court concluded that “the City, Palladeno, Lister, and Hodges violated the Sunshine Law in selecting Mr. Ghovaee to fill the vacancy in District 4.”

Furthermore, the Court ruled that the appointment of Housh Ghovaee as District 4 Commissioner is void ab initio” – from the beginning of the invalid appointment on July 12, 2016.

As a consequence of the court’s ruling, Ghovaee was removed from the City Commission on March 7, 2017. You can read the full, signed, court order here.

There are also relevant articles published by the Beach Beacon and the Tampa Bay Reporter.

Contributions to support the on-going legal efforts are greatly appreciated. As many of you know, the city has refused to honor the 1,071 registered voters (more than 30% of the electorate) who signed a petition last June to place a development ordinance on the ballot. Contributions can be made for this very important initiative and other legal action to limit the height of hotels and condos in our city. Please send your contributions to:

Weber Crabb and Wein Trust Account
Weber Crabb and Wein
5999 Central Avenue, Ste 203
St. Petersburg FL 33710

Thanks so much for your support.