By Steve Plunkett
Outside lawyers for the town are representing Robert Ganger in a public records lawsuit seeking private emails and text messages he sent and received while he was vice mayor.
Resident Martin O’Boyle and his StopDirtyGovernment LLC want Gulf Stream to turn over all communications and public records Ganger had from Nov. 1, 2012, through Feb. 7, 2014.
Trey Nazzaro, the town’s staff attorney, told commissioners Jan. 12 that O’Boyle’s lawyers had subpoenaed Ganger for a deposition. Commissioners quickly approved the expense.
“Bob Ganger has devoted himself to this town selflessly for decades,” Mayor Scott Morgan said.
Ganger suffered a stroke in April 2016; he resigned from the commission three months later.
“Since that stroke he has in my opinion been harassed, and I don’t use that word loosely, he has been harassed by Mr. O’Boyle,” Morgan said.
In October 2016, Ganger asked the town to pay part of the legal bills he faced fighting a deposition O’Boyle scheduled shortly after his stroke. He later withdrew the request for fear that it would open him to more public records requests.
In July, Ganger sat through a nearly two-hour deposition in a slander lawsuit O’Boyle filed against another of the town’s attorneys. O’Boyle dropped the slander claim in November.
O’Boyle disputed Morgan’s characterization of the litigation as harassment.
“The town did not produce the emails and we filed suit. Although years have passed, we are still coming across documents that haven’t been produced. In my mind, they were (and still are) playing ‘hide the ball,’ ” O’Boyle said in an email.
Meanwhile, the public records war between the town and O’Boyle raged on; a proposed settlement was withdrawn from the Jan. 12 agenda. O’Boyle had sent two emails to Town Clerk Rita Taylor saying the settlement offer, which he signed in November, was now “invalid” and “not … on the table.”
The proposal would have dismissed nine of 11 court cases between him and Gulf Stream. A lawsuit over police radio transmissions that an appellate court recently upheld in O’Boyle’s favor was excluded, as was the lawsuit seeking Ganger’s emails.
Morgan, who has negotiated with O’Boyle for months, said the proposal left out certain litigation by the nonprofit Citizens Awareness Foundation Inc. and would have limited legal challenges the town could make.
“I was not inclined to approve it anyway,” he said.
The Florida Division of Corporations dissolved CAFI in September after it failed to file an annual report; until then top O’Boyle aide Brenda Russell handled its paperwork using the same address as O’Boyle’s Commerce Group Inc.
In related actions, the 4th District Court of Appeal changed its Nov. 2 opinion awarding appellate attorney’s fees to O’Boyle in the police records case. His attorneys can claim only the fees authorized by the state’s Public Records Act and not extra fees as a sanction against the town, the court said.
O’Boyle’s lawyers have filed documents with the Circuit Court seeking more than $575,000. The town argues they should get perhaps $20,000 because most of their work was done after Gulf Stream gave O’Boyle the records. A hearing to determine the amount due has not been scheduled.
Also, O’Boyle’s attorneys appealed a County Court decision that found the town did not violate the Public Records Act by providing O’Boyle a redacted copy of a bill from one of its attorneys.
Starting in August 2013, O’Boyle and Place Au Soleil resident Chris O’Hare flooded Gulf Stream with requests for public records. In the following six months, the town received more than 700 requests, court documents show.
In July 2013, before the current war began, Gulf Stream paid O’Boyle $180,000 to settle 16 lawsuits and about 400 requests for public records he filed after he was denied variances for work at his home on Hidden Harbour Drive.
The town and O’Hare agreed in June to dismiss 36 lawsuits and appeals between them and withdraw all pending requests for records. Neither side paid the other’s legal bills.