The Coastal Star

Gulf Stream: Town, O'Hare end war over public-records requests

By Steve Plunkett

A four-year saga over public records that included demands for hundreds of documents and caused Gulf Stream to raise property taxes 40 percent is half-over.

Resident Chris O'Hare and the town agreed June 9 to settle all legal differences.

"This was a total attack on any government as we know it, any legal system as we know it," said Robert Sweetapple, Gulf Stream's outside lawyer.

Still unresolved are multiple cases regarding similar requests town resident Martin O'Boyle filed.

The releases O'Hare and the town signed call for the dismissal of 36 lawsuits and appeals O'Hare filed and the withdrawal of all public records requests, Sweetapple said.

There is also a clause preventing O'Hare from winning legal fees in future disputes.

"What that would do would be to de-incentivize any further litigation over public records. There would be no fee entitlement based on this waiver," Sweetapple said.

O'Hare could not immediately be reached for comment.

Gulf Stream maintained that O'Hare filed expansive requests in hopes that the town could not timely respond and thus run afoul of the state's public records law. In one case last month, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Thomas Barkdull III found that O’Hare "intended to harass and intimidate the town’s employees to generate litigation and fees with ‘gotcha’ type requests.”

Neither side will pay the other's legal expenses.

Mayor Scott Morgan, who ran for office promising to mount an aggressive defense against O'Hare's lawsuits, was elated with the settlement.

"This essentially brings to a conclusion nearly four years of public records abuse and litigation from Mr. O'Hare. It is a testament to the determination of this town not to voluntarily pay out in response to extortion demands," Morgan said.

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