By Dan Moffett

Lawyers for the town of Gulf Stream are having a good spring, winning three court rulings in cases raised by Martin O’Boyle and Chris O’Hare, the town’s litigious duo.
Meanwhile, Town Manager William Thrasher says his early budget estimates call for setting aside $800,000 to cover the town’s rising legal costs during the next year, and commissioners are planning a special budget workshop to update taxpayers on all that’s going on.
The rulings that broke Gulf Stream’s way in recent weeks were:
• Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Jessica Ticktin denied O’Boyle’s complaint that the town was violating state law by charging too much for filling public records requests.
O’Boyle had accused the town of inflating the price of copying documents and passing on unreasonable fees to citizens, deterring the public from accessing information. The judge was unconvinced and ruled that O’Boyle was not overcharged for his records requests, and the town had lived up to its statutory obligations.
According to Ticktin, O’Boyle “has shown neither the demonstrated pattern of noncompliance nor the likelihood of future violations.”
• Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Peter Blanc denied O’Hare’s attempt to have attorney Robert Sweetapple disqualified from representing the town against him.
O’Hare had argued that, when he lived in Ocean Ridge in 1998, he hired Sweetapple to represent him in a code dispute with the town. O’Hare claimed that Sweetapple had “private, confidential” information about him that could be damaging now in his suits against Gulf Stream.
Blanc ruled against O’Hare, saying he did not prove that Sweetapple’s work in Ocean Ridge was “substantially related” to the current cases against Gulf Stream. The judge said the lawyer hasn’t done anything in his recent work to compromise the outcome in Ocean Ridge.
“No actions by Attorney Sweetapple on behalf of the Town (of Gulf Stream) in this case would involve attacking any work previously done for Plaintiff,” Blanc wrote in his decision. He also said that O’Hare had failed to prove his claim that Sweetapple had sensitive information that could hurt him.
• In a summary judgment in federal court, U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks dismissed O’Boyle’s claim that the town violated his constitutional rights by removing his campaign signs from public areas when he ran for Town Commission in 2014. O’Boyle claimed that the town’s sign code infringed on free speech and violated the First Amendment.
After the election, the town rewrote its sign code in an attempt to make it more content neutral and clarify restrictions. Middlebrooks found that nothing in the town’s previous sign code “reflected an aversion to political speech.” The judge ruled that the town’s restrictions on signs were reasonable.
“The town’s general size and location limitations on political signs advanced its interests in lessening street congestion, providing adequate light and air, and preventing the overcrowding of land,” he wrote. The judge said the courts have ruled that towns have a duty to keep streets open and orderly.
“By allowing O’Boyle to place his political signs on private property,” Middlebrooks wrote, “the Old Sign Code left open adequate alternative channels of communication.”
Commissioners unanimously approved Town Attorney John Randolph’s request that the town cover a $50,000 insurance deductible for its attorneys. O’Boyle is suing Randolph, Mayor Scott Morgan, Sweetapple and Joanne O’Connor, an associate of Randolph at the Jones, Foster, Johnston and Stubbs law firm. The town’s insurance carrier has refused to cover the attorneys, so they will use coverage under Randolph’s firm.
“In my opinion, it’s our obligation to protect our lawyers,” Morgan said.
Earlier this year, commissioners approved covering a $25,000 insurance deductible for Sweetapple.
The commission has scheduled a budget workshop, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on May 13, to discuss the long-range implications of the rising legal costs.
In other business, commissioners decided to defer action on developer Thomas Laudani’s plans to build two houses at 3424 N. Ocean Blvd., until he presents new design plans.
Morgan criticized Laudani’s proposal to begin construction because the architecture of the two houses was too similar. Laudani developed the old Spence estate, and commissioners have said they don’t want a repeat of that project.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of The Coastal Star to add comments!

Join The Coastal Star

Comments

  • Interesting article. But the last comment by Ticktin seems to be either a misprint (too many negatives) or a non sequitor (suit not related to Boyles behavior).
  • Mayor Morgan's treatment of Mr. Laudani and his architect Mr. Richard Jones is exactly what is most wrong about Gulf Stream. The plans Mr. Jones presented to the Town for approval met every regulation and code of the Town.  Mayor Morgan rejected them anyway because he didn't like the design and wanted it changed. When Mr. Jones asked how they should change the design to satisfy the Mayor. Morgan wouldn't tell them.  He said their job is to design it and his job is to like it.

    If you are thinking about moving to Gulf Stream you should know the rules are what the Mayor says they are and not necessarily what is in the Town's Code.

    Regarding the Town's recent "victories" against O'Hare and O'Boyle, these are examples of exactly why our judiciary has appellate courts.  It's not over until it's over. I personally think Mr. Thrasher may be aiming low by estimating $800,000 for the Town to continue defending its lawless policies and practices. The complaints against the Town are significant and these cases are only now just warming up. 

    Commissioner Ganger recently reported to a legislative sub-committee that Town taxes were raised 20% last year and he expects another 20% raise next year. Perhaps it's time for the Town to appoint an oversight committee to see if the Commission is spending public money wisely on these lawsuits. Mr. Morgan will tell you the Town must fight these suits because they have no merit. If that were the case they would have been dismissed long ago.

    The planned workshop was announced as a way to ask residents to prioritize future Town projects. To insure attendance by the "working folks" on the west side of the intracoastal, it was announce that the meeting would take place in the evening; a rarity for the secretive Town Commission. However, according to Mr. Moffett's article, it sounds like this meeting is really about blaming all the Town's budget woes on litigation expense. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, "Incompetent leadership can't be sustained without someone else to blame and blame ceases to work when the public demands accountability."

This reply was deleted.

Activity Feed

Pippi posted an event
Jun 30
Pippi posted an event
Jun 30
Pippi posted an event
Jun 30
Pippi posted an event
Jun 30
Pippi posted an event
Jun 30
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a blog post
Jun 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in GULF STREAM
Jun 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in MANALAPAN
Jun 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion
Jun 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in BOCA RATON
Jun 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in ACROSS THE BRIDGE
Jun 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion
Jun 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in ACROSS THE BRIDGE
Jun 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 29
More…