By Steve Plunkett
Gulf Stream and Martin O'Boyle have resolved nine lawsuits between them, with the town admitting that it violated the state's Public Records Act in four cases and paying its litigious resident $15,000 to drop five others.
Both sides will go to a mediator in hopes of deciding how much Gulf Stream will pay O'Boyle's attorneys in the four cases settled in his favor.
"This is a business decision, and one that the [Town] Commission believes serves the best interests of the town by capping all legal fees," Mayor Scott Morgan said as he announced the settlement Dec. 14.
The nine cases in the settlement were all that remained of 44 lawsuits that arose from more than 2,500 requests for public records by O'Boyle and resident Chris O'Hare, Morgan said.
The town and O'Hare signed a settlement in June 2017.
"In fiscal year' 17-18, we secured dismissals or victories in seven public records cases with one case decided adversely to the town," the mayor said. "Previously, the town prevailed or secured dismissals in another 27 cases."
Morgan credited Gulf Stream's aggressive posture in the cases as essential to reaching the settlement with O'Boyle and also in changing state law on public records requests. Now judges have discretion on whether to award attorney’s fees when someone successfully sues a government agency for improperly withholding records. Before, legal fees were automatic.
O'Boyle said what he considers biased news coverage of his lawsuits led to it taking more time to settle the disputes.
"They would have been [resolved] a long time ago if The Coastal Star hadn't written all those hit pieces which emboldened the town," O'Boyle said.