Phil Attinger/News-Sun Avon Park City Councilman Parke Sutherland (left) listens as fellow Councilman Garrett Anderson speaks during a debate about the city reimbursing City Manager Julian Deleon for legal fees he encountered while defending himself from an ethics complaint filed by Anderson in March.
published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Council to cover Deleon's lawyer bills
By PHIL ATTINGER
AVON PARK -- The Avon Park City Council agreed Monday to reimburse City Manager Julian Deleon for legal fees from fighting an ethics complaint.
Councilman Garrett Anderson, who filed ethics complaints against Deleon, abstained from the vote.
Deleon had given his attorney's fees as $8,500 in mid-August, but an itemized account was not included with Monday's agenda.
Councilman Parke Sutherland said he wanted to see an itemized bill. Deputy Mayor Brenda Giles also said she would like to be sure the bill isn't as much as $50,000 or $100,000.
City Attorney Gerald Buhr said he, as city attorney, would review any itemized list and determine what are "reasonable" legal fees.
Deleon also asked the city not to seek reimbursement from him unless he was able to get reimbursement from Anderson through Florida's Commission on Ethics.
Sutherland expressed concern that the city might prompt the Ethics Commission to not seek payment from Anderson by paying Deleon now.
However, Buhr said the city is obligated under Florida law to provide an attorney or pay for one to defend a public official who incurs legal fees from an investigation and is cleared of allegations.
Anderson said he believes Avon Park has seen more lawsuits in Deleon's two years as city manager than in the last 20, and didn't believe didn't believe city taxpayers should pay Deleon's legal bill.
Mayor Sharon Schuler said that if Deleon were to seek funds through the Ethics Commission, the state would seek payment from Anderson.
Anderson said that's fine.
"Why do the citizens of Avon Park have to pay that?" Anderson asked.
Anderson said that if the city sets a precedent, it would need to pay his attorney fees both for the ethics complaint and the investigation done at the city manager's request -- which found nothing against Anderson.
"The reason there were no findings is because you didn't cooperate with the investigation," Buhr said.
Amidst rumbling from other council members, Anderson said that was only Buhr's opinion, since his actions did not stop the investigation.
He also said his legal fees stemmed from being on the city council and the city council authorizing an investigation.
Deleon said that when the city asked for an investigation, he cooperated fully and Anderson "flat out" refused.
"By direction of legal council," Anderson said.
Sutherland said the reason Anderson would not be entitled to recoup funds is because no one filed an ethics complaint or lawsuit against him.
An audience member called Sutherland's statement an opinion. He said he was elected to give his opinion and welcomed her to the podium, if she had asked permission to speak.
He also said Anderson didn't have anything on the agenda asking for reimbursement and would need to submit that for a future meeting.
Anderson asked if the city council could vote to reimburse his expenses upon seeing receipts. Sutherland said it would need to be reviewed and voted on at that time.
Anderson also asked, since the Ethics Commission is not an actual court, if it was necessary for Deleon to hire an attorney.
Buhr declined to answer, but suggested Anderson's own attorney could look into that matter and bring a lawsuit.
"But I'm saying he's going to be wasting his time and your money by doing so because you're not entitled to any money or attorney's fees from this panel," Buhr said.
Complaints by Anderson were dismissed by the Ethics Commission for not meeting the threshold for probable cause.
In his complaint, Anderson claimed that his ammunition manufacturing business -- Anderson Arms Inc. -- was investigated in retaliation for questioning why Deleon should be allowed to live in Lake Placid while Avon Park's city manager.
Anderson claimed his business received visits from the county building inspector and city fire department inspector shortly after that, both of whom told him they were instructed to find something wrong.
However, when questioned during the ethics investigation, both inspectors denied being sent by Deleon or telling Anderson their jobs were threatened if they didn't find violations.
Deleon also said he couldn't direct the county official.
In other communications with the News-Sun, Deleon also claimed that he had acted on a complaint from a member of the public that Anderson's business had been improperly wired for manufacturing and was a hazard.
Anderson said Monday that inspectors and an investigation by the city found nothing wrong at his business.
Attorney Fees (by: Who's your Daddy - 9/30/2013)
If the City pays for the City Managers attorney fees they should also pay for the Councilman Anderson fees as well. But on the other hand the four will not say no to Julian I forgot.
deleon (by: mr mcgoo - 9/28/2013)
Maybe they can buy his groceries too.
A Mess (by: Citizen - 9/27/2013)
All of this is hearsay, what a waste of resources and time. Don't people know when to let things go because there is nothing solid to hold on to?
Anderson (by: crippler - 9/25/2013)
You will know when the Cuban sticks his hand in your pockets to get your cask. He probably tip the media off when you fork out some additional dough.
(by: Blindman~ - 9/25/2013)
For all that Deleon has done for Avon Park, covering his legal fees would be the right thing to do.
Small Banner Ads