Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Truth to Power/The Ledger: Wachula Officials Take Plea Deals on Sunshine Law Charges

"All Seven Wauchula City Commissioners"

Wauchula Officials Take Plea Deals on Sunshine Law Charges

Commissioners faced charges they held meetings closed to the public.

by Jason Geary

As originally posted on: TheLedger.com
August 11, 2010

BARTOW | All seven Wauchula city commissioners have taken plea deals on charges they held closed-to-the-public meetings.

In May, the State Attorney's Office charged the commissioners of the Hardee County city with breaking the law by having private meetings Sept. 14, 2009, and March 1, 2010. Complaint affidavits state that the commissioners' actions showed "a purposeful intent to keep sensitive subject matter regarding city employees away from the public."

At the private meetings, the commissioners discussed issues facing the city, including the possible terminations of the police chief and city manager as well as perceived leadership problems with the city manager, the affidavits state.

Six commissioners faced two counts of violating Florida's Sunshine Law. They are David Royal, Valentine Patarini, Yeavone Spieth, Daniel Graham, Delois Johnson and Jerry Conerly.

One commissioner, Clarence Bolin, faced one count because he was accused of attending one of the two meetings.

The second-degree misdemeanors carried a maximum punishment of up to 60 days in jail and six months of probation.

As part of a plea agreement, they each pleaded no-contest June 30 to a single count of violating Florida's Sunshine Law, said Chip Thullbery, a spokesman with the State Attorney's Office.

Each was ordered to pay $325 for fines and court costs. Royal must also pay $500 for the cost of prosecution, and the other six commissioners are required to pay $300 apiece for the cost of prosecution.

Circuit Judge J. David Langford withheld adjudication - a formal finding of guilt.

[ Jason Geary can be reached at jason.geary@theledger.com or 863-802-7536. ]

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