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Byrd seeks help from city for legal bills


BRADENTON - Harold Byrd Jr. asked the City Council on Wednesday night if the city could help him with the legal fees generated due to a lawsuit filed over his election.

But the city cannot do that, said City Attorney Bill Lisch, because the suit was filed against Byrd and challenged his qualification for office, and not the election or the way it was conducted.

The suit was James P. Golden vs. City of Bradenton Canvassing Board, et al., but the city attorney said the board was not the true party. The challenge was to Byrd's application, not to the conduct of the election.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Byrd had challenged James Golden for the Ward 5 seat and won the election by a small margin, but Golden sued, saying Byrd hadn't paid a fee on time and should not have been on the ballot. Byrd paid the $285 fee after the election, the paper reported in December 2007, and a judge decided he could skip the fee because it would have put an "undue burden" on his campaign.

On Wednesday, Byrd said the 2nd District Court of Appeal handed down a per curiam affirmance.

"I'd like to get some direction as to whether the city is going to address this action," Byrd said. He said the final numbers aren't in yet, but his costs and fees may be more than $20,000.

"It was not a challenge to say that the election was done improperly," Lisch said. "It was not a challenge to the election itself. It was his qualifications as a candidate."

The city can't spend the money because it was a challenge to Byrd, not a challenge against him in his capacity as a council member or member of the canvassing board.

The integrity of the election was not called into question, it was the integrity of Byrd that was questioned, Lisch said. "I would love to change that," he added, referring to the law.

"I feel for Mr. Byrd. I have to respect the legal opinion of Mr. Lisch," said Councilman Patrick Roff, who said he believed that Golden had made an error of judgment. "If there were cause that we should contribute, I would feel that we should do so."

If not, he said he would stand with the decision. Still, he added, "Mr. Byrd was treated unfairly. He won that election fair and square."

Councilman Bemis Smith agreed, and noted that while they might want to help Byrd, legally, they can't.

"I respect the opinions," Byrd said.

In other Bradenton City Council action:

  • FIREFIGHTER TECH PREPARATION TEAM: A three-man firefighter tech preparation team - Greg Bowles, Kevin Harvill and Brandon Hiort -- gave a practice presentation on the need to install carbon monoxide detectors in nursing homes and residences.
  • CDBG 2008 PROGRAM YEAR SUBSTANTIAL AMENDMENT: Approved 5-0 in the consent agenda a substantial amendment the city's 2008 Annual Action Plan to use $129,679 in Community Development Block Grant - Recovery funds to resurface roadways in low- and moderate-income areas of the city.
  • NORMA LLOYD FIRE TURNAROUND EASEMENT: Approved 5-0 in the consent agenda an easement agreement for a fire lane turnaround on 22nd Street East.
  • 2009 COPS MORE TECHNOLOGY GRANT: Approved 5-0 in the consent agenda a grant application for $200,000 to acquire and install 38 in-car video systems in Police Department cars.


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