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TBT Files Sunshine Suit Against Manatee County

Ed Hunzeker

BRADENTON – Back in February, The Bradenton Times first reported that county officials may have violated Florida's government in the sunshine law after the county commission delegated chairman Larry Bustle to negotiate a new contract for county administrator Ed Hunzeker, failing to give public notice of those negotiations, or otherwise conduct them under public meeting laws. The county attorney's office would only respond that they had “not violated sunshine statutes,” without explaining how their actions, which stood at odds with the law, could be somehow exempt.

Last week, TBT filed suit in the 12th Judicial Circuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for the action. The complaint (click here to read) contends that the county delegated negotiations for county business, while failing to provide public notice for any of the meetings that took place between the parties, or keep minutes of the meetings.

Government Attorney Ralph Brookes, who represents TBT in the case, writes in the complaint that because the meetings went beyond mere fact-finding and actually produced a draft contract that was then presented to, and approved by the board of county commissioners, it was in violation of Florida Statute 286, often referred to as the state's “sunshine laws.” The new contract resulted in a major revision of Hunzeker's compensation package, which is projected to cost taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars.


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