The City of Saint Petersburg and Kathleen Ford, representing VoteOnThePier have reached an agreement to move forward with Friday’s court-ordered mediation — by removing more than 15,000 of petitioners from the lawsuit.
Monday’s hearing in St. Pete was requested by the city so it could ask to delay the Jan. 18 mediation. The hearing last less than five minutes as Circuit Judge Jack Day announced the parties had reached an agreement, or “stipulation”.
Joe Patner, representing the city, said today’s “stipulation” is a step in the right direction to make sure no unwilling citizens are a part of the lawsuit.
“We were able to get those innocent citizens who were just petition signers who were dragged into this lawsuit without their knowledge, they’re all out,” Patner said outside the courthouse Monday. “And we can now proceed along.”
When Ford first filed suit in August 2012, after council decided not to hold a pier referendum, the individual petition signers’ names were not included in the suit. She said the public should have a vote on the future of the St. Petersburg Pier.
Then on Dec. 5, Circuit Judge Amy Williams ordered all the names to be listed as “plaintiffs” and then ordered mediation. After that meeting, Ford sent postcards notifying petition signers that they were a party in the suit.
Based on fears of being a party to a suit without consent, many petitioners confused and angry called Ford and the city about being a part of a the lawsuit.
Patner said every day he received multiple calls and messages about ‘plaintiffs’ in the suit wanting out.
“Having all the people in the suit without their consent or authorization would not be legally appropriate,” Patner said.
Even a few city employees signed affidavits asking Ford to have their names removed from the pier lawsuit.
Chairman of VoteOnthePier, Tom Lambdon, said Monday’s agreement is a step in the right direction because mediation will go forward as originally planned.
Monday was, “only about moving it to the next stage, acting in good faith in mediation on Friday and hopefully we can come up with ballot language that everyone can agree on,” Lambdon said.
Lambdon said meeting the deadline for the March elections is unlikely so a mail ballot or special election could be more likely.
“We’re hopeful that the voters will finally have the final word, and hopefully soon,” Lambdon said.
The St. Petersburg Pier is set to close May 31 and scheduled for demolition in August.
Via William Mansell of Patch.