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Commissioners sued over Chat Holley transaction

Dec 1st, 2011 | 0

By DOTTY NIST

Suzanne Harris has filed a lawsuit against the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) seeking to negate Walton County’s October 2010 purchase of a .45-acre parcel at the U.S. 331-Chat Holley Road intersection.

Harris is a Walton County resident and serves as president of the homeowners’ association for the Edgewater Beach condominium in Miramar Beach. The lawsuit was filed on Nov. 21 in Walton County Circuit Court.

In her complaint, Harris alleges that the county did not hold “the required public meeting” to retain the special legal counsel who negotiated the purchase. Other allegations contained in the lawsuit are that the closing for the purchase took place without final BCC approval—and that Florida public disclosure law was violated by the counsel’s failure to disclose ownership of the company from which the county purchased the property.

The property had been obtained in connection with a road improvement project for Chat Holley Road.

The lawsuit seeks the return to county taxpayers of the $345,000 paid for the parcel, along with fees paid to the special counsel for work on the transaction and other work done “without authorization at a public meeting.” Harris’ requests to the court include a judgment that the county violated state public disclosure statute. She also seeks the recovery of all her attorney fees and costs for the prosecution of her complaint. The complaint states that Harris “reserves the right to move” that these fees and costs be assessed against individual commissioners if “warranted,” in order to spare expense to taxpayers.

A previous lawsuit filed by Harris against Walton County, alleging that the county had failed to lawfully respond to her public records requests, was resolved in December 2010 with Harris receiving $148,500 from the county and $6,500 from the Walton County Clerk of Courts toward the payment of her legal fees. It was also agreed that parties involved in that lawsuit would meet and arrange for Harris to be furnished the records she had requested in return for a reasonable fee.

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