Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Litigation Update. Court approves agreement between Palmetto Bay & Miami-Dade County to stay proceedings pending exhaustion of conflict resolution procedures

A short bite update in the case for injunctive relief against Miami-Dade County. Or as this post should be called "why simply send a certified letter to initiate an inter-governmental conflict resolution proceeding when you can direct the Village Attorney to file a lawsuit, so that lawsuit can be placed on hold while the parties engage in an inter-governmental conflict resolution proceeding?" Sound convoluted? Yes, the entire reasons for the following legal action are as convoluted as the statement above. This is but another lesson in how to blow through a legal budget and waste taxpayer money.
Note that as of November 20, 2019, the following has been accomplished (or not) in the case of VILLAGE OF PALMETTO BAY, FLORIDA VS MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, case number 019-031036-CA-01, case filed 10/18/2019:
1. There is no injunction, or even request for a temporary injunction while the case proceeds.
2. The parties agreed to stay this case (as required by Florida Law) while the parties pursue conflict resolution procedures pursuant to Chapter 164, Florida Statutes.

The agreed order was rendered by the Judge on November 18, 2019. This agreed step is actually required under Florida Law. Section 164.0141, Florida Statutes, which places a duty to negotiate and provides under subsection (1) that "If a governmental entity files suit against another governmental entity, court proceedings on the suit shall be abated, by order of the court, until the procedural options of this act have been exhausted."  CLICK HERE to review the complete CHAPTER 164, GOVERNMENTAL DISPUTES

Waste of time and money. In reality, no lawsuit was ever needed to get to this phase. The lawsuit has only served to create needless antagonisms between Miami-Dade County and the current elected officials of the Village of Palmetto Bay. Why do I say this? Because this conflict assessment phase did not require a lawsuit (which was filed October 18 – a month ago) and an agreed order. Per subsection 164.1053, the parties could have completed this conflict resolution phase and either resolved the issue or now had grounds to file the lawsuit. This subsection provides that:
(1) After the initiation of the conflict resolution procedure, and after proper notice by certified letter has been given, a conflict assessment meeting shall occur. The meeting shall be scheduled to occur within 30 days of the receipt of the letter initiating the conflict resolution procedure. Public notice shall be given for this meeting in accordance with s. 164.1031(7).
Palmetto Bay failed to follow the proper protocol. Where a certified letter would suffice, the Village Council took the political gamesmanship approach by instead ordering the Village Attorney to immediately file suit - that has simply sat from October 18 until the agreed order of November 18. This has only delayed the process and antagonized the County.

By the way, when can we, the people, expect to be provided with public notice shall be given for this conflict resolution meeting in accordance with s. 164.1031(7)?

IMPACT: Legal representatives of Palmetto Bay & Miami-Dade County have agreed to talk through participating in a legally required conflict resolution proceeding. A proceeding that could have commenced anytime after 10 days of serving a simple certified letter.

Is there an urgent issue affecting public safety or not? There are inconsistencies in the litigation, the stated purpose of the lawsuit. What is intriguing here is that the Village Council stated that there was an immediate need to the suit for injunctive relief for public safety purposes, yet there has been no pursuit of a temporary injunction pending the remainder of the case and the parties are now engaging in the mediation. The actions of the Palmetto Bay Council conflict sharply as this procedure is not required where:
(If) a governmental entity, by a three-fourths vote of its governing body, finds that an immediate danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the public requires immediate action, or that significant legal rights will be compromised if a court proceeding does not take place before the provisions of this act are complied with, no notice or public meeting or other proceeding as provided by this act shall be required before such a court proceeding. 
See subsection (2).
For background, see a PRIOR RELATED POST of October 25, 2019, Thoughts on the most recent litigation FILED by the village: Good faith or is this a less than good faith attempt to avoid a deal that the Mayor and Council had no authority to make?

As I have stated, The recent lawsuit for injunctive relief is a very big deal. This is diplomacy through litigation, giving up on communication turning the entire matter over to the court where all parties are divested of certain decision making authority. The best thing that can happen is that Miami-Dade County obtains a binding agreement from the current Palmetto Bay Council which will actually bind the council to keep their negotiated agreements.

Fellow residents need to be sure that this council does not enter into any binding agreement that is not in our best interest (and that will vary based upon how each person's interest is affected).

I make the statement above as the continued buzz around the village is whether the current Mayor and council overstepped their authority in reaching a formal agreement with Miami-Dade County, through the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) without bringing the proposal back to the residents. It is a fair question as others have wondered whether this lawsuit is an abject 'abdication of responsibility' of the responsibility of their elected office as spelled out in the Village Charter for Mayor Cunningham and the entire Village Council to maintain civility, communication and advocate for Palmetto Bay with Miami-Dade County.

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