On Feb. 26, Florida’s First District Court of Appeals handed the city of Apalachicola a victory in a suit against the county over the process by which RESTORE Act funds will be administered.
The three-judge panel – Judges William Van Nortwick, Jr., Philip Padovano and Lori Rowe – overturned Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey’s March 2013 ruling that the city had no basis on which to assert that the county had to meet with them under the terms of Florida Statute 164. This law, known as the Florida Governmental Conflict Resolution Act, encourages the resolution of conflicts between local and regional governments without resorting to litigation.
Beginning in August 2012, both Apalachicola and Carrabelle made numerous requests to the county to meet with the cities to discuss a fair plan for divvying up the county’s eventual share of billions of dollars in in compensation for damages resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That total amount has yet to be decided by a federal judge, but is expected to bring into Franklin County several million dollars.
On the advice of County Attorney Michael Shuler, the county declined the cities’ requests, prompting Apalachicola to filed suit in circuit court to compel the county to meet publicly with the two cities.
In her ruling, Dempsey dismissed the city’s complaint with prejudice, which forever barred the city from refiling the case.
The appellate court reversed Dempsey’s decision, and wrote that Apalachicola had legal grounds for seeking declaratory relief. The justices noted the Florida legislature intended the Florida Governmental Conflict Resolution Act as a means “to enhance intergovernmental coordination by creating a governmental conflict resolution procedure to provide a method for resolving conflicts between and among local and regional governmental entities.”
The justices remanded the case back to the circuit court, where it will now be heard by Circuit Judge George Reynolds. – By DAVID ADLERSTEIN