Developer settles Anna Maria lawsuit for $1 million

Posted on Saturday, November 11, 2017

by Bianca Benedí for

Shawn Kaleta and the city of Anna Maria have reached a $1 million settlement.

The parties signed off on an agreement and Florida Municipal Insurance Trust delivered a $1 million check Nov. 10 to Kaleta’s law firm, Najmy Thompson PA.

“We are pleased with the settlement, not mainly for its dollar amount,” wrote Louis Najmy, principal with the law firm, in a Nov. 10 text. Najmy confirmed the $1 million payout.

He added his client is “most pleased” with the city’s commitment to work with Kaleta in a fair manner.

City attorney Becky Vose did not return a call for comment Nov. 10 from The Islander.

Kaleta and Beach to Bay Construction LLC alleged the city and its representatives had blackballed him and his development efforts in violation of First and 14th Amendment rights.

The federal case was initially dismissed “without prejudice” in mid-October by U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore, permitting either party 60 days to reopen it “with good cause.”

With the Nov. 10 settlement, the parties agreed to permanently dismiss the case filed by Kaleta-Beach to Bay in February 2016.

On behalf of the city, attorney John T. Conner of Dean, Ringers, Morton and Lawton PA, the law firm assigned under the city’s $1.5 million Florida League of Cities’ insurance policy, filed a notice of settlement in October.

According to the final settlement — included on the Nov. 9 commission consent agenda without stating the dollar amount — the parties released each other from all claims relating to the lawsuit without admitting liability and each side was to pay its own fees.

Najmy said he and his client are bound by a confidentiality agreement and cannot release the final document.

Murphy said Nov. 12 in an email: “I don’t know the amount of the monetary settlement with Mr. Kaleta. I don’t know if the figure quoted (by you) is correct. That was completely between Mr. Kaleta and the insurance company.”

Murphy added,  “no city money (whether from ad valorem taxes or otherwise)” was spent to settle the case. No one from the city, whether myself, the city commissioners or the city attorney, was involved in any way with the negotiation or payment of any monetary settlement with Mr. Kaleta. The city at no time admitted any liability to Mr. Kaleta and continues to deny liability. What the insurance company did was the business of the insurance company.”

The final settlement referenced a city resolution adopted Oct. 12 that retracted statements about banning Kaleta from obtaining permits and accusations of unpermitted work and required the city not to contradict the resolution.

As part of the resolution, the city agreed to relocate gumbo limbo trees and trim Australian pine and seagrape trees at Kaleta’s beachfront property at 101 Willow Ave. and to implement a written city policy for handling permit applications to avoid discrimination.

Kaleta’s lawsuit sought $12.3 million in damages and was scheduled to go to trial in November.

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