Lawyer’s Fees Top $3,000 In Defense Of Century Sunshine Law Violation Case

October 6, 2016

Legal bills have exceeded $3,000 for four Century volunteer task force members charged with noncriminal violations of the Florida Government in the Sunshine Law. The four faced possible maximum fines of $2,000 total.

The Century Town Council voted to hire attorney Kim Skievaski, a former circuit judge, at $300 per hour to represent Alfonzie Cottrell, Helen Mincy, Sylvia Godwin, and Robert Mitchell , who were charged by the State Attorney’s Office with having a public meeting that was not properly advertised. On July 26, a meeting was advertised to begin at 4:00 p.m. The meeting was actually held at 2:00 p.m. preventing  the public from attending.

Kievaski’s firm, Sellers, Skievaski and Kuder, billed the Town of Century $3,070 for their work on the case.  A town official said additional fees are expected but not yet billed by town attorney Matt Dannheiser for his work on the issue.

Kievaski billed the town for 60 minutes to review the case, 90 minutes to meet with Mayor Freddie McCall and Matt Dannheiser, 240 minutes to travel to Century to meet with the four defendants and 44 minutes to appear at the arraignment, confer with the State Attorney’s Office and review a deferred prosecution agreement, and 180 minutes to return to Century to meet with the defendants.  That totaled 614 minutes, or 10.23 hours.

The former members of a Citizens Advisory Task Force — Alfonzie Cottrell, Helen Mincy, Sylvia Godwin, and Robert Mitchell — pleaded not guilty to a noncriminal violation of the Florida Government in the Sunshine Law. Each accepted a deferred prosecution agreement under which charges and a possible maximum fine of $500 will be dropped if the defendant has no violation of the law  and resigns their position on the Citizens Advisory Task Force or completes an online training course regarding the Sunshine Law. If the individuals meet the conditions, the charge will be dropped in six months. The State Attorney’s Office said any fees or costs in connection with the case will also be waived. In letters from defense attorney Kim Skievaski to Century Mayor Freddie McCall and the Century Town Council, each of the four task force members resigned their positions effective September 12.

The council voted to hire Skievaski on August 30. In an interview conducted that night and published the following morning, the State Attorney’s Office confirmed that the four would be offered deferred prosecution.

The State Attorney’s Office has continued to contend that “there was a clear violation of the Sunshine Law by hold a public meeting at a time other than what was advertised in a public notice”. The SAO said deferred prosecution was offered due to mitigating circumstances included the age of the defendants, their willingness to resign from office and the “considerable responsibility of the Town of Century in allowing the violation to occur”.

For an earlier story with more information, click here.

Pictured top: CATF members Helen Mincy, Robert Mitchell and Sylvia Godwin during a CATF meeting on Thursday, July 28. Alfonzie Cottrell was not present at the July 28 meeting. Pictured inset: Attorney bill for $3,070. Pictured below: The Century Town Hall was locked and the parking lot empty just after 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 26, the time of a publicly noticed town task force meeting. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Comments

13 Responses to “Lawyer’s Fees Top $3,000 In Defense Of Century Sunshine Law Violation Case”

  1. Kevin on October 7th, 2016 1:42 pm

    We have spent over $3000 to prevent four people from paying a combined total of $2000 in “possible” fines? This is not good business.

  2. Willis on October 6th, 2016 10:03 pm

    @bewildered
    Why did you elect them ?

    Does you can’t fix stupid apply to those voting also ?
    Commenting ?

  3. M in Bratt on October 6th, 2016 4:00 pm

    The citizens of Century need to add a simple math test to the qualification procedure for Mayor and Council seats, because it’s very obvious that none of those that sit in those positions can add and subtract.

  4. Ruby on October 6th, 2016 1:21 pm

    Well, if they had made a controversial decision during that meeting, or if someone had an issue they needed to bring before the group, the thoughts would be VERY different. But the law is the law, and if it applies to one person, it applies to all people.

  5. anne on October 6th, 2016 12:44 pm

    $300.00 an hour but hey, they only take the cases they know they will win so take heart people.

  6. David Huie Green on October 6th, 2016 10:57 am

    I wonder if you could hire a lawyer to advise you that you don’t need to hire a lawyer.

    David for perpetual motion

  7. mike on October 6th, 2016 10:46 am

    oh yeah, these 3 really look like they could get up to some criminal stuff. Good thing we have some lawyers around to profit on the whole thing. :)

  8. bewildered on October 6th, 2016 9:53 am

    To me this is not only ridiculous, it’s scary. We elect people to powerful positions who have absolutely no common sense. No amount of economics training will help, you cannot fix stupid!

  9. Grandma on October 6th, 2016 9:39 am

    Impeach ALL the Century Town Council. This small example mirrors what the federal government is doing. Not a single one is concerned with how taxpayer dollars are spent. Come on people, hold the elected accountable. If you don’t, then Century taxpayers deserve this misuse of funds. Smells of corruption.

  10. Proud ArmyParent on October 6th, 2016 8:11 am

    One word comes to mind…..Ridiculous!

  11. fisherman on October 6th, 2016 7:03 am

    I said from the beginning that the bill would surpass the total fines for all 4 of them. Century should have paid the fine for them it would have been cheaper. The spent over $3000 for attorney on something the state had already offered. If that isn’t STUPID!!!!!! I don’t know what is. They wonder why Century has no money.

  12. chris on October 6th, 2016 6:06 am

    Perhaps the city needs to lure attorneys to work off their rent with services rendered.

  13. c.w. on October 6th, 2016 2:14 am

    Just like several posters stated, hiring a lawyer to get the same thing that the state already offered makes no sense. This group of CIVIL SERVANTS need a reality check and economics 101 lessens.





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