Bond Validation Update for New Library-Event Center

Last Thursday, October 20, we spent a long afternoon in a crowded courtroom as Judge Schriber of the Ninth Circuit Court heard evidence about the circumstances surrounding the bonds residents approved by referendum on March 15. 

The City’s Bond attorney laid out a case to validate the bonds and to include the location of MLK Park. City Manager Randy Knight, Library Trustee and Vote Yes PAC chair Jeffry Jontz, ACi Architects owner and principal Larry Adams and City Communications Director Clarissa Howard were witnesses. For the opposition, Assistant State Attorney Rick Wallsh and library-events center opponent Michael Poole argued to exclude MLK Park from the validation.

After testimonies and cross examinations, comments from the audience were heard. Some representatives from the anti-library-events center PAC made remarks against including the location in the validation. Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation President David Odahowski and Library Facility Task Force Chair Sam Stark spoke to the robust nature of the process leading up to the referendum and the clarity of the communications with residents during that time. They asked that the location promised to residents during the campaign be included in the validation judgement. A new resident testified to the abundance of transparency prior to the referendum and that even new residents like she and her husband were fully aware of the MLK Park site before they voted. She also stated that she felt coerced into signing the petition circulated by the anti-library-events center group.

So what exactly was each side saying?
State Attorney Wallsh argued that since MLK Park was not explicitly named in the bond referendum ordinance or the ballot language that went to the voters, the judge should not specify the location in the validation. The City argued that legally, all the circumstance surrounding the referendum must be considered, including the wealth of information indicating that MLK Park was the location clearly communicated to residents and twice approved by the City Commission. They asserted that if a validation is to lay to rest all questions that could affect purchasers of the bonds, location must be specified. Attorneys for both sides cited Florida laws and relevant court positions to support their arguments.

So what’s next?
After hearing evidence from both sides, Judge Schriber requested that the City’s attorneys draft two proposed judgements validating the bonds: one with wording establishing Martin Luther King, Jr. Park as the location and one with wording that omits it. Further, she will receive a memo from the City’s attorneys providing additional legal arguments, case law and statutory authority. All of these materials are due to the judge by November 15. She will issue a ruling sometime after she receives these materials. It seems clear that the bonds will be validated, and the ultimate question is whether the judge will include language officially recognizing MLK Park as the location where the new library-events center will be built.

What does this mean?
We wait some more.