Time for village to settle with Palmer

Grant Miller

Who will step forward to settle the Palmer Trinity issue, Palmetto Bay’s most divisive issue? The tactics of letting the courts make all the decisions have been devastating for Palmetto Bay. Will 2013 be the year where a statesman (or woman) steps forward to show some leadership and bring an end to this black cloud overhanging the village?

Mayor Shelley Stanczyk failed to address Palmer at her 2012 State of the Village. It certainly is important. All we know to date is that the litigation before the Third District Court of Appeal ended very badly for Palmetto Bay with a decision that will haunt future councils and residents for many years to come.

Now simply known as “the decision” the court published its opinion that the current Palmetto Bay Council (actually three of the five) acted either from “wishful thinking” or “more likely a willful disobedience” when the village council placed a 900-student limit on Palmer Trinity School after a lower court told the city, in effect, to allow up to 1,150 students.

These are words of sharp rebuke and reflect a court that grew weary of the endless litigation. Attorneys I have spoken to appear to all agree that Palmetto Bay is not going to find any warmer reception from the trial courts than it has received from the appellate court.

In fact, word is out that all cases could have been settled. There could have been peace in the community. A school could have gone back with full energy and resources to teaching. A community could have begun healing and begun to move forward on more productive endeavors.

I know how confident the three-person majority running the village council — Brian Pariser, Shelley Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay — were in total victory over Palmer.

Unfortunately, the residents and students are stuck in the middle, having no voice and worse, no ability to influence any change in ongoing lawsuits. As litigation observers can attest to — only settlements bring closure.

The council never negotiated. Palmer won. Palmetto Bay lost both in court and in credibility in future lawsuits.

Palmer now has its 1,150 students, but the lawsuits continue over the arbitrary actions of the village council in denying Palmer its property rights and a fair hearing. Lawsuits that probably were meaningless were energized by an appeal court’s published opinion giving credibility to the Palmer claims that its rights were being trampled on by a council that engaged in “willful disobedience” of prior court orders.

The “wishful thinking” of Mayor Stanczyk, Vice Mayor Pariser and Councilwoman Lindsay failed badly in litigating the appeals. These same three now want to continue to litigate only tactics on to the trial courts.

The residents and schools of Palmetto Bay deserve better. It is time to step forward and negotiate a reasonable settlement to the remaining lawsuits. The politicians need to know that this is not about their egos. Lawsuits should be properly managed in the best interest of the residents.

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