Complaint filed against Bradenton Beach mayor latest in ongoing dispute

acastillo@bradenton.comJuly 14, 2014 

BRADENTON BEACH -- A recent complaint filed against the mayor of Bradenton Beach is the latest round in an ongoing dispute with a prominent businessman.

Thick tension remains though the argument appears resolved for now.

In mid-June, an attorney representing ELRA Inc., Ed Chiles' BeachHouse Restaurant corporate entity, sent a formal complaint to the city of Bradenton Beach centered on Mayor William Shearon's vacation resort, Linger Longer.

In a June 20 letter addressed to code enforcement officer Gail Garneau, building official Steve Gilbert and Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, Chiles' attorney Robert Lincoln cited "possible zoning code, city code and state law violations" stemming from Shearon's property at 302/304 Gulf Drive S.

Lincoln claims Shearon and his partner, Tjet Marin, were operating their business without proper licensing. Shearon told the Bradenton Herald he has since applied for the license.

"I looked at the mayor's own house to see if it was made of glass," Lincoln said last week.

Lincoln was unable to find a state-mandated public lodging license for Shearon's business. An inspection conducted June 19 by the Florida Department of Business & Regulation-Division of Hotels and Restaurants resulted in Shearon and Martin being cited for unlicensed

activity.

Chelsea Eagle, who works in Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation's Office of Communications, confirmed Shearon applied for a vacation rental license, which was issued July 2.

A lodging license may cost anywhere from $205 to $250. Failure to obtain a lodging license may result in administrative fines.

As of now, there are no plans to file a lawsuit against Shearon, but Lincoln said this latest complaint is in the context of a larger, ongoing dispute between the Bradenton Beach mayor and ELRA.

"There's history that goes back to before the mayor was elected last November, and now there's recent history because he brought into office with him a bias that ELRA Inc. in its earlier approvals were in violation of the law," Lincoln said.

In 2012, Shearon filed a lawsuit with Martin and Jo Ann Meilner against the city of Bradenton Beach, challenging city approval of an agreement with ELRA to allow parking on certain lots beside Chiles' restaurant.

Shearon dropped out of the lawsuit after he won office. The lawsuit is still moving forward.

Lincoln listed other problems with Shearon's administration, including issues with public records. The city's pro tem clerk Tammy Johnson, who resigned last week, faced allegations of deleting emails sent to the city.

"We think there's a number of issues with the administration and we hope that the city can find ways to resolve it," Lincoln said.

Shearon denied having any issues with ELRA.

"I've never had an issue with them," he said. "That's America. You can complain about anybody."

Shearon attorney, Charles Johnson of Blalock Walters, was unavailable for comment. According to Shearon, he was unaware of the legal requirements.

"I paid the sales tax, business license and it's just one of those things that I wasn't aware of," the mayor said of the state-mandated public lodging license. "There are a bunch of other people that are just the same way. ... It's one of those things that the state doesn't notify you that you need a particular license."

In an email, Lincoln said Shearon "has tried to make this appear to be an 'oversight' based on the change in the statute, but the simple fact is that he has been operating in direct violation of the state licensing requirements for years."

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo

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