HOLMES BEACH — Manatee County commissioners John Chappie and Carol Whitmore did not violate open government laws during a Sept. 15 social outing at an Anna Maria Island restaurant, an investigation by Holmes Beach Police has found.
In a media release Thursday, Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine said his department has closed the case.
The investigation began after Save Anna Maria Inc. officer Nancy R. Deal filed a complaint with police. In a Sept. 19 affidavit, she said she saw Whitmore and Chappie sitting with county Administrator Ed Hunzeker at the Beach Bistro bar.Deal said she overheard Whitmore and Hunzeker discuss “builders” or “developers” and that Hunzeker said either “not alarm the public” or “not inform the public.”
In the release, Romine said police interviewed Deal and the commissioners, along with a restaurant employee, before closing the case. Romine said the State Attorney’s Office reviewed the investigation and agreed with its conclusions.
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“There is no evidence or statements to confirm that any county business was discussed or conducted,” Romine said. “Someone overhearing what might have been ‘builders’ or ‘developers’ does not rise to the level of a Sunshine Law violation.”
According to the Government in the Sunshine Law, two or more elected officials may not discuss any subject that could come before their board or committee outside of an open meeting.
Whitmore, who is running to retain her seat in the Nov. 2 election, said the complaint was an attempt to derail her re-election bid.
“I knew what the outcome (of the investigation) would be,” Whitmore said. “It’s election time. It’s politics. I’m glad people will see it wasn’t true.”
Deal was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Whitmore and Chappie said they agreed to go to dinner together following their visit to an Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce meeting earlier Sept. 15. Island business owner David Teitelbaum and Whitmore’s husband, Andre Renard, also attended.
Chappie was unavailable for comment Thursday, but in past interviews he insisted he is careful to obey the Sunshine Law.