BRADENTON -- Manatee County School District lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss a Sarasota Security Patrol lawsuit, saying Superintendent Rick Mills has the power to cancel the security contract and all charges have been paid in full.
The motion was filed Dec. 19 by Fred Moore, a lawyer from Blalock Walters, a Bradenton firm recently retained by the Manatee County School District. The Sarasota Security Patrol lawsuit is the first matter Blalock Walters has handled for the district.
Sarasota Security Patrol, which provided private guards in district elementary schools for about a month this school year, filed a lawsuit in October seeking at least $47,000, claiming Mills did not have the authority to cancel the contract and the district still owes the company money.
The three-count lawsuit claims Mills is not authorized by law or contractual language to cancel the contract and also claims breach of contract by the district for failing to pay an invoice within 30 days. The lawsuit claims Mills canceled the contract in bad faith to make a lawsuit from Citizens for Sunshine moot.
"The plaintiff contends that because the Superintendent had no power or authority to cancel the contract without express action of the (Manatee County) School Board, the Notice of Termination was not valid or effective," the lawsuit claims.
The suit claims the district owes the company at least $47,000 from an invoice filed Sept. 29 yet to be paid. The contract states invoices must be paid within 30 days. At the time of the filing, the
invoice had not been paid, according to the lawsuit.
The district response to the lawsuit includes an attachment, which has a copy of the request for proposal, a copy of Sarasota Security Patrol's response to the proposal, which functioned as the contract and copies of payments made to Sarasota Security Patrol.
The contract provided by the district indicates the superintendent is allowed to cancel the contract and the exhibit shows five payments made to the company totaling more than $198,000, including a $47,000 payment Oct. 29 for an invoice filed Sept. 29, which is within the 30-day time frame.
The district asks the court to dismiss the complaint and have Sarasota Security Patrol pay any costs and reasonable attorney fees.
In July, Mills announced the district was going to hire a company to provide security in district elementary schools not served by school resource officers. The board approved hiring Sarasota Security Patrol with a $1-million per year, three-year contract Sept. 9.
Sarasota Security Patrol officers began working Sept. 17 in 31 of 33 district elementary schools.
On Sept. 25, Citizens for Sunshine, a nonprofit group, sued the district claiming it violated the Sunshine Law by not properly advertising a meeting where committee members reviewed the companies vying for the contract.
On Oct. 1, Mills invoked a 30-day cancellation clause in the contract, saying no further board action could remedy the situation. The board approved a $10,775 settlement Oct. 14 with Citizens for Sunshine. The officers served their last day in district schools on Halloween, the same day Sarasota Security Patrol filed the lawsuit against the district.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.