The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 15 No. 3 - November 12, 2014


Army exploring for explosives
Carol Whitmore


Passage Key is a popular weekend boating destination
as clear, shallow water extends for hundreds of yards to
the south and east of the tiny island, which has
been under water at all but dead low tide for the last five years.

PASSAGE KEY – Now a peaceful bird sanctuary, Passage Key was a bombing and aerial gunnery range during World War II, and the military plans to explore it for unexploded munitions within the next year.

The U.S. Army Air Corps at MacDill Field (later called the U.S. Air Force at MacDill Air Force Base), used Passage Key as a target during World War II, leaving behind several items that were discovered in 1998 that interested the Army, said Amanda Parker, public affairs officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, declining to disclose what the items are.

The key, visible from the north end of Anna Maria Island in Tampa Bay, was underwater until recently, and its reemergence has made the site accessible to the Army Corps, although the public is still prohibited from landing on the key, which is a National Wildlife Refuge.

The Army Corps will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the project to avoid injuring or killing birds, Parker said.

Passage Key is one of about 800 defense sites in Florida under investigation by the Army, which will begin digging on the key and searching its underwater perimeter within a year, she said, adding that public meetings will be scheduled on the project in the future. A meeting last week on the project, scheduled at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, was relocated and closed to the public and the press.

Many names, many uses

In 1757, when Tampa Bay was called Bahia del Espiritu Santo or Holy Spirit Bay, the Spanish named Passage Key Isla de San Francisco y Leon or Saints Francis and Leo Island. The English renamed it Burnaby Island in 1765; it was also known as Pollux Key.

In 1783, it was renamed again, to Cayo del Paseje, or Passage Key.

In the early 1830s, Capt. William Bunce operated a fishing rancho on the key. In 1836, the U.S. schooner Grampus and the cutters Washington and Jefferson anchored at its small dock.

In the 1850s, a survey estimated the key’s land area at about 100 acres, Parker said.

It was only 60-plus acres by Oct. 10, 1905, when Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, at the urging of the National Audubon Society, established Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge as a sanctuary for seabirds and shorebirds.

At the time, the key had a freshwater lake and the largest population of royal terns and sandwich terns in the state.

In 1910, Capt. Asa Pillsbury and his family, who homesteaded on Passage Key in 1908, reported 102 species of birds on the key. Pillsbury worked for the Audubon Society as the part-time warden of the key until it was destroyed by the hurricane of 1921, before hurricanes were named.

Natural sand flow rebuilt the key in time to be used as a bombing range during World War II in the 1940s.

In 1970, Passage Key was designated a wilderness area and remains one of the only undeveloped barrier islands in Tampa Bay. More than 50 species of birds roost and nest on the key, now a four-acre sandbar.

Since 1991, Passage Key has been closed to the public, although photography and fishing are allowed outside the boundaries of the refuge, much of which is underwater. Boaters routinely violate the law, contributing to erosion with boat wakes, boat beachings and hiking.

If you find munitions on the beach or anywhere, practice the three “R”s: Recognize, Retreat and Report to 911.

Holmes Beach elects Johnson as mayor

HOLMES BEACH – An exuberant crowd filled the home of Commissioner Marvin Grossman on election night and went wild when they learned that Grossman and Commissioner Judy Titsworth would retain their seats and that Bob Johnson would be the city’s next mayor.

David Cheshire, who served with Johnson on the Charter Review Commission, playfully slapped a sign reading “Mayor” on Johnson’s chest and the crowd called for speeches.

“What a great two months it’s been getting to know the community,” Johnson said. “Thanks to all the voters in the city. I’m looking forward working for you as mayor.”

Johnson received 1,197 votes to Commissioner David Zaccagnino’s 806 votes.

Zaccagnino was gracious in his concession and said, “I wish the best for Holmes Beach. Good luck with the new mayor.”

Titsworth received the highest number of commission votes at 1,282 and Grossman came in second with 1,088. Challenger Andy Sheridan received 857 votes.

“Thanks for believing in me again,” Titsworth told the crowd. “I will continue to work hard for all the citizens of the city.”

“I want to thank everybody,” Grossman added. “I appreciated the privilege of working for my community. It was great being part of a team that has changed the direction of the city.”

Sheridan said the loss would not deter him, and he would “continue to go to meetings and speak up on issues and be there for the citizens of Holmes Beach.”

The swearing in of elected officials is set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 25.

In addition to the commission and mayor’s races, the voters were asked to decide on 18 charter amendments. All 18 were approved.

U.S. Supreme Court considers Yates fish case
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down
its decision in the John Yates case by spring of early
summer 2015.

WASHINGTON – Some U.S. Supreme Court justices question whether a law designed to prevent documentary evidence destruction passed in the wake of the Enron scandal should have been used to convict and jail Cortez commercial fisherman John Yates for catching undersized fish.

The court heard oral arguments on Nov. 5 in the case, stemming from Yates’ 2011 conviction of destroying evidence in a 2007 federal investigation of 72 undersized grouper discovered on his boat at sea by fisheries officers.

According to trial testimony, he ordered his crew to dispose of undersized grouper at sea, and officers calculated that three illegal grouper were missing when the boat docked at Cortez.

Yates, 62, was convicted and jailed for 30 days for disposing of evidence to prevent seizure and destroying evidence to impede or obstruct a federal investigation.

The latter charge was based on the so-called anti-document shredding provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which makes it a crime to “knowingly alter, destroy, mutilate, conceal, cover up, falsify or make a false entry in any record, document or tangible object with the intent to impede or obstruct an investigation."

Grouper aren’t objects

Yates’ attorney, John Badalamenti, argued that the provision should not extend to grouper, saying “The phrase ‘record, document or tangible object’ is confined to records, documents and devices designed to preserve information, the very matters involved in the Enron debacle.”
Former Ohio congressman, Michael Oxley, who sponsored the law, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the position.

“If you look against the backdrop of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, there is plenty of support that Congress was targeting businesses, corporations and publicly traded companies,” Badalamenti said, to which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg replied, “Isn’t running a fishing vessel a business?”
“It doesn’t change the fact that ‘tangible object’ doesn’t mean everything,” Badalamenti said.

Grouper are objects

A grouper is a tangible object, attorney Roman Martinez argued for the government, and the missing grouper were evidence in the investigation, and were knowingly destroyed, according to trial testimony.

“Mr. Yates was given an explicit instruction by a law enforcement officer to preserve evidence of his violation of federal law. He directly disobeyed that. He then launched a convoluted cover-up scheme to cover up the fact that he had destroyed the evidence. He enlisted other people, including his crew members, in executing that scheme and in lying to the law enforcement officers about it,” Martinez said.

“You make him sound like a mob boss or something,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, getting a laugh.

‘Mad prosecutor?’

The court grilled Martinez on whether the law would apply to a recreational fisherman who throws a trout into a lake when approached by an officer or a camper who extinguishes an ember from a prohibited fire or a hiker who picks a protected wildflower and throws it away.

Prosecutors have discretion whether to charge suspects, he replied. In Yates’ case, prosecutors did not object to a 30-day sentence, a fraction of the potential 20 years the offense carries.

“But he could have gotten 20 years. What kind of a sensible prosecution is that?” Justice Antonin Scalia asked. “What kind of a mad prosecutor would try to send this guy up for 20 years or risk sending him up for 20 years?”

Martinez said that federal justice department guidelines authorize prosecutors to charge the most severe penalty possible for an offense. Scalia responded that Congress should be more careful about the reach of its laws.

“But the point is that you could,” Roberts said, “and the point is that once you can, every time you get somebody who is throwing fish overboard, you can go to him and say, ‘Look, if we prosecute you, you’re facing 20 years, so why don’t you plead to a year,’ or something like that. It’s an extraordinary leverage that the broadest interpretation of this statute would give federal prosecutors.”

“But I think the key point is Sarbanes-Oxley prohibits the destruction of fish,” Martinez replied, “and if you stop someone on the street and ask them ‘Is a fish a tangible object?,’ the answer would almost certainly be, would be ‘Yes.’ ”

The justices also probed the attorneys on how far the law might reach, debating whether other things could be considered objects under the act, from a photographic print of a fish or a catch log recording a fish’s catch to information stored in the cloud.

At the end of Martinez’ argument, Justice Anthony Kennedy quipped, “Perhaps Congress should have called this the Sarbanes Oxley Grouper Act,” prompting laughter.

Yates reaction

It’s no joke to John Yates, who has not been able to make a living commercial fishing since the day in 2007 his boat was boarded.

He did not attend the hearing, but talked about things on Saturday that have always bothered him about the case.

The fish were not properly measured, he said, citing a difference between measuring them from the lower lip or the upper lip, and saying that the officer pushed on the mouths of the fish, making them appear shorter. He also has maintained that the fish measured shorter on the dock after being on ice than they were when they were measured at sea.

Yates said he doesn’t understand why he could be convicted for throwing fish overboard when the lower court found him not guilty of a third charge, lying to a federal officer about throwing fish overboard.

He suspects the credibility of a witness that testified that Yates ordered the crew to throw fish overboard because the witness said during proceedings that he didn’t want to go to jail.

Yates said he no longer fishes because “There’s a target on my back.” He runs a shop with his wife in Cortez called Off the Hook. The appeal is not costing him anything, he said, because he’s represented by a federal public defender.

Yates’ wife, Sandy Yates, and their daughter attended the hearing.

Sandy Yates said her impression after seeing the court in action was that the justices were “indignant” when Martinez spoke about “throwing the book” at her husband.

“The whole court seemed livid,” she said, adding that it seemed the case may go their way. “By the tone of it, I can’t see it going any other way, but you never know. You can’t predict them.”

A decision is expected by spring/summer 2015.

Whitmore retains county seat

joe hendricks | sun

Carol Whitmore celebrates her re-election with
state Sen. Bill Galvano

MANATEE COUNTY – Lifelong Island resident Carol Whitmore is pleased to be serving another term on the Manatee County Commission.

Whitmore, an incumbent Republican, defeated first-time Democratic challenger Terri Wonder in last week’s election by 21,787 votes. Whitmore received 68,085 votes (56.2 percent) compared to Wonder’s 46,300 (38.2 percent).

At the four Island voting precincts, Whitmore’s support ranged from 61 to 54 percent.

She celebrated her re-election at the Pier 22 restaurant in Bradenton, surrounded by campaign supporters, friends and family members.

“I’m very happy, and I’m even more happy that I carried the Island,” Whitmore said.

“I had a tough opponent who had passionate supporters. It was a tough campaign and I give kudos to my opponent. What I think put me over the top was my understanding of the broad range of issues facing Manatee County, and I wasn’t just a one or two issue candidate,” she added.

Whitmore’s supporters included state Sen. Bill Galvano.

“I fully expected Carol to win because of the job she’s done over the past years, but it’s good to see it confirmed. It’s great for Manatee County and the entire region to have Carol back on the commission. She’s a hard worker, a pro-active thinker and someone I work very closely with,” he said.

County Commissioners John Chappie and Vanessa Baugh were also on hand.

“Carol is a fiscally conservative individual and her votes have shown that, but she also listens to everybody and has a history of responding to the community and the individuals in the community,” Chappie said.

“Local government is very personal. It’s about compromise and working together; it’s not about absolutes, and Carol understands that, and I think the commission as a whole understands that,” he added.

“The people have spoken. They wanted to see Carol stay on the board, and they’ve shown they have confidence in the commission,” Baugh said.

As a well-known incumbent, Whitmore held a significant funding advantage over Wonder. Whitmore received $104,735 in campaign contributions and $5,546 in additional in-kind contributions. Wonder received $25,242 in campaign contributions and $4,780 in in-kind donations. Whitmore spent $80,249 on her campaign and Wonder spent $22,725.

Countywide, voter turnout was 56.9 percent, with 121,032 of Manatee County’s 212,609 registered voters casting votes in the Nov. 4 election.

New mayor, incumbent commissioners win in Anna Maria


Incoming Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and his wife,
Barbara, took to the streets the morning after the election to thank voters who put him in office.



ANNA MARIA – Dan Murphy will become the next mayor of this city after he defeated Mayor SueLynn 461 to 327 in the Nov. 4 election.

SueLynn was appointed mayor two years ago when Mike Selby did not run for a second term. She has spent the past two years trying to deal with the rapid influx of large rental homes that are replacing residences where people sold out and moved away.

Murphy, a retired engineer, Vietnam veteran and longtime resident of the area, might have scored a plus with voters because he attended every meeting after announcing his candidacy.

The morning after the election, as he and his wife, Barbara, were holding up signs thanking voters for their support, Murphy described his reaction.

“Shocked, excited, humbled and anxious to get started,” he said. “I want to have a smooth transition and I am grateful to my supporters.”

Commissioner Nancy Yetter got the largest number of votes for commissioner at 466. Commission Chair Chuck Webb came in second with 408. David Bouchard came in third with 394, trailing Webb by 14 votes. The two incumbents will return for another two years.

Yetter described her reaction to the vote amount.

“Shocked,” she said. “If you had to have a change, I guess a new mayor would be easier than a commissioner because we have so many technical things to learn and if you were not at the meetings, there would be a big learning curve.”

Micheal Coleman, a developer of the Pine Avenue Restoration and member of the city’s planning and zoning board, reacted to the commission chair beating a newcomer by only 14 votes.

“This stinging rebuke was amplified when Dan Murphy, another political newcomer, bested SueLynn in the mayoral election by over 140 votes,” he said. “Voters appear to be tired of what some call ‘chicken little, them and us’ politics in which much is said and nothing gets done while legal fees mount.”

Vosburgh decisively defeats Martin

joe hendricks | sun

A joyous Jan Vosburgh will serve a third term
on the city commission.


BRADENTON BEACH – Incumbent commissioner Jan Vosburgh retained her Ward 4 city commission seat last Tuesday with a landslide victory over challenger Tjet Martin.

Running unopposed, incumbent Commissioner Ed Straight will join Vosburgh in serving a third and final term on the commission.

In last week’s election, Vosburgh received 347 votes and 67.6 percent of the vote, compared to Martin’s 143 votes and 27.8 percent. Of the city’s 763 registered voters, 490 participated in the city’s only commission race, producing a local turnout rate of 64 percent.

In contrast to the August primary election, when more than 50 percent of the precinct’s 307 voters voted by mail, the majority of the city’s voters waited until Election Day to cast their votes. Three hundred and twenty-two voters cast their ballots at the Annie Silver Community Center, 155 voted by mail and 13 traveled to the mainland during the early voting period.

Vosburgh celebrated the victory at her Bradenton Beach home, joined by friends and campaign supporters.

“I’m delighted that I won, and I want to thank all of the people who supported me, and hopefully, the city will be able to look forward now that the election behind us. I also hope this will heal some wounds so we can get back to doing the work of the city,” she said.

When asked if the large margin of victory surprised her, Vosburgh said, “No. I was confident, because I felt like I had such good support.”

“I believed good will would win out, and so it has,” said former Commissioner Gay Breuler.
“You can’t imagine how happy I am,” said former John Shaughnessy, when he called to congratulate Vosburgh.

“I am elated, but it’s not unexpected,” Clarke said of the results.

The vice mayor feels the margin of victory in a race that involved the mayor’s significant other served, in part, as a referendum on the Shearon administration and the recent discussions pertaining to the mayor potentially being removed from office.

“It seems to me that the people who voted for Tjet are the same people who voted for Mayor Shearon and Commissioner Robertson in 2013. This indicates to me that a small circle of individuals whose self-interest has been promoted over the last year has been rejected by the electorate. The voters have spoken and they have told us which way they want us to go,” Clarke said.

Vosburgh supporter Drew Kesse agreed.

“I believe it is a mandate that the voters of Bradenton Beach desired to make,” he said.

The campaign strategies utilized by Vosburgh and Martin offered a study in contrast.

Vosburgh solicited $3,998 in campaign contributions and spent every penny of it on her campaign. Her expenditures included well-received campaign T-shirts that said, “Vote for Jan Vosburgh and not the mayor’s girlfriend.”

Martin received a single $250 contribution and spent a total of $144 on her campaign. Unlike Vosburgh, she chose to rely on her base supporters and other than sending out a two-page campaign letter, she made little effort to reach out to those unfamiliar with her campaign platform.

Support wanes for returning tourist tax to AMI

SARASOTA – Amending the tourism development tax law to allow one cent of the five cents-per-dollar tax revenues to be repaid to the municipalities that generated them will not be a 2015 legislative priority for the ManaSota League of Cities.

The board decided on Nov. 6 to continue to discuss the issue next year, but declined to include it as one of its legislative priorities.

Manatee County’s 5 percent resort tax is collected from owners of accommodations rented for six months or less who charge the tax to their renters, in most cases, tourists. The majority of the tax is allocated to Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau tourism marketing efforts, with one of the five pennies allocated to beach renourishment.

About 43 percent of Manatee County’s September resort tax revenues (the last month available) were generated in Anna Maria Island’s three cities, according to the Manatee County Tax Collector’s office.

Unfair burden

“Our concern is that none of that money comes back to cities that are affected most by increasing tourism,” said Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen, also a Manatee County Tourist Development Council member.

“We get one cent for beach renourishment, but that doesn’t necessarily benefit us in handling the burdens,” she said. “Most of the funds go to increasing tourism in our county. But we have increasing issues with the burden, with police, with keeping our beaches clean, with waste management, code enforcement… the burden on our roads is getting ridiculous.”

“It’s about fairness,” she said. “These funds are being generated by our municipalities and we get nothing back to deal with the increased burden.”

“We have to put up infrastructure, we have police problems, we contribute a lot of this money and we have to put up with controlling the crowds,” Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said, adding that spectators and participants who come for the 2017 World Rowing Championships at Nathan Benderson Park, near the Sarasota/Manatee county line, will flood the beaches.

“We’re congested, we’re overpacked and we have to handle that,” he said.

The issue does not belong on the priority list yet, League President Jack Duncan said.

“This could be another piece of legislation like vacation rentals. It truly, truly, truly needs revision,” he said, asking members to begin putting together a proposal for 2016.

The Manatee County tourism brochure says “Come to Manatee County,” but lists Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key as the prime attractions, he said.

“We’re the drawing card, but with that comes expense,” he said, adding that a proposal must be worded in a way that supports tourism.

To League members who deny that the issue is a problem, Peelen warned, “There will be an increased need for short term vacation rentals around the whole Bradenton/Sarasota area, and it may be more important to you then than it is now.”

Vacation rental law

The League also decided against including further vacation rental law reform on its priority list.

The state Legislature passed a law in 2011 prohibiting municipal regulation of vacation rentals, including minimum stays and frequency, causing city governments to complain that they could not address noise, parking and trash problems at vacation rental properties.

Last year the Legislature tweaked the law, allowing municipalities to regulate rentals for health and safety.

“None of the cities on the Island have taken advantage of the change made last year,” Peelen said, adding that the League may consider the issue again after cities act.

Duncan congratulated outgoing Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn’s progress on the vacation rental issue, which he said he had “thought was DOA.”

The League also decided not to oppose state support for beach renourishment being linked to beach parking access.

Thompson is interim director of Community Center


Cindy Thompson began working with
departing Executive Director Dawn Stiles
on Monday.

ANNA MARIA – The Island Community Center board of directors has named Cindy Thompson as interim director during the transition period between the departure of current Executive Director Dawn Stiles and the selection of her replacement by the board.

“I was humbled and honored to be asked to step in as IED during this transition,” Thompson said. “I do feel I am uniquely qualified, and most importantly, I have a desire to see the Community Center thrive once again.”

Effective Monday, Nov. 10, Thompson will work with Stiles to ensure a smooth operational transfer.

Thompson stressed, “Time is not on our side with Dawn leaving in just days. We cannot lose momentum in continuing our mission to rebuild a sustainable business model while providing needed services to our membership. We need to put the community back in to the Community Center.”

Stiles pointed out that Thompson is a “sound and reasoned thinker who adds a measure of common sense to any discussion” and has “boundless energy and willingness to take on projects without hesitation.

“Cindy will be a great asset to the Center and resource for staff during this time of change. Her knowledge of the Center, staff and what we do will truly make this a smooth transition.”

Governance Committee member Blair Schlossberg commented, “The Center has a number of important issues and events upcoming in the near term that need strong leadership now as the Center moves forward on a financial plan and management strategy that take the Center to a new level of community services.

“The board requested an interim executive director be found to allow time for a proper search to be conducted. Cindy, the current vice chairman of the board, licensed childcare provider and past AMI Chamber of Commerce president, was unanimously agreed to be our best choice at this juncture.”

Board Chair Scott Rudacille agreed, saying, “While we don’t intend a long, drawn out search, we are committed to taking the time necessary to make the right decision, both for the community and the Center. Having Cindy at the helm during this process gives us the ability to do that.”

Thompson is owner of Thompson Academy in Bradenton, co-owner of Paradise Bagels & Café in Holmes Beach and was the event planner with Island Festivals in Holmes Beach. She has more than 15 years experience working with non-profit organizations.

Diana McManaway replaced Thompson on the Governance Committee, and the board named former Caterpillar executive Jim Froeschle, Blair Schlossberg, Micheal Coleman and Larry Craft to the search committee.

“I have full confidence in the board of directors and the selection committee to ultimately choose the best candidate available to carry out that mission,” Thompson said. “I think it is actually a very exiting time for our Center and I look forward to being a part of it.”