Manatee County Government Administrative Center Commission Chambers, First Floor 9:00 a.m. - November 19, 2013
November 19, 2013 - Regular Meeting
Agenda Item #8

Elections Commission complaint against Commissioner Bustle; payment of attorney's fees


Contact and/or Presenter Information

Mitchell O. Palmer, County Attorney, extension 3750.

Action Requested
Form of motion:  Finding that the charges arose from the performance of his official duties and while serving a public purpose, I move to (1) approve the payment of Commissioner Bustle's attorney's fees in the amount of $11,485.50, relative to his exoneration on charges lodged with the Florida Elections Commission in Case No. FEC 12-266, and (2) approve Budget Amendment Resolution B-14-023 in order to accomplish the funding of said payment.

Enabling/Regulating Authority
  • Thornber v. City of Fort Walton Beach, 568 So.2d 914 (Fla. 1990).
  • Florida Attorney General Opinion 90-74. 

Background Discussion

On September 20, 2012, a Palmetto resident filed a formal complaint with the Florida Elections Commission, alleging that Commissioner Larry Bustle violated Section 106.15, Florida Statutes.  The allegations centered upon a press conference that was held at McKechnie Field on August 28, 2012, wherein Commissioner Bustle announced the County's plans to build new Little League baseball fields at Blackstone Park.  The complaining citizen specifically alleged that Commissioner Bustle unlawfully used the services of County employees, during working hours, in furtherance of his re-election campaign.

On September 28, 2012, Commissioner Bustle retained the services of local attorney Alan Prather, to assist him (Commissioner Bustle) in defending against the charge.  The allegations were investigated by FEC staff and over the course of eleven and one-half months, attorney Prather devoted time to the matter.

On August 13, 2013, the FEC issued a final Order of No Probable Cause, clearing Commissioner Bustle of any wrongdoing. 

On October 7, 2013, attorney Prather delivered to County Attorney Palmer his detailed billings in the matter.  County Attorney Palmer has examined the billings for appropriateness of activities, appropriateness of time devoted and appropriateness of the hourly rate.

Attorney Prather has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1974 and has enjoyed Board Certification in City, County and Local Government Law since 1996.  His hourly rate of $310 is deemed reasonable.

In the time frame spanning September 26, 2012 through September 9, 2013, attorney Prather devoted 37.05 hours (rounded) to the matter.  His activities included numerous telephone conferences with FEC staff, meetings with Commissioner Bustle, interviews of involved County staff, legal research, and preparation of affidavits.  The time and effort devoted by attorney Prather is likewise deemed reasonable.

It is the opinion of the County Attorney that Commissioner Bustle's actions relative to the press conference constituted the performance of official duties and that the activities served a public purpose.  It is therefore recommended that the Board of County Commissioners approve the payment of Commissioner Bustle's attorney's fees incurred in his successful defense of the Elections Commission charges, in the amount of $11,485.50.


County Attorney Review
Other (Requires explanation in field below)

Explanation of Other
This is a County Attorney item.

Reviewing Attorney

Instructions to Board Records
Return an "approved" copy of this item to the County Attorney.

Cost and Funds Source Account Number and Name
See attached budget amendment resolution.

Amount and Frequency of Recurring Costs

Attachment:  B-14-023.pdf