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Maxwell, City Council talk, shake hands after session

By Staff | Sep 15, 2010

The latest round of the Raintree Place saga continued on Saturday, as Steve Maxwell spoke in front of the City Council regarding the long-standing debate over whether any city employees may have violated the state’s Sunshine Law by not turning over all legal documents — including the official city street maps — during an investigation.

Over the past eight years, Maxwell has contended that Raintree Place, a street that he has lived on since 1999, was to be an extended private roadway easement, eventually being connected to Twin Ponds Drive.

However, the city has always maintained that Raintree Place had never been intended to be developed in that manner. He was also informed by several city employees — including the City Attorney and former Director of Planning — that no official city documents showing the roadway extending to Twin Ponds ever existed.

But in June of this year, Maxwell discovered the City of Sanibel official street maps — prepared by Johnson Engineering in 1986 with the city’s official seal imprinted on them — which led to a confrontation with Ken Cuyler at the July 20 City Council session.

At that meeting, Maxwell presented the council, Cuyler and City Manager Judie Zimomra an eight-page document. In a letter to the mayor and council, Maxwell alleged that Cuyler "conjured up injurious falsehoods to others about my character and reputation and has berated me and insulted me numerous times in his correspondence to me."

Maxwell also claimed that members of the city staff knowingly provided false information through several investigations into the matter, a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.

"I feel like I’m owed an apology, but I would like the public record to be corrected and sanctified, and I’d like some accountability for the actions of the city staff," Maxwell said in July. "But most of all, I’d like there to be some restoration of my neighbor’s financial responsibility."

On Sept. 11, Mayor Kevin Ruane invited Maxwell to speak in front of council, Cuyler and Zimomra, and was asked to explain what could be done to resolve the matter.

"I appreciate your passion," said Ruane. "I would like to keep this discussion civil. Hopefully, we can settle this matter appropriately.

Before Maxwell spoke, Ruane explained that he had gone through the documents provided to City Council on the issue but could see no clear evidence of any wrongdoing, including his claims of "knowingly and willfully withholding public documents."

"I don’t know where we’re going with this," said councilman Marty Harrity. "I don’t know if we need to bring this issue any farther."

"We as a city have spent enough time with this," added Vice Mayor Mick Denham. "I believe we’ve spoken. I believe it’s appropriate. I don’t care to hear about this any more."

According to Cuyler, the city has spent "an outstanding amount of staff time" dedicated to investigating the matter since 2002.

"In my opinion, it’s in the taxpayers’ best interest that this issue comes to an end," he said.

Councilman Jim Jennings added that he hoped both parties could "shake hands and try to move on to other things."

Sitting in front of the council, Maxwell suggested that the city did not comply with the records request of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the issue in 2004, and that someone employed by the city had both "cut and wrote upon" an official legal document.

"I want to resolve this," he said. "I’m not looking to point any fingers."

Maxwell also thanked Ruane for inviting him to speak on Saturday, but noted that none of the questions he provided the mayor in July had been answered. Among the questions he posed:

• Why did the city not provide copies of the Street Maps per the Sheriff’s April 14, 2004 public records request?

• Why did the City Attorney indicate to me in writing that the city had never regarded Raintree Place as a road?

• Who in the city was responsible for assembling and certifying the documents for the April 14, 2004 public records request?

• What members of the Planning Department staff had knowledge of the existence of the Sanibel Street Maps?

"You may ask why I would stay on this like an angry dog? It’s for the sanctity of the public record," said Maxwell. "I’m not going to continue to harangue you… I’ll let the council’s conscious wrestle with this."

"I can show you ‘knowingly and willfully,’ if that’s what it takes," he added.

Following Maxwell’s comments, Ruane asked Cuyler if he would like to respond.

""There is so much that I want to say, but I’m not going to," said Cuyler. "If this is heading towards a solution, I’ll just bite my tongue."

Cuyler also indicated that it was "not prudent" to spend money to launch an independent investigation into the matter.

As he left City Hall, Maxwell approached the dais and shook hands with each member of council, Zimomra and Cuyler.