Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Confusion as Venice Selects Its Attorney

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Confusion as Venice Selects Its Attorney

Article excerpt

DAVID PERSSON: Sarasota lawyer chosen, even after the rankings are adjusted

VENICE

Although local lawyer Jeff Boone ranks as most Venice City Council members' top choice as their municipality's next attorney, Sarasota attorney David Persson is being offered the job.

The reason: the ranking system that Mayor John Holic decided he would use to make the appointment.

On Tuesday, the council interviewed the five finalists who applied to replace city attorney Robert Anderson, who retires in late March.

After the interviews, each council member was to rank the attorneys -- giving a 5 to their top choice and a 1 to the least preferred applicant.

City Clerk Lori Stelzer tabulated the ballots and determined that Persson received the highest total.

Shortly after Persson thanked the council and left, Boone detected an error in the tally.

Council member Bob Daniels, who intended to rank the Boone firm as his top choice, had instead given it a score of 1.

After tabulating the ballots again with Daniels' corrected error, the total still favored Persson, Holic announced. "There was no change in the outcome."

Daniels, however, complained because four of the council members (Daniels, Holic, Emilio Carlesimo and Jeanette Gates) made the Boone firm their top choice while three (Jim Bennett, Kit McKeon and David Sherman) gave Persson their highest score.

Holic, however, remained adamant that he would stick with the ranking system he had explained to the council, the applicants and the public prior to the interviews.

Former council member Janice Collins commended Holic for following the guidelines he set, even though he gave Boone his highest ranking.

"I don't think this was a flawed process," Collins said. "There was a hiccup."

Collins and several other residents commended Boone's legal skills but opposed his possible selection, saying conflicts of interest could arise because he has represented so many clients before the City Council.

Others, such as former judge Jim Watley, said the conflict of interest question should not disqualify Boone as an applicant and that, if a conflict occurred, Boone would have dealt with it appropriately. …

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