Appeals court sides with Palm Beach County in Palm Tran injury lawsuit

PalmTranThe 4th District Court of Appeal has upheld a judge’s tossing of a suit by a Palm Tran passenger saying he fell when the bus driver slammed on his brakes.

Altimon Palmer, in a suit filed Nov. 3, 2014, alleged that on the day before Christmas in 2013, he was boarding Palm Tran bus 716, heading down Congress Avenue in West Palm Beach, when the driver braked hard and Palmer fell.

In a memo Thursday to county commissioners, County Attorney Denise Nieman said county lawyers argued the Palm Tran bus was cut off and “there could be no negligence on the part of the bus driver under those circumstances.” She said lawyers for Palmer “argued that the issue of negligence should be left to a jury.”

On March 9, 2016, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo granted the county’s motion to dismiss, saying “there are no genuine issues of fact.”  Palmer’s lawyers appealed, and on Wednesday, the appeals court upheld the dismissal without comment, according to documents.

Attorney Nicholas Russo, whose West Palm Beach firm represented Palmer, in both the original case and the appeal, said Friday he’ll formally ask the appeals court for a rehearing.

“We think the case law out there is pretty clear that the ruling by the trial court should have been overruled,” Russo said.

Palm Beach County Attorney: We shouldn’t appeal loss on cities paying for Inspector General

 

Nieman
Nieman

Palm Beach County should not appeal to the Florida Supreme Court its setback in its Inspector General OIGlawsuit with area cities, County Attorney Denise Nieman told county commissioners Wednesday night.

“Just because an appeal will not be filed does not mean that this matter is closed,” Nieman said in the email. “Staff will be meeting in the near future to discuss a number of possibilities available for your consideration.”

In November 2010, voters approved creating the Office of Inspector General and requiring cities help pay for it. Fifteen cities sued, arguing the county could not force them to pay. The county won the first legal battle. But the cities appealed, and on Dec. 21, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled for the cities.

Nieman said she worried that, in an appeal, the Supreme Court could hand down “an unfavorable ruling that could have a negative statewide impact.” She said the county’s efforts “are better spent reviewing all options available to us in light of the (appellate) Court’s opinion, including, but not limited to, service contracts with the municipalities.”

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Palm Beach County Attorney: lifeguard benefits fight must go back to bargaining

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A Palm Beach County Commission package of improved pay and benefits for lifeguards, which failed Tuesday in a 3-3 tie, won’t come back to the commission, at least not right away, County Attorney Denise Nieman has told commissioners.

Because the commission was voting on a collective bargaining agreement, it can’t just bring the issue back at its next meeting, Nieman said Friday in an email. Instead, she said, state law requires that the issue go back to County Administrator Verdenia Baker for a new round of bargaining.

“To be clear, this item is not to be resurrected by a Commissioner at the next or any future meeting,” Nieman wrote. “Instead, it’s back to the negotiating table it goes.”

The sweeping agreement, reached in November, and ratified by lifeguards, would provide several employee benefits changes that lifeguards have sought for years. The biggest was that the county would have agreed to approve all applications by lifeguards to the state for “special risk” status, which would nearly double the amount of their Florida Retirement System pensions and would allow them to retire earlier.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

 

Longtime Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman starts 5-year clock to retirement

Nieman
Nieman

Longtime Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Marie Nieman has made it official, turning in her paperwork to start the 5-year process toward retirement.

It actually was County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay who spilled the beans at Tuesday’s commission meeting that Nieman this week had signed the documents starting the clock. She praised Nieman for her three decades with the county.

Nieman confirmed afterward that, while she can leave before that, she’s now committed to that 5-year deadline under the county’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP).

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

 

Palm Beach County Attorney Nieman: no opinion until next month on gay-related “therapy”

County Attorney Denise Nieman (center) speaks with County Commissioner Hal Valeche during a meeting of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, January 27, 2015. Commissioners voted unanimously to ask Uber to stop operating in the county unless the company follows the current county law regulating taxis and limousines. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Nieman (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

It now will be mid-September at the earliest before the county’s top lawyer issues an opinion on whether a proposed ban on the controversial gay-related “conversion therapy” would survive what’s already been promised to be a legal challenge.

County Attorney Denise Nieman told commissioners Wednesday in an email she’d hoped to have something by the end of August, but that “every time I think we’re ready to issue an opinion on the legality of adopting an ordinance banning conversion therapy, something else is brought to our attention that results in further review and research, which typically raises even more issues for our consideration.”

On June 20, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, which fights discrimination, especially against lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgenders, asked commissioners in Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach to ban “conversion therapy.” Later, the Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group, said any such ban would be unconstitutional and the group could sue to block it.

Advocates of “conversion therapy,” some of whom say the term is misleading and unfair, argue it’s a legitimate way to help people, usually teenagers, rid themselves of “unwanted same-sex attractions.” Rights groups say it’s forced brainwashing that doesn’t work and harms people who didn’t seek conversion.

Judge won’t toss suit over Palm Beach County comment times

Larson
Larson

Plaintiffs may proceed to trial with a suit over whether public meetings laws are usurped when the Palm Beach County Commission gives citizens a total of three minutes to comment on a laundry list of agenda items, a Palm Beach County judge ruled Friday.

Circuit Judge Lisa Small refused a county motion to toss the suit filed Feb. 17 by Alex Larson and Fane Lozman, two regulars at county commission meetings, who demanded the county either stop using a “consent agenda” or not limit speakers during that discussion. They say it violates Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law.

County Attorney Denise Nieman (center) speaks with County Commissioner Hal Valeche during a meeting of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, January 27, 2015. Commissioners voted unanimously to ask Uber to stop operating in the county unless the company follows the current county law regulating taxis and limousines. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Nieman

Members of the public get three minutes to comment on a single regular agenda item. But they get three minutes total to comment on the “consent agenda,” a collection of items, mostly housekeeping in nature, that commissioners dispose of with a single vote, unless a commissioner pulls an item for further discussion.

“We’re going to win,” Larson, whose birthday was Friday, said after the hearing. County Attorney Denise Nieman, who did not argue the case but attended, said she was disappointed, “but we understand and we respect the judge’s order and we’ll move forward.”

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Judge won’t toss taxi firms’ Uber suit vs. Palm Beach County

Rosenberg (Post/Lannis Waters)
Rosenberg (Post/Lannis Waters)

The class-action lawsuit by taxi and limousine drivers against Palm 020115-UBER-3Beach County still has some life.

The outfits had sued in federal court in May 2015, arguing the county gave special treatment to the app-based ride service Uber.

Fort Pierce-based U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg had thrown out the suit in February, but had permitted the firms to file an amended complaint.

In late May, she tossed the third of three counts, and part of the second count, but said the firms may continue to pursue damages for the year and a half that the county had a temporary operating agreement with San Francisco-based Uber parent Rasier LLC.

On Monday, Rosenberg refused to dismiss the rest of the case, County Attorney Denise Nieman told commissioners and staff in an email.

“Moving forward, our efforts will be focused on completing discovery and filing a motion (for) a summary judgment,” Nieman said.

In partially dismissing the case in May, Rosenberg had agreed with the county’s argument that the suit was been made moot when county commissioners, on April 19, set rules for Uber and Lyft and similar app-based ride operations that those firms have said guarantee they will operate safely.

Read The Post’s complete Uber coverage

Palm Beach County Attorney: let state decide on e-cigarettes

Nicholas Quintero, manager of Atmos Electronic Cigarette, demonstrates an e-cigarette in the West Palm Beach store Tuesday, November 19, 2013. (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)
Nicholas Quintero, manager of Atmos Electronic Cigarette, demonstrates an e-cigarette in the West Palm Beach store Tuesday, November 19, 2013. (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Let the state decide where people can smoke e-cigarettes, Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman has told county commissioners.

In a memo sent Thursday, Nieman said the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, created before e-cigarettes, bans only lighted tobacco products, which the e-cigs are not.

Nieman
Nieman

Several South Florida entities, including the cities of Delray Beach and Boca Raton, have specifically outlawed the devices in places where the Act forbids tobacco smoking, but “the reach of each (ban) varies,” Nieman wrote.

If the commission moved to ban e-cigarettes in all indoor workplaces in Palm Beach County, both private and public, it would be difficult to enforce, and authorities also would have to decide on penalties, she said.

Read the full story.

Palm Beach County commission nixes night meetings

Untitled-1Palm Beach County Commissioners Tuesday voted 5-1 to eliminate the two regular commission meetings a year that are held at night.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary Lou Berger had made the suggestion on Nov. 17, immediately after being selected and sworn in for the mostly ceremonial mayor’s post.

She also had recommended banning public comments at Palm Beach County Commission workshops.

Both ideas drew opposition and on Dec. 15, commissioners put a decision on hold while they asked County Attorney Denise Nieman to research the ideas.

Nieman told commissioners Tuesday they shouldn’t vote on the comment feature because they already can decide at a workshop whether to allow comment.

In the vote on the night meetings, Commissioner Paulette Burdick was opposed.

Palm Beach County Attorney: Don’t ban comment at workshops

Nieman
Nieman
Berger
Berger

Don’t ban public comments at Palm Beach County Commission workshops, County Attorney Denise Nieman has recommended.

 

Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary Lou Berger had made the suggestion on Nov. 17, right after being selected and sworn in for the mostly ceremonial mayor’s post. She also had suggested eliminating the two regular commission meetings a year that are held at night.

Both ideas drew opposition and on Dec. 15, commissioners put things on hold while they asked Nieman to research the ideas.

Nieman wrote commissioners late Thursday to say she’d planned to bring both to next Tuesday’s commission meeting for debate and possible action.

But, she said, on the comment part, “as I attempted to wordsmith an amendment to ensure that the (commission’s) desire for public participation and efficient and effective meetings were both addressed, it became obvious that there are too many scenarios that may be difficult to reconcile with absolutes defining Workshop days. For example, there may be a time when a motion during a Workshop is desirable, at which point public participation may be legally required.”

She added, “my recommendation is to leave the Rules as they are as it pertains to public comment.”

Nieman said the commission can drop the night meetings with a simple vote Tuesday; and “should this or future Boards want to resume evening meetings, a motion is all it would take to make it happen.”