On Wednesday, February 26, the State of Florida First District Court of Appeal resurrected a lawsuit filed over a year ago by the City of Apalachicola against the Franklin County Board of County Commissioners to compel the county to meet jointly with the Cities of Apalachicola and Carrabelle to discuss an equitable allocation of Restore Act Fine Funds slated for Franklin County.
Twenty-three Florida Gulf Coast Counties, including Franklin are slated to divvy up $10 to $15 billion in compensation for damages resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, with $66 million of that expected to flow into Franklin County coffers.
Beginning in August 2012 both the City of Apalachicola and Carrabelle made numerous cordial requests to the county to meet with the cities to discuss a fair plan of allocation of the Fine Funds. After Franklin County repeatedly ignored and refused the requests to meet, the City of Apalachicola filed suit in Circuit Court under the Governmental Conflict Resolution Act, F.S.164.1055 to compel the county to meet publicly with the two cities.
On a motion filed with the court by the county, Circuit Court Judge Angela Dempsey ruled that the Florida Governmental Conflict Resolution Act did not create a cause of action and dismissed the complaint with prejudice, which forever barred the city from refiling the case.
The city appealed Dempsey’s ruling directly to the Florida First District Court of Appeal, in which a three-judge panel ruled on Wednesday that Judge Dempsey erred in construing the complaint as asserting a cause of action for relief pursuant to the Florida Governmental Conflict Resolution Act. The Appellant Court wrote, “Instead the (city’s) complaint seeks declaratory relief, and adequately states a cause of action for such relief.”
The Justices also noted that the Florida legislature intended F.S. 164.1055 as a means to enhance intergovernmental coordination by creating a governmental conflict resolution procedure to provide a method for resolving conflicts between and among local and regional governmental entities.
The Justices reversed Dempsey’s ruling and remanded the case back to the Circuit Court for further proceedings.