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Judge Paulk to Dismiss Case Related to Water Contamination Meeting





City of Satellite Beach Petitions Judge Paulk to Dismiss Sunshine Violation Case Related to Water Contamination Meeting


Satellite Beach, FL, May 2020 -- Cancer survivors and concerned citizens had their first hearing one year and six months after being closed out of a meeting concerning contaminated water and cancer rates in Satellite Beach, Florida.  

The City of Satellite Beach is moving to dismiss the case, stating that there is no allegation that the Councilmembers ever debated, discussed, or decided any public issue at any non-public meeting. Although, Mayor Frank Catino stated on public record at a September 19, 2018 city council meeting that the meeting was about contaminated water concerns.


The meeting was initially called a "workshop" that was public, but the City abruptly canceled the workshop on the day of the meeting. When citizens showed up to the meeting, they were met with police officers and told it was a "private meeting" and escorted outside. However, they allowed one resident into the meeting, who later mailed an 11-page threatening packet to one of the plaintiff's homes. It was discovered through public records that the packet was printed by the City Manager's assistant on November 19, 2018, at the city hall.


Attendees emailed Chief Pearson on September 20, 2018, asking if the meeting was under investigation, to which he replied it was not. However, in public records, Commander Berrios instructed police officers not to file an incident report or accept statements. Attendees also tried to contact State Attorney Phil Archer, who would not investigate. 




Every Council member, when elected, goes through Sunshine Law training. The City of Satellite Beach had training on August 8, 2018, a month before this meeting violation, with attorney Cliff Shepard, the same attorney now representing them in this case.

The hearings took place via phone conference because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The first hearing was to have any verbiage discussing why the meeting initially took place, water contamination, and cancer concerns stricken out of the original complaint. A few days later, the motion to dismiss was presented, but Judge Paulk needed time to review the case more in-depth before making a decision.

Judge Paulk Holds Hearing on Satellite Beach's Motions to Dismiss the Sunshine Case


Satellite Beach, FL, April 2021 -- The allegation accepted as true shows a triable issue of whether a violation of the Sunshine Law occurred. This case stems from a September 2018 meeting on water quality issues organized by the City of Satellite Beach. The City used its police force to deny the public access to the discussion.

Judge Paul dismissed the case. The City's attorney, Cliff Shepard, argued that it was a "seminar," not a meeting, and didn't meet the definition of a "meeting."

We also learned that Judge Paulk is a Brevard County Civilian/Military Council member, 45th Space Wing (Patrick Air Force Base). The meeting in question was concerning contaminated water from the base and cancer rates in Satellite Beach, Florida.  

Appealing the Judge's decision would cost cancer survivors a $200 transcript fee, $500 filing fee, and $7-10k briefing.

Photography by Stel Bailey

Satellite Beach, FL, June 2021 -- The opposing counsel filed a motion for attorney's fees and has conveyed that they will be trying to coordinate a hearing on that soon.

We moved for a rehearing on the motion to dismiss.

This case is ongoing. Please check back for updates.

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About Fight For Zero: We are a nonprofit organization in the state of Florida with a mission to improve the quality of life for Floridians and future generations by fighting for zero pollution in the water, air, and soil. We formed in December 2018 to support local organizing for clean, toxic-free water and health-protecting through the sharing of stories, information, experiences, references, data, and connections with experts in their fields.

Media Coordinator: Hannah Catherine at team@fight4zero.org or 321-351-8331

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