The search for a new town attorney for Longboat Key is over before it started.
Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale, who resigned May 19, rescinded her resignation June 6.
Her letter, titled “Withdrawal of Notice of Termination of Legal Services Agreement,” states that “pursuant to your request at the Town Commission meeting on June 1, the vote of confidence received thereafter, and my subsequent discussions, please accept this letter as my formal withdrawal of the Notice of Termination of Legal Services Agreement that I previously rendered.”
Mayor Jim Brown, who was on vacation when Mooney-Portale resigned at the end of the May 19 regular workshop, pleaded with her to reconsider her decision at the end of the June 2 regular meeting at Town Hall.
“I’m disappointed and angry our town attorney felt she needed to resign,” Brown said at the meeting. “I really think she was reading the tea leaves wrong. I believe she has a lot of support and the majority is supportive.”
Brown, Vice Mayor Jack Duncan and commissioners Terry Gans, Irwin Pastor and Pat Zunz raised their hands in support of Mooney-Portale when Brown asked for a show of support. Only commissioners Lynn Larson and Phill Younger, who expressed their concerns about Mooney-Portale in the past, didn’t raise their hands.
Mooney-Portale was up for a commission evaluation June 1 and avoided that exercise with her resignation last month. Brown said that evaluation, which Larson called for in May, is premature and shouldn’t be held until the fall at the earliest. Mooney-Portale has been the town attorney for 11 months but was on maternity leave for approximately three months.
Uneasiness about Mooney-Portale’s abilities surfaced earlier in the year in the minds of some commissioners.
Matters that included a town easement at Jackson Way and a Colony Beach & Tennis Resort nuisance hearing that was postponed after a due process issue arose caused Mayor Jim Brown and Commissioners Phill Younger and Lynn Larson to make public comments about legal advice given by Mooney-Portale.
Brown thanked Mooney-Portale for changing her mind in a July 6 email.
“I too look forward to working together on the challenges of Longboat Key,” Brown said. “Thanks for reconsidering your termination.”
Younger and Larson, meanwhile, told the Longboat Observer they have agreed to move past issues they had with Mooney-Portale in the past.
“We had a long conversation and I encouraged her not to withdraw,” Younger said. “It was a productive meeting and Maggie and I have agreed to work more closely.”
Larson said she hopes the town can focus on more pressing issues.
“I hope this issue is behind us and we can get back to town business,” Larson said. “The news should be about town business and not about town employees.”
Mooney-Portale told the Longboat Observer she “is looking forward to moving forward with the commission.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].