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Sarasota Monday, Jun. 14, 2010 7 years ago

Barbetta challenger had filed baseball suit

by: Robin Roy City Editor

If things go her way, the woman behind a lawsuit against the county about its baseball negotiations may technically end up suing herself.

Cathy Antunes, whose group, Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government, filed suit against Sarasota County, could end up working for the county if she wins a November election.

Antunes filed paperwork this week to run for the County Commission District 2 seat, which is currently occupied by arguably the commission’s most ardent baseball supporter, County Commission Chairman Joe Barbetta.

Antunes said the reason why she’s running is simple.

“Over the past few years, I’ve witnessed how the County Commission operates, and there are fundamental problems,” she said.

She cites the lack of a voter referendum on either a Boston Red Sox or Baltimore Orioles spring-training stadium.

“Instead (commissioners) developed a scheme to get around (a referendum),” Antunes said.

Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government claims the county violated Florida’s Sunshine Laws by holding negotiations with the Red Sox and Orioles outside of the public eye.

County officials deny the accusations and say every move they’ve made has been thoroughly vetted during public hearings.

The lawsuit is set to go to trial June 28.

Barbetta sees spring-training baseball as an engine that will revitalize the county’s economy. In the past, Barbetta has said the group’s lawsuit is frivolous.

Antunes is just as critical of Barbetta, because he opposed hearing an economist’s testimony that spring-training baseball does not boost local economies.

“I welcome her to the race; it’s the American way,” said Barbetta. “I just asked her that we keep things civil.”

Antunes is running as an independent, as is a third person in the District 2 race, Stephen Aiken.

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