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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 20, 2009
  • Sarasota
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+ Alleged Ponzi schemers arrested in Sri Lanka

John and Marian Morgan, the Sarasota couple accused of bilking investors out of at least $14 million in a Ponzi scheme, are still being held in Sri Lanka after their arrest in that country late last week.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has yet to file an extradition request with the Sri Lankan government, with which the United States has an extradition treaty.

Polly Atkinson, an attorney for the SEC, which is suing the Morgans over the alleged Ponzi scheme, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office needs to decide whether the Morgans’ offense can be indictable before requesting extradition.

“In my opinion, they have committed an indictable offense,” she said. “But that’s not my call.”

+ St. Armands BID board will remain property owners only

The Sarasota City Commission rejected a request Aug. 17 to allow merchants to serve on the St. Armands Business Improvement District board.

Since its inception in 2001, the board has comprised of only Circle property owners, because a state statute read that members had to be “subject to property taxes.”

During the formation of the BID, Assistant City Attorney Michael Connolly interpreted that to mean only property owners could serve on the board.

But in late July, Jack Peffley, owner of Taffy’s Menswear, and Scott MacDonald, owner of Crab and Fin, asked Connolly to reconsider that interpretation, because many merchants are responsible for paying property taxes through their leases.

Connolly said that the statute could also be reasonably interpreted to mean that merchants are “subject to property taxes.” Connolly asked the commission to make a policy decision on the matter.

In a 4-1 vote, the commission decided the statute should mean property owners only. Vice Mayor Kelly Kirschner cast the dissenting vote.

+ City planners to solicit parking garage bids

Within the next week, city planners are expected to request construction proposals for the Palm Avenue parking garage.

After that request is issued, contractors will have about two months to submit their bids.

Project coordinator Steve Stancel said the project has sparked interest from builders nationwide.

The garage is expected to house about 700 parking spaces above first-floor retail shops.

+ Attorney hopes Buchanan suits will go to trial

The Tallahassee attorney suing District 13 Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, and several of his car dealerships hopes to take two of his cases to trial.

Attorney Doug Lyons is trying to get trial dates for clients Melissa Hacker and Richard Thomas. Hacker is a former controller at Sarasota Ford, who claims she was sexually harassed and physically threatened on the job. Thomas is a former service department manager at Sarasota Ford, who claims he was docked $1,000 in one paycheck for a contribution to Buchanan’s campaign and then was reimbursed in the subsequent paycheck.

Buchanan’s attorney, Mark Ornstein, has said the lawsuits are politically motivated and are without merit.
Ornstein has filed motions to dismiss the lawsuits. The judge has ordered Lyons to amend his complaint in at least five of the cases, but has not dismissed them for good.