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Longboat Key hires special legal counsel for St. Regis hearings, sewage break fallout

The hirings help ensure Town Attorney Maggie Mooney does not have a conflict of interest with the proposed changes to the St. Regis site.

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  • | 10:03 a.m. April 9, 2021
Maggie Mooney has worked as Longboat Key's town attorney since July 2013.
Maggie Mooney has worked as Longboat Key's town attorney since July 2013.
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Longboat Key is set to have special legal counsel to serve town staff as it deals with proposed changes to the St. Regis redevelopment.

“The reason for that is on certain complicated matters, as your town attorney, I’m obligated by the Florida Bar to either represent the board or the staff, but I cannot represent both,” Town Attorney Maggie Mooney said.

Jennifer Cowan with the Tampa-based law firm of Bryant Miller Olive is set to fill in for Mooney as it pertains to the St. Regis public hearings. Cowan serves as the attorney for the city of Treasure Island. It will cost $275 per hour for her services and $245 per hour for her associates.

“It is anticipated that the costs associated with those services would be reimbursable from the developer of the project,” Mooney said.

Unicorp, the developer of the property, proposed several changes in March that will lower the density of the project.

Once the town staff is finished reviewing Unicorp’s application, the town will schedule public hearings before the Town Commission and the Planning and Zoning Board. 

“We did this on the initial application for St. Regis and we’re doing it again because of the complicated nature of that development,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said of the decision to hire outside legal counsel. “Last time, the town attorney hired outside counsel to represent the town staff in the review because she sits up here with the Town Commission, so she advises the Town Commission on any legal issues that may come up and wanted to have a separate attorney representing the staff so there was no conflict there on her direction.”

On Monday, the Town Commission also agreed to hire Sarasota-based law firm GarciaDell to help evaluate the possibility of filing litigation after the June 2020 sewage break.

It will cost $275 per hour for Martin Garcia and Josh Dell’s work and a paralegal rate of $125 per hour.

“The attorneys Martin Garcia and Josh Dell have represented the town’s interests in certain other litigation very successfully in the past,” Mooney said. “They are familiar with the town, and we have a good working relationship with them.”

Garcia and Dell helped provide the town legal services on several litigation proceedings related to the demolition of the former Colony site. Now, they’ll help the town evaluate the possibility of filing litigation to make up the financial losses stemming from the June 2020 sewage break.

“There is potential liability to be attributed to other parties arising out of the damages the town has incurred that are clearly set for in the consent order as we just discussed,” Mooney said. 



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