The process by which the county is selling bonds is the subject of a lawsuit brought by Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government and Citizens for Sunshine. The two say Sarasota County violated Florida open-meetings laws in coming to an agreement about issuing bonds for the project and want a judge to throw out the entire bond offering. In response Sarasota County did the equivalent of going through the sofa cushions to find enough loose change to fund the first $18.7 million of renovations. In theory, this money will be paid back to the county coffers once the bonds are issued.
When Sarasota County announced plans to move forward with the first round of renovations, the citizen groups asked the court to step in.
In a stunning rebuke, Circuit Judge Bob Bennett ruled not only that renovation work can go on, but he saw no proof that Sarasota County violated any open-meeting laws. The full trial is scheduled to start June 28, but this initial ruling by Bennett undermines the lawsuit. Still, we expect Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government and Citizens for Sunshine to go ahead with the court date anyway.
The total renovation of Ed Smith Stadium is slated at $31.2 million.