STATE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE INVESTIGATING COMPLAINT INTO SEPARATION AGREEMENT WITH FORMER ISLAMORADA ATTORNEY

Islamorada Village Hall. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward said his office is investigating whether a Sunshine violation occurred in the village of Islamorada regarding a separation agreement with former attorney Roget Bryan that was brought before the council on May 12. 

Ward told the Keys Weekly on July 11 that his office initiated an investigation a week-and-a-half ago following a complaint. It all stems from the May council meeting that, at its sixth hour, heard Bryan publicly state his resignation; he became the village’s first in-house attorney in 2013. He said at the time that he had no appetite for the external political dynamics that involve attacks on his “name, character, reputation, integrity and most egregiously my family.”

Following Bryan’s statements, Mayor Pete Bacheler, Vice Mayor Henry Rosenthal and councilmen Mark Gregg and Buddy Pinder approved a “Tab X” that appeared on the agenda just before the May 12 meeting, entailing a separation agreement effective May 20. Councilman David Webb was absent from the meeting. 

Council members didn’t delve into specific comments or questions regarding the agreement during the meeting. Rather, the dais extended its thanks and appreciation to Bryan. 

The agreement includes 20 weeks of severance pay, unused sick and vacation leave, insurance benefits and retirement benefits, all of it totaling around $185,000. Bryan said during the May 12 meeting that he had the opportunity to speak with each council member on the agreement. He said that each council member also had the opportunity to speak with external counsel on the matter. 

Florida Government-in-the-Sunshine Law, enacted in 1967, provides right of access to governmental proceedings of public boards or commissions at the state and local levels. It includes such requirements as meetings of public boards or commissions be open to the public and reasonable notice of such meetings be given. It also forbids council members to discuss matters with each other outside a public meeting. 

Per the agreement, Bryan and the village will refrain from making or publishing statements that are defamatory or disparaging against one another.Eileen Rodriguez, legal secretary, also left the village and received severance. The agreements raised some questions and concerns from the Islamorada Community Alliance. 

“Is there something the taxpayers of Islamorada need to know about why this handsome severance package was offered to Mr. Bryan? What ‘external political dynamics’ caused this, and perhaps both May 20th departures,” the ICA states in its June newsletter. 

Ward wouldn’t disclose exactly whom investigators talked to due to the fact it’s an ongoing investigation. As to the length of the investigation, Ward said “it depends how cooperative the witnesses are.”

The Keys Weekly reached out to Bacheler and Rosenthal for comment. Both declined to speak due to the ongoing investigation. 

If you would like to have the Weekly delivered to your mailbox or inbox along with our daily news blast, please subscribe here.

Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).