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State of Florida and St. Pete go toe-to-toe in court | News

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State of Florida and St. Pete go toe-to-toe in court

CLEARWATER, Florida - The City of St. Petersburg and Florida Attorney General's Office faced off in court Tuesday, arguing whether the city has a right to intervene in a controversial lawsuit over land ownership.

As 10 Investigates first reported last July, the Board of Trustees for the state, including the Governor and entire Cabinet, is suing St. Pete property owners Richard & Kelly Ware over submerged land in Coffee Pot Bayou.  The state contends the land -- which has been privately-owned, deeded, and taxed since 1883 -- never should have been privately-owned.

But then-mayor Bill Foster announced plans in October to intervene on the Ware's behalf, since the case could set precedent that would theoretically affect the city's interests too.  In addition to collecting taxes on the docks along Coffee Pot Bayou, the city also owns 12 lots that could be affected by precedent.

Following his election in November, Mayor Rick Kriseman told 10 News he planned to continue fighting the state's attempted land-grab.

On Tuesday, attorneys for the city and the Wares contended the city should be allowed to join the lawsuit because "anyone claiming an interest in pending litigation may at any time be permitted to assert a right by intervention."  But the representative for Attorney General Pam Bondi, who represents the governor and cabinet as plaintiffs, asked a judge to reject the request.

Judge Walter Schafer asked the attorneys to submit any case law they wish him to consider by next Monday; his decision is expected later in the month.

Once again, Bondi's office declined to answer 10 Investigates' questions on the lawsuit, as both she and Governor Rick Scott have repeatedly done.

Previous stories:

11/7/13 - New mayor Kriseman will continue fighting state
10/25/13 - City of St. Pete will intervene in lawsuit
8/16/13 - Gov. Scott's answers don't match questions on lawsuit
8/14/13 - Gov. Scott, AG Bondi avoiding controversial questions on suit
8/6/13 - Gov. Scott, Cabinet members answer questions on Coffee Pot Bayou lawsuit
7/31/13 - State Senator tries to get action on Coffee Pot Bayou suit
7/28/13 - St. Petersburg dock owner sued by state for his land

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to npransky@wtsp.com.


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