Critics of a divisive plan to install a Confederate general’s statue in a Lake County government building filed a lawsuit against the county alleging commissioners violated open government laws before they voted to put the Jim Crow-era bronze relic in the publicly-owned historic courthouse in Tavares.
The suit was filed by Lake County Voices of Reason, Inc., a not-for-profit group which organized during the statue debate.
Lake County commissioners voted 3-2 in September to adopt a resolution backing a request by Bob Grenier, president of the private but taxpayer-aided Lake County Historical Society, to house the likeness of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith when the statue is evicted from its perch at the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.
The lawsuit, filed in circuit court in Lake County, asks a judge to void the resolution. The general’s statue is still at the U.S. Capitol.
Commissioner Leslie Campione, who voted to move the statue to Lake, said the board was advised by the county attorney not to discuss the pending lawsuit.
The filing alleges that Grenier held private meetings with individual commissioners in rapid succession that served as “de facto commission meetings.”
Faudlin Pierre, lawyer for Voices of Reason, said Grenier acted as a “facilitator” who shared each commissioner’s stand on the issue in emails and letters.
It’s perfectly legal for lobbyists or other members of the public such as Grenier to meet with multiple elected officials on the same topic — such meetings are common practice in local government. But the law prohibits elected officials from using a third party to help them coordinate votes. The court documents don’t contain any specific allegations that the commissioners attempted to do that.
Grenier did not return messages for comment about the lawsuit. He is not named as a defendant.