The legal battle between the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency and its former head, Lisa Bright, has come to an end — at least temporarily.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jack Cox, in an order signed Sept. 25, said that there is no evidence that Bright acted as a “whistle blower”or that the CRA wrongfully terminated her in 2010.
The case was scheduled for trial Oct. 15.
Boynton Beach Mayor Jerry Taylor said he was “shocked” with the judge’s ruling, since a previous judge assigned to the case had denied a similar motion made by the CRA attorney. Taylor also said he heard Bright’s attorney is planning to appeal Cox’s order.
“We’ll see what goes from here,” Taylor said.
Taylor, in March, said he would vote to settle Bright’s wrongful termination suit and supported Bright during her tenure with the CRA. He also said he believed Bright had a strong case and the city could lose.
Bright’s attorney, Christina Kitterman, did not return calls for comment. Lyman Reynolds, who is representing the CRA, said he “does not discuss pending litigation.”
Bright filed a lawsuit against the CRA in March 2011, alleging then-Commissioner José Rodriguez orchestrated Bright’s departure partly in retaliation for her rejecting his sexual advances and for contacting police after, she said, he manhandled her and shouted at her during a 2008 workshop.
The suit also says after Rodriguez was elected mayor in March 2010, he wanted Bright out so he could control the CRA.
Cox, however, said there was no evidence that the CRA refused to renew her employment contract in an effort to retaliate against her for her alleged whistle blowing. The judge, in the order, said “given the years that passed between the alleged whistle blowing activity and the non-renewal of (Bright’s) employment contract, it is highly unlikely that the events are related.”
Bright — whose base salary as director was $128,125 — has said she is demanding back pay, vacation pay, pension and benefits dating back to September 2010, when the board voted not to renew her contract.
In April, lawyers for the CRA asked that the suit be tossed, arguing Bright wasn’t a “whistle-blower” on any illegal or improper action and wasn’t wrongfully terminated.
Both parties met multiple times for mediation, but all efforts were unsuccessful.
In July, Kitterman filed documents in attempt to add the city, Rodriguez and the city’s attorney to the lawsuit. In addition, the complaint said, a former city commissioner requested information on city ordinances from the city manager and city attorney to support terminating Bright, despite the fact that city officials knew Bright was governed by the CRA policies, not city policies.
Reynolds also filed several motions in September, including one to strike two witnesses from a list provided by Kitterman and another requesting an updated deposition from Bright, whose deposition took place almost two years ago.
Staff writer Eliot Kleinberg contributed to this story.