Appeals court dismisses City of Brooksville annexations case

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Appeals court dismisses City of Brooksville annexations case

In March 2017, Fifth Judicial Circuit Judge Donald Scaglione ruled in favor of the county in their lawsuit against the City of Brooksville regarding 5 property annexations, invalidating the annexations. The City of Brooksville pursued an appeal with the Fifth District Court of Appeal, filing in April 2017. The appeals court ultimately dismissed the case on August 25, 2017, maintaining Judge Scaglione’s ruling invalidating the annexations.

When the City of Brooksville, annexed several properties in 2015, much protest was sparked by the county which led to the county filing a lawsuit in order to invalidate the annexation ordinances. The annexations which the county opposed includes the properties of Grace World Outreach Church, Inc (20366 Cortez Blvd, Brooksville), St. Anthony’s Catholic Church (20428 Cortez Blvd, Brooksville, FL 34601); the property of Samuel C. Griffin and Kellie Griffin (Cortez and Mildred Ave. South); the Hernando County Housing Authority off of Barnett Rd; and the Brooksville Christian Church (6197 Broad St, Brooksville, FL 34601).

The original lawsuit Statement of Facts explains, “All five of the Annexation Ordinances were based on voluntary annexation petitions relying on powers-of-attorney granted by the respective property owners. The City had entered into separate utility and service agreements with the owners of four of the properties, which granted the City the authority to file a voluntary annexation petition on a property owner's behalf in exchange for the City's provision of water and sewer services. The City relied upon an irrevocable power-of-attorney when filing the Petition for Voluntary Annexation of the Griffin Property.”

The county argued that the annexations were invalid because power of attorney and the utility agreement did not qualify the annexations as voluntary, as the owners themselves did not sign the annexation petitions. The City Manager at the time Jennene Norman-Vacha, whose contract was non-renewed in February 2017, signed the petitions for annexation. The City maintained that this is a common practice among municipalities. Judge Scaglione agreed with the county that the property owner’s signature is required on the annexation petition to be considered voluntary.

The lawsuit filed by the county also contained language accusing the city of geographical racism in their choice of property annexations. Judge Scaglione did not address this in his ruling.