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AG Bondi moves to appeal judge's order on Tallahassee law office purchase

This house at 822 N. Monroe St. in Tallahassee is used as an office by lawyer Steven R. Andrews. File photo by Bruce Ritchie.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is appealing on behalf of the Cabinet a judge's order that allows lawyer Stephen R. Andrews to buy his rented law office in Tallahassee from the family of the late Gov. LeRoy Collins.

An attorney representing the Collins family heirs called the appeal "unconscionable."

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet agreed in 2012 to exercise their right to buy the property after a deal had been reached between Andrews and Grove Properties Ltd. The state action prompted Andrews to claim the state move was political payback for his opposing Scott during the 2010 election.

Other state officials in 2011 had rejected the idea of buying the building and parking lot as an addition to The Grove, the state historic site and 1830s home of territorial Gov. Richard Keith Call and former home of Collins.

Circuit Judge John Cooper refused to consider Andrews' claims that the proposed state purchase was payback for the lawyer calling Scott "the corporate spawn of Satan" prior to the election.

In an Aug. 12 order granting summary judgment, Cooper said the Cabinet had voided its right of first refusal by requiring a cleanup of the property and therefore not matching the $580,000 offer made by Andrews. A final order was issued Sept. 30.

Bondi's notice of appeal filed Oct. 17 states merely that the final judgment "does not end judicial labor in other integrally-related legal and equitable claims pending between these parties." A spokeswoman for the attorney general said Wednesday that legal questions persisted about whether the Cabinet could acquire the property.

Asked for comment, Andrews on Tuesday replied in an email stating only, "Astounding."

Jimmy Judkins, an attorney representing Grove Properties Limited, said Wednesday, "The state has jacked the Collins family around unmercifully, and it's unconscionable."

The state acquired a right of first refusal to buy the law office at 822 N. Monroe St. when it acquired The Grove in 1985 from the Collins family.

In December 2011, then-Secretary of State Kurt Browning wrote to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection saying that his department had declined an offer and had no interest in pursuing the purchase.

Browning retired as secretary of state in January 2012. On March 16, 2012, his replacement, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, sent a letter to DEP saying the acquisition was needed and would provide increased public access to The Grove via a major thoroughfare.

After the Cabinet voted 4-0 on March 20, 2012 to buy the law office, Scott told reporters he knew Andrews was an election opponent, but said that had nothing to do with the purchase being approved.

"This is a right and if we don't exercise it we lose it," Scott said.

James A. Peters, a special assistant attorney general representing the Cabinet, told Cooper during a 2012 court hearing that the refusal by other state officials to buy the property was irrelevant since the decision was one for the Cabinet to make.

Related Research: Documents filed in Case No. 2012 CA 3416 before the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit
* Oct. 17, 2013 Notice of appeal filed by AG Pam Bondi
* Sept. 30, 2013 Final judgement in Andrews case
* Aug. 12, 2013 Summary judgement order in Andrews case
* Jan. 14, 2013 Plaintiff's Memorandum of Laws
* Jan. 9, 2013 Final Response in Opposition to Andrews' Verified Motion
* Jan. 9, 2013 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
* July 25, 2012 First Amended Complaint for Declaratory Judgment & Other Relief
* April 12, 2012 Cabinet motion to dismiss complaint
* March 16, 2012 Complaint for Declaratory Judgment

Reporter Bruce Ritchie can be reached at [email protected].


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