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Riviera Beach faces another lawsuit

Posted at 7:44 PM, Nov 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-01 04:08:45-05

The city of Riviera Beach is now facing a second lawsuit since council voted to fire City Manager Jonathan Evans. 

RELATED: More Riviera Beach coverage

The lawsuit was brought forward by a local business, alleging the city and specifically its building department suffer from governmental paralysis. 

Port of Palm Beach Cold Storage alleges in the lawsuit that the city's building official, Ladi March, refuses to do her job and as a result, the company is suffering a huge financial loss.

The company says they can't use their brand new facility on Martin Luther King Boulevard because the city won't give them the proper permits.

“He (the owner) can’t do business," said Charles Bennardini, the attorney for Cold Storage. "He’s losing another season of business because of this building official refusing to do her job.” 

Bennardini said March refuses to work with them.

“She refuses to review plans," Bennardini said. "She refuses to issue building permits, she refuses to come out here, she refuses to even talk to us.”

According to the lawsuit, in 2015 and 2016 the company paid for all proper permits, but due to an oversight by the building official at the time, did not secure a master building permit.

The building official allowed construction to continue. 

In 2016, that building official resigned and was replaced by a private company "CAP Government".
CAP told Cold Storage the city had lost the required permits and plans and ordered the company to pay another $90,000. 

Cold Storage paid and yet the company claims CAP still did not issue a master permit.

In January, Riviera Beach hired March as its building official despite the fact that she did not have the proper certifications. 

She issued a no-work order on the property in March. 

That's when Cold Storage turned to then City Manager Jonathan Evans. 

“He’s the only reasonable person we’ve dealt with there,” Bennardini said. 

Evans told Cold Storage he was working to resolve the issue and was scheduled to meet with the owner on Sept. 25.

“We saw light at the end of the tunnel when he told us that," Bennardini said. 

That meeting never happened because on Sept. 20 city council fired Evans. 

“That totally destroyed any hope we had," Bennardini said. 

On Nov. 2, Cold Storage asked several city officials, including March, for a meeting to resolve the issue. 

“But the one person who can make the decision to resolve the issue without going to the courthouse, defiantly refuses to show up," Bennardini said. 

Cold Storage decided to sue, hoping to force the city to act. 

The lawsuit also talks about March not having the proper certification when she was hired. 

The city had to pay CAP taxpayer money to sign permits until May when March got a provisional license. 

March declined to talk with us and so did her attorney. 

March did release a statement on her Facebook page saying in part that the story should be about "developers who are accustomed to depriving the city of well built and compliant structures that meet and satisfy all elements of the Florida Building Code."

When someone asked her how much it cost the city to pay CAP to sign for her while she did not have a building official certification, she did not respond. 

WPTV asked Councilwoman Lynne Hubbard about the lawsuit but did not get any answers. 

Instead a man by the name of Ty Hunter answered for her. 

"All the information that you guys are looking for would be available to the public shortly," Hunter said. 

Hunter claimed to work for the city but WPTV asked the city and the Human Resources department said they have no one by that name on Riviera Beach City payroll.