Sun, Shade, and Secrets: Five Years After City of Satellite Beach Closed Door Meeting


BREVARD COUNTY, FL., The council members of Satellite Beach City held a meeting on September 17, 2018, which aimed to address concerns about water contamination and a possible group of cancer cases. Elected officials Frank Catino, Mark Brimer, and Mindy Gibson decided who could attend the meeting. Those who were not allowed in were faced with armed police officers who prevented them from entering.


The City had announced a public "workshop" but canceled it right before it was supposed to start. Police officers informed people who were interested and arrived at City Hall that it was a "private meeting." Mayor Frank Catino then closed the door on them. 


Many people who were denied access to the council tried different ways to make the council members responsible for their actions. But they faced difficulties along the way. The police refused to take any reports, and it was later discovered from public records that the chief told them not to gather statements. Also, State Attorney Phil Archer refused to look into the incident, and the residents filed complaints about ethical issues, but these complaints were eventually sent back to them.


In addition, Jeff Dubitsky, a resident of Satellite Beach and a father of five, experienced intense harassment. He received a threatening packet consisting of 11 pages with unreasonable requests, such as sharing health information from his organization that was collecting public input. This would have violated people's right to privacy. Mindy Gibson, an elected official, was found to have communicated extensively with the harasser, who even proposed using "bots" to harm Dubitsky's nonprofit financially. Public records showed that the City of Satellite Beach used taxpayers' money to print this packet, which is concerning.


Three officials were photographed having a private conversation behind the glass doors of city hall. The Sunshine Law states that any meetings related to official business should be open to the public. It is also illegal for public officials to discuss private matters that will be decided upon by a public board or commission. Documents indicate that officials in Satellite Beach attempted to bypass the sunshine law by altering their attendance. This deceitful strategy undermines people's right to access information.


PFAS chemicals were found to be used at Patrick Space Force Base (formerly known as Air Force Base), and as a result, these chemicals were detected in the groundwater of Satellite Beach City. According to the open meetings law, the public should have been given the opportunity to attend the meeting discussing PFAS contamination. This would have been the ethical and legal way to treat taxpayers.


Those denied access to the meeting went to the legal system and initiated a lawsuit, accusing a violation of a law designed to ensure transparency. Despite having to endure a lengthy 18-month wait, the case was eventually dismissed by Judge Paulk from the 18th Circuit. Due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the hearing had to be conducted via telephone. The attorneys representing the government extended the proceedings and made alterations to the legal documents, consequently preventing the individuals who initiated the lawsuit from presenting their evidence or calling witnesses to testify in court.


The plaintiffs challenged the ruling made by the court, but the higher court supported Judge Paulk's decision to dismiss the case. The higher court did not provide a justification for its ruling, but it did acknowledge that the lawsuit was legitimate and not filed with malicious intent. Moreover, the higher court rejected the City's plea for reimbursement of attorneys' fees and expenses, which were filed on March 8, 2022.


The city is not giving up on the case, but they are returning to the lower court once more in an attempt to obtain funds from the victims who had their rights violated. The government is utilizing taxpayer money to seek payment for legal expenses from the residents trying to safeguard their neighbors from PFAS contamination and health problems.


Scientific testing, studies, medical screening guidance, a FUDS designation, new drinking water advisory levels, testimonies in Washington DC, and national discussions have all substantiated the plaintiff's concerns regarding water contamination and health in 2018.


The City of Satellite Beach will ask for payment of legal fees and expenses on July 11, 2023. The hearing will be held via phone and not be open to the public. Despite the appellate court's rejection of their request, Judge Paulk will preside over the hearing. It appears that Satellite Beach is a place where the sun doesn't shine without a fight.




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1 Comments

  1. Not only are contracted corporations disposing of their waste. When waste dump is exposed... a "Fine" is set. Money exchanges hands. And nothing is cleaned up. My personal view is not only are they NOT taking responsibility. They are also laundering money all over the state.Not just Brevard. KBB receives a lot of grant money. Has multiple "paid" city and county clean up contracts. And has a media side to them that distracts from real issues. It's purposeful. And it's criminal. They NEED TO BE TAXED!!

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