MARGATE — When a Margate woman accused Commissioner Arthur Bross of groping her in a bar, the city asked the Florida League of Cities’ self-insurance trust fund to handle his defense.
Residents such as Olive McCann want to know why.
McCann figures Bross wasn’t conducting city business as vice mayor. He was celebrating the dedication of Firefighters Park at a beer bash on his own time, she said.
“I can’t understand how an incident taking place in a bar should be covered. That’s a private thing,” McCann said. “It’s his problem. It’s not the city’s problem or the taxpayers’ problem.”
Mercedes Almeida, 35, is claiming that Bross, 61, “inappropriately touched, verbally harassed and made unwanted sexual advances” during a gathering on Nov. 15 at Bruzinski’s bar in Margate. At the time, Bross was Margate’s vice mayor.
Almeida is seeking more than $15,000 in damages.
Almeida’s attorney, Christopher C. Sharp, is seeking a settlement, claiming that Bross has caused his client “severe emotional and physical distress.”
Jon Morrison, an adjuster for the Florida Municipal Insurance Trusts, said insurance pool coverage isn’t automatic.
“If [our) investigation determines Mr. Bross was not in the course and scope as vice mayor of the city of Margate, then coverage would not be applicable under the city of Margate’s agreement through the trust,” Morrison said.
Florida Municipal Insurance Trusts is a self-insurance pool of governmental entities in Florida administered by the Florida League of Cities. The pool typically is used to defend lawsuits against officials.
City Attorney Eugene Steinfeld has declined to discuss the case. Michael Burke, the attorney the Florida League of Cities has assigned to represent Bross, could not be reached for comment.