MARGATE — A city official accused of groping a woman in a local bar must pay his own attorney fees because he was not on the job when the alleged incident occurred, an insurance adjuster said on Monday.
Mercedes Almeida, 35, is claiming Commissioner Arthur Bross “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, a Margate resident, earlier this year filed a written notice of intent to sue.
“Normally when city officials are brought into litigation, it’s something they have done under the mantle of city government activities,” said Jon Morrison, an adjuster for the Florida Municipal Insurance Trusts. “This case to us just didn’t fall within those realms.”
Bross could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Attorney Michael Burke was retained earlier this year through the League of Cities to represent Bross. That retainer ended on Monday, Morrison said.
Almeida’s attorney, Christopher C. Sharp, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.
The decision not to provide Bross with an attorney came after investigators took statements from several “parties involved,” Morrison said. Morrison declined to say who was interviewed or what they said.
“It is our opinion that Mr. Bross was not in the course and scope in his position as vice mayor of Margate. He is an individual . . . the coverage would not extend to him because he was not on official business,” Morrison said. “If Bross wants legal representation, he will have to pay for it on his own.”
Longtime Margate resident Olive McCann was ecstatic.
“I am so relieved and gratified that Florida Municipal Insurance Trusts has seen that the claim was bogus,” McCann said. “I am so glad.”