MARGATE — A Margate woman who accused commissioner Arthur Bross of groping her in a bar in November has sued him in Broward County Circuit Court.
Bross was served at City Hall on Wednesday before a 7:30 p.m. commission meeting.
Mercedes Almeida, 35, claims in her lawsuit that Bross “inappropriately touched, verbally harassed and made unwanted sexual advances” during a Nov. 15 social gathering at Bruzinski’s bar in Margate. Almeida is seeking money for damages.
Bross, who was vice mayor at the time, has denied the accusations.
Almeida’s attorney, Christopher C. Sharp, said the lawsuit was filed when settlement negotiations broke down.
“It was filed because we weren’t able to obtain a pre-suit settlement,” Sharp said on Wednesday. Almeida filed a written threat to sue in February.
Initially, the city turned the case over to the Florida League of Cities’ self-insurance trust fund, but an insurance adjuster decided that Bross had to pay his own legal fees because he was not on the job when the episode allegedly occurred.
According to the complaint, Bross began grabbing and touching Almeida after asking her to dance, then tried to hug her and run his fingers through her hair. The alleged episode occurred when several firefighters and other city employees gathered at Bruzinski’s after the dedication of Firefighters Park.
The lawsuit also claims that Bross tried touching Almeida’s breasts and buttocks, told Almeida she was beautiful and “wished he were younger so he could have a relationship with her.”
Almeida is not a city employee, although she is engaged to John Cruise Jr., a Margate firefighter since July 1973.