NAPLES, Fla. - A war on the water as angry boaters fight against the City of Naples. Hundreds say the city wrongfully ticketed them and now they want their money back.
"The city is crooked," said Charter Boat Captain Michael Bailey. "They've been selling this charade for six or seven years now. They've been writing tickets when they knew they didn't have a law to stand on."
Two years ago Captain Bailey intentionally got a speeding ticket to fight the city's ordinance on idle speeds in city patrolled waterways in court and won.
"He ruled in our favor and then the city spent a lot of money appealing this and they lost the appeal," said Captain Bailey.
Bailey says the victory prompted a judge to strike down the ordinance. Now, other boaters ticketed on the water want their money back. They just filed a class action lawsuit against the city. It claims 500 boaters were illegally cited prior to 2012. But, City Attorney Bob Pritt says the statute of limitations only goes back four years and so far the city hasn't found any citations that would apply.
"It looks to us like its closer to zero," said Pritt. "Whether or not someone will try to claim the statute of limitations should be ignored, I don't know."
Pritt says city police wrote most of the tickets under the state law, not the city ordinance, so it wouldn't hold up in court.
"Maybe they can hoodwink us to think it's a state statute," said Charter Boat Captain Eric Alexander. "But, like I said, they're scamming the public."
Captain Bailey, a Naples native, says he's glad he stepped up against the ordinance. Now, he wants this battle against boaters to come to an end.
"Its all about the waterfront owners," said Captain Bailey. "They're not really concerned about the environment, they're not concerned about our safety. All they're concerned about is their ambiance."
Pritt says the city will respond to the lawsuit. He may file a motion to dismiss.