'Shell Love Bug' lawsuit against Lee County gets heated

Posted: Jun 19, 2018 5:06 PM Updated:
Shell Love Bug Shell Love Bug
LEE COUNTY, Fla. -

Is it copyrighted artwork, or is it the Lee County's property?

That's the unanswered question surrounding a car known as the "Shell Love Bug." A well-known Sanibel artist, Pam Rambo, opened a lawsuit against Lee County over the now-controversial vehicle back in March.

"This is not a fleet vehicle. This is my art," said an emotional Rambo at Tuesday morning's Lee County Board of Commissioners meeting.

She was in tears over her legal battle with Lee County.

The county claims it owns the car, but the artist argues that she owns the copyright to the artwork.

After public comment wrapped up, Commissioner Frank Mann said he wants the issue to end, asking the county attorney if there's anything he can do to make that happen.

"I cannot believe that if three of us directed you to find a way to convey this vehicle and provide the justification by some resolution to this lady, that you couldn't come up with something that would work," said Commissioner Mann during a heated exchange between county commissioner and county attorney.

"I will never as the county attorney recommend this board take action in contravention of state law," said Lee County Attorney Richard Wesch.

"Well, find a way within the law," said Commissioner Mann.

According to the county attorney, anything declared as surplus by the board, including the "Shell Love Bug," has to be sold at auction.

The county attorney said state and county law calls for the public sale and disposal of items declared surplus by the board of commissioners, and he said the car falls into that category.

"So public sale is like an auction where people can bid on it?" asked Commissioner Brian Hamman.

"Yes, sir," answered Wesch.

Commissioner Hamman asked Rambo if she would drop the suit and bid on the car if the county put it up for auction.

Her answer was an emotional "no."

"I don't understand why you would want to send my copyrighted art to auction when it's my art. It's not a fleet vehicle anymore," said Rambo.

Lee County has paid more than $14,000 in taxpayer to outside counsel during this dispute. That's in addition to the work of the county attorney.

The car itself only cost $7,000.

 

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