Madeira Beach mayoral candidate Jim Rostek filed complaints earlier this month with the Florida Attorney General’s Office and Florida Ethics Commission against the beach town’s city manager and his opponent in the March election over a video taken at city hall that ended up online.
Rostek and Vice Mayor Doug Andrews are running in Madeira Beach’s March 13 election. John Hendricks, who currently holds the office, is not seeking reelection.
Both City Manager Robin Ignacio Gomez and Andrews declined comment on the complaints filed Feb. 9.
Rostek said in complaints filed with the state agencies that a video was improperly released showing him at city hall in January. He contends that is a violation of a state law protecting the whereabouts of law enforcement and public safety officers from public records requests.
“I am a retired public safety officer, (fire-service) and my wife is a current civilian public safety employee. Of which, we are both exempt from the provisions in F.S. Chapter 119 Public Records. The city clerk knows this information. However, this city manager chose to provide the public information without consulting with the city clerk who has the Statutory Duty of custody of all official municipal records,” Rostek contends in his complaint obtained by The Gabber.
In the complaint, Rostek said the video shows him at Board of Commissioners meeting and talking to another person. He contends the video was improperly released by Gomez to Andrews.
“This video is from a security camera system that is within the structure of the city hall building complex. This video appears to be an attempt to connect Jim Rostek with a citizen who has previously engaged in legal issues with the city. All in an effort to discredit, defame with possible malicious intentions,” Rostek said in the complaints.
Rostek is a retired fire captain with the Anne Arundel County Fire Department in Maryland.
He said the video has been posted, taken down and reposted by a person online “only identified as a ‘Ken J. K’ from Madeira Beach. Rostek also submitted a cellphone video he took of the social media video the Florida agencies.
Rostek said the city clerk was not aware of a public records request related to the video. He said the clerk was aware of public safety background and statutory exemptions from some public records requests.
Rostek said he filed his own public information request related to the video. “I requested the who, what, when, where, relative to who requested and released this security camera footage. It was released by City Manager (Gomez) via a (verbal) (Andrews) request,” according to the complaint citing a Jan. 30 communications and additional security camera footage.
In a Feb. 3 email, Gomez told Rostek the security camera footage was provided to Andrews from a Jan. 11 meeting and that the city clerk does not handle video public information requests.
“I received a request of video footage for City Hall cameras for Jan 11, 2023, from Doug Andrews, specifically during the Jan 11 MB Commission meeting of individuals that met outside of the chambers, in the City Hall 2nd floor lobby,” the email reads, according to a public records disclosure. “After a few days, we were able to provide the enclosed images and footage to the requestor, Doug Andrews, of apparently you and a gentleman identified as William Gay.”
Rostek’s complaint also alleges the video footage and photographs were narrated on Jan. 27.
“This extraction of video and (its) narration occurred (3) three days prior to the request from (Andrews),” the complaint reads. “Why would City Manager (Gomez) be looking at this security camera footage, have an employee script it, identify the people in the footage and include a commentary of what he believes is going on. All prior to a verbal public information request?”
What the Video Shows
The video shows Rostek and William Gay interacting at city hall. Gay, who lives in the popular beach destination, has filed a several legal actions against the city including suing last year over the process used to hire a new city attorney saying it violated state statutes related to government transparency.
Andrews and current Madeira Beach Mayor John Hendricks were named in the suit. In January, a judge said the city did not violate Florida’s Sunshine Law in its process to hire Thomas Trask as city attorney. Gay’s attorneys have filed papers to appeal that ruling, according to court records.
In late January, another video showed a man removing an Andrews campaign sign. Andrews said in a social media post on Jan. 30 that he had a number of campaign signs stolen.
“I’ve had 53 signs stolen in the first two weeks of the campaign season,” Andrews said in the post.
Rostek has also sent a complaint to the International City/County Managers Association, a national professional group for municipal and other local managers.
Rostek spoke about the complaints at the Madeira Beach City Commission meeting Feb. 22. Andrews serves on the city commission causing for some tense moments.
“There has been intentional violation my rights as a retired veteran of the fire service,” Rostek said who sardonically referred to Andrews as “Doug” during his comments at the meeting.
Andrews told Rostek to refer to him as “vice mayor” during the commission meeting. Violations of public records and transparency state laws can result in civil and criminal penalties and removal from office in more extreme cases, according to Florida statutes.