Siesta Seen

Craig Siegel seeking end to ‘community control’ in case involving battery on a Code Enforcement officer; battered Code Enforcement officer still trying to collect $300,000 civil judgment against Siegel; Sunset Royale begins effort to get parking restrictions imposed on Beach Road spaces; Condo Lighting Contest winners named; the SKA makes a holiday donation; plus a clarification

Craig Siegel is shown in his 2014 mugshot. Image from the Sheriff's Office
Craig Siegel is shown in his 2014 mugshot. Image from the Sheriff’s Office

Regular readers of this column probably will recall Siesta resident Crag Siegel’s April 28, 2014 arrest for Criminal Mischief and Battery on a Code Inspector after he threw a bucket of urine on Sarasota County Code Enforcement Officer James S. Holderby.

Holderby had gone to the residence at 5174 Sandy Cove Ave. to follow up on a report that Siegel was continuing to rent that house every week, which is a violation of the County Code. After Holderby arrived about 7:20 a.m., the Sheriff’s Office report said, he knocked on the door and then heard a dog barking for about 30 seconds. The next thing Holderby heard was footsteps coming up behind him. As he turned, Siegel “threw a bucket filled with urine” on Holderby, the Sheriff’s Office report added.

Holderby started filming Siegel with his smartphone, so Siegel grabbed a hose and began to spray down the area where the urine covered the ground and steps. Then Holderby called the Sheriff’s Office.

The State Attorney’s Office ended up dropping the Criminal Mischief charge against Siegel. However, on Nov. 5, 2014, 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Frederick P. Mercurio signed an order affirming that Siegel entered a plea of Nolo Contendere (no contest) in the battery case on Oct. 17, 2014. The charge was a third-degree felony, court records show. Siegel was sentenced to six months in jail, to be followed by a year of community control under the supervision of the Department of Corrections, with two years of probation to follow that. Siegel was given a credit of one day for the time he spent incarcerated before the sentencing.

The judge also ordered Siegel to undergo a psychological evaluation and to pay restitution to Holderby in the amount of $285.48.

On Sept. 11 of this year, Siegel’s attorney, Michael S. Perry of Sarasota, filed a motion seeking to terminate the community control.

The motion says, “Mr. Siegel has completed all conditions of probation and has served over 6 months of his community control.” It adds that because Siegel works as a property manager, “Community control imposes a substantial hardship on [him].”

The motion continues that Siegel’s “duties include responding to tenants at all hours of the day regarding any situation that may arise at a property (some examples include unclogging drains, unlocking doors and resetting alarms). Consequently, he must be available at all hours. Currently, the needs of the tenants that are his responsibility have been put on hold at times due to the restrictions of the community control.”

A hearing on that motion has been set for 10 a.m. on Jan. 12, with Judge Charles Roberts presiding in the 12th Circuit Court in Sarasota.

That is not all of the latest news in the Siegel saga, however.

On Feb. 24 of this year, Holderby filed a civil complaint against Siegel, seeking “damages in excess of $15,000, exclusive of attorney’s fees and costs.”

Craig Siegel sits in the last row of chambers during a Special Magistrate hearing in May 2014. File photo
Craig Siegel sits in the last row of chambers during a Special Magistrate hearing in May 2014. File photo

The complaint provides background leading up to the April 2014 incident, including information that Holderby issued a Notice of Violation to Siegel on March 17, 2014, when Holderby concluded that Siegel was renting the Sandy Cove Avenue property more often than once a month, in violation of County Code.

The complaint says Siegel approached Holderby at the property on March 17, 2014 “and asked what Holderby was doing [there].” After “Holderby explained the reason for his inspection … [Siegel] responded by dismissing the idea that the Property was in violation,” the complaint adds. When Holderby visited the Sandy Cove Avenue house again on April 2, 2014, to determine whether Siegel had come into compliance with the County Code, he found that Siegel had not, the complaint continues.

On April 25, 2014, Special Magistrate Meg Wittmer conducted a hearing regarding the illegal rental case, the complaint says, during which time Siegel cross-examined Holderby. Wittmer ruled in favor of the county and issued an order to Siegel “to remedy any outstanding violations” and to cease violating the County Code, the complaint adds.

A red balloon marks the 5174 Sandy Cove Ave. residence. Image from Google Maps
A red balloon marks the 5174 Sandy Cove Ave. residence. Image from Google Maps

“[Siegel] was visibly angry when he departed the hearing after Special Magistrate Wittmer issued her Order,” the complaint says. It then goes on to describe what happened on April 28, 2014.

After a deputy arrived on the site in response to Holderby’s call for help, the complaint continues, Siegel told the deputy he did not know who Holderby was; Siegel also denied knowing what was in the bucket.

The complaint points out that not only did Holderby seek medical attention at an urgent care center, concerned about having had “an entire bucket of human urine … dumped on his person,” but he also has been treated by a licensed medical health counselor.
It adds that the counselor diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the April 28, 2014 incident.

On May 15 of this year, 12th Circuit Judge Kimberly Bonner ordered Siegel to pay $300,000 to Holderby.

Morgan Bentley. Contributed photo
Morgan Bentley. Contributed photo

Yet, Siegel never has given any money to Holderby, his attorney, Morgan Bentley of Bentley & Bruning in Sarasota, told me late last week. “We have liened whatever properties [belonging to Siegel] we can find to lien,” Bentley added.

On Dec. 11, Bentley filed a motion seeking documents from Siegel to help Bentley “follow the money,” as he put it when I spoke with him.

Among the materials Bentley is seeking are a “copy of the complete and fully executed 6549 Sabal Drive Land Trust” as well as the fully executed Sandy Cove Land Trust document.

Readers may recall that the Sheriff’s Office also charged Siegel with fraud in April 2014 in connection with rentals involving the 6549 Sabal Drive property. More on that in a future column.

“We’re going to follow this thing as far as we can,” Bentley told me of the Holderby civil case. The statute of limitations for collecting is 20 years, he noted.

By the way, Siegel represented himself in the civil case.

Taking it to the TAC

As recommended by the County Commission last month, a Crescent Royale condominium complex resident appeared before the county’s Traffic Advisory Council (TAC) on Dec. 14 to raise concerns about the lack of parking regulations on Beach Road adjacent to the western end of Siesta Public Beach Park.

Diane Hessler. News Leader photo
Diane Hessler. News Leader photo

Diane Hessler told the TAC members she and her neighbors were focused on the 15 spaces across from their complex. “We’ve been having some issues with public safety in terms of the folks that park there late at night … and use the [beach picnic tables], after the bars are closed, to continue their parties,” she said.

During the Nov. 10 County Commission meeting, Hessler was one of seven speakers who complained primarily about late-night noise emanating from that area of the beach park. At the time, Lt. Debra Kaspar of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office explained that no restrictions exist for those spaces. A person can leave a vehicle in one of those spots for several days without moving it, for example, she pointed out to the commissioners.

“This issue probably should be debated and then brought to our Traffic Advisory Council,” Commissioner Charles Hines told Hessler and the other speakers after Kaspar offered her remarks.

During the Dec. 14 TAC meeting, Hessler said she and her Crescent Royale neighbors were trying to figure out the best way to address their desire to have time limits imposed on those 15 Beach Road spaces. Perhaps parking could be prohibited between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., she suggested.

Crescent Royale residents also planned to raise issues with county Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department staff about the fact that the beach park is open 24 hours a day, Hessler added, even though the parking lots are closed from midnight to 6 a.m.

Kessler outlined the Beach Road spaces in red for presentation to the TAC. News Leader photo
Kessler outlined the Beach Road spaces in red in a photo for her presentation to the TAC. Sunset Royale is on the left. News Leader photo

Hessler told the TAC members that the condominium residents also are concerned because it appears it will be impossible for them to turn left into their complex if they are headed home on Beach Road from Siesta Village. “Now there’s a double yellow line” on part of the road, she pointed out, adding that she is unsure if the lines are temporary — and related to the construction at the park — or permanent.

Finally, Hessler voiced worries about the new traffic pattern for the driveway at the beach park across from Crescent Royale. In the past, it was just an exit, she noted. Now it allows both ingress and egress, she said, which she and other residents believe will make it difficult for them to turn out of their complex onto Beach Road.

“I’m really looking for some advice to help [us],” she told the TAC members.

TAC Chair Ken Swartz recommended she speak with John Sharp, the liaison to the TAC who is an employee in the county’s Traffic Engineering Department. Swartz added that Sharp would suggest the best next steps for Hessler.

“Thank you,” Hessler replied.


I am making use of this space to offer a clarification for the Dec. 18 News Leader article about the Lido Renourishment Project.

Incoming County Commission Chair Al Maio did try to call me to answer a question I had about comments he made to members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) on Dec. 3. Let me just say we had a mix-up over phone numbers.

Vice Chair Al Maio. Photo courtesy Sarasota County
Incoming Chair Al Maio. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

In light of that article, I asked county staff for an update again this week on the Atkins firm’s peer review of the City of Sarasota/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) plans for dredging Big Sarasota Pass to provide sand for at least the first renourishment of Lido Key Beach over a 50-year period. County spokesman Jason Bartolone told me on Dec. 21, by email, that county staff “last met with all five county commissioners individually in early October to brief them on the preliminary draft version of the study.”

The final peer review, incorporating changes suggested by county staff, was released in late October.

“Staff will continue to communicate with the [Florida Department of Environmental Protection] and USACE regarding how the findings of the study are being incorporated into the project design and permit review,” Bartolone added in the email.

The city and the USACE need a permit from the state to undertake the Lido Renourishment Project.

Latest TDT figures

In checking the latest figures provided by the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office, I found Siesta Key in second place behind the City of Sarasota for the first month of Tourist Development Tax collections in the 2016 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

Siesta Key businesses accounted for 26.25 percent of the $971,353.53 reported thus far for October of this year. (Each entity that collects the tax has to report a figure by a certain deadline, Tax Collector’s Office personnel have explained to me, but the number may change in a subsequent report, reflecting more detailed accounting by the business.)

The City of Sarasota led the way with 38.04 percent of the total. Sarasota County was in third place, with 17.29 percent.

As Visit Sarasota County reported earlier, TDT revenue climbed again year-over-year for the first month of the new fiscal year. The total for October, as of Nov. 30, was up $28,264.81 from the amount collected in October 2014, a Tax Collector’s Office document showed.

A chart shows the latest Tourist Development Tax collections by location. Image courtesy Tax Collector's Office
A chart shows the latest Tourist Development Tax collections by location. Image courtesy Tax Collector’s Office

Condo Council Christmas Lighting Contest

With perfect timing on Dec. 21, the Siesta Key Condominium Council released the list of winners of its 2015 Christmas Lighting Contest.

The competition is organized according to the size of complex. The winners are as follows:

  • Category 1: 101 or more units — Whispering Sands, first place; Siesta Dunes, second place; Peppertree Bay, third place; and Excelsior, honorable mention.
  • Category 2: 51 to 100 units — Island House Beach Resort, first place; Anchorage, second place; Crescent Arms, third place; and Beachaven, honorable mention.
  • Category 3: 50 or fewer units — Sandpiper Beach Club, first place; Terrace East, second place; Coquille, third place; and Provincial Gardens, honorable mention.

Holiday Lighting Committee Chair Diane Erne wrote in a notice to Council members that the displays “were outstanding. The overall effect of 16 condos sparkling with lights added a special enchantment to the holidays for all to enjoy.”

Whispering Sands was a winner in 2013, as well. File photo
Whispering Sands was a winner in 2013, as well. File photo

Helping those in need

As befitting a December meeting, the board of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) made a special presentation to Lt. Debra Kaspar of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office this month.

During the Dec. 3 SKA session, Joe Volpe called Kaspar to the front of the room and gave her a check for $250 to be used in an informal department undertaking that began several years ago.

Deputies who knew of low-income families started helping them during the holiday season, especially in terms of gifts for children, Kaspar explained. Then community sponsors began contributing to the initiative, she added.

“This will go to a very needy family,” she said in thanking the SKA for the check.

SKA board member Joe Volpe presents the check to Lt. Debra Kaspar. Rachel Hackney photo
SKA board member Joe Volpe presents the check to Lt. Debra Kaspar. Rachel Hackney photo