In County Commission District 1 contest, developers continue to be among Moran’s biggest supporters, while Pienkos lists mostly retirees among his contributors

Through first half of September, Moran maintains fundraising lead

This is District 1 for the Sarasota County Commission. Image courtesy Sarasota County

With slightly more than a month to go before the Nov. 3 General Election, incumbent Michael Moran, a Republican, has taken in $57,810 in his bid to retain the District 1 County Commission seat he won in Nov. 3.

His Democratic opponent, Mark Pienkos, reported slightly more than half of that — $31,531.05.

The latest campaign finance reports for both candidates covered the period of Sept. 5-18, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office records show.

Moran had spent $53,936.44 as of that same period, compared to Pienkos’ outlay of $10,251.70, the records say.

Among the more recent contributors Moran reported were Jennifer Orsi, Sunfield Homes Inc. and Suntech Communities Inc., which gave him $200 apiece — the maximum allowed under law.

On Sept. 23, during a public hearing regarding a publicly initiated county Comprehensive Plan amendment that sought to reduce residential density on 6,000 parcels designated for development under the county’s 2050 Plan, Julie Vitale of Vitale Homes, who identified herself as a representative of Sunfield Homes and Suntech Communities, voiced strong opposition to the proposal.

Julie Vitale addresses the commissioners on Sept. 23. News Leader image

In advance of the Aug. 20 Planning Commission hearing, Orsi, who is vice president of Suntech Communities in Trinity, wrote a letter to both the Planning and County commissions, pointing out that Suntech owns 1,040 of the 6,000 acres. Referring to members of the Miakka Community Club — which formally submitted proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) 2019-C — Orsi wrote, “Their request to reduce the density of the property of which they have no ownership interest is an infringement on all property owners’ rights. Should CPA 2019-C pass,” she added, “the value of our property would be greatly diminished. I do not see how we can consider this a possibility.”

Orsi wrote a separate letter, dated Aug 18, noting that her family owns about 3,000 of the 6,000 acres. Again, she requested denial of CPA 2019-C.

In an Aug. 19 letter, Patricia O. Bock, president of Sunfield Homes, wrote a letter seeking the same action. Sunfield, Bock pointed out, owns 1,937 of the 6,000 acres. Among her arguments, she contended that County Commission approval of the Miakka Community Club request “would constitute a serious deprivation of private property rights which could result in millions of dollars in liability against Sarasota County [emphasis in the letter].”

Commissioner Moran, who had a family emergency, was not present for the Sept. 23 public hearing.

Pienkos was among the majority of speakers that day to voice support for the amendment. The residents of Old Miakka, he said, “want to stop urban sprawl and all the services that go with it — roads, utilities, shopping, medical facilities … The question becomes, Whose interests will be listened to? Residents’? Or developers’?”

Pienkos ended his comments with the rallying cry the Miakka Community Club supporters had been using for months: “Keep the country, country.”

Among other supporters in Moran’s most recent campaign finance filing were Robert “Bo” Medred, president of Genesis Planning and Development in Bradenton, who often works with developers on new proposals; the Gina Medred Revocable Living Trust, with the same address as Robert Medred; and Genesis Planning and Development itself. Each gave Moran $200.

Reliable Florida Home Inspections, owned by Glen Leach of Sarasota; Steve Dore, a real estate broker with Corporate Property Resources in Sarasota; and Frank Lacivita and Nathan Carr of Willis A. Smith Construction of Sarasota also were among those contributing $200 to Moran’s campaign during the first half of September.

Commissioner Michael Moran. News Leader image

Willis A. Smith has handled a number of contracts for county facilities over the years.

Altogether, Moran listed 27 contributors in the campaign finance report for Sept. 5-18. Only five of them gave him less than $200.

In contrast, Pienkos had 25 total contributors in his most recent filing. By count of The Sarasota News Leader, 20 of the people who gave him money during that period listed themselves as retirees.

Additionally, that report shows that Pienkos gave his campaign $1,500 during early September.

The Florida Democratic Party contributed a total of $6,000 to Pienkos, while the other amounts ranged from $25 to $200.

Earlier finance reports

In his second-most recent filing with the Supervisor of Elections Office, Pienkos reported 32 contributions totaling $3,000.

Among those, $500 came in from the Democratic Executive Committee in Sarasota. Only one other contribution was from someone other than a retiree, that report shows: Realtor James P. Frost of Sarasota gave Pienkos $50.

That period was second only to the one for Sept. 5-18 in regard to the total amount of money listed.

The third-biggest period was Aug. 1-13, campaign finance records show. Altogether, Pienkos listed $2,527 in contributions for those two weeks. Additionally, he loaned his campaign $10,000.

Pienkos previously loaned the campaign $2,500; that was reported for the period of June 1-12.

Moran’s biggest single period for campaign contributions was the month of March, when he reported raising $36,260.

His report for Aug. 22 to Sept. 4 shows another $1,400 in contributions. Among the seven people and businesses listed were Thomas Dabney II of Sarasota, who is a partner in Hi Hat Ranch; Gulf Coast Property Services of Sarasota, a property management firm that Dabney founded; and Beneva Retail Associates, of which Gulf Coast Property Services is the registered agent, according to the Florida Division of Corporations. Each gave Moran $200.

Additionally, Chris Cotter, regional talent director at First Watch Restaurants, and Leah Cotter of the same address — listed as a homemaker — each gave Moran $200 in the period from Aug. 22 to Sept. 4.


Mark Pienkos. Image from his campaign website

In his report spanning Aug. 22 to Sept. 4, Moran’s top expenditures were $1,239.43 to Campaign Graphics of Flagstaff, Ariz., for signs and materials; and $500 to the Venice CPA firm of Robinson Gruters & Roberts. The Gruters in that firm is Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters, while the Robinson is Sarasota County School Board member Eric Robinson.

Moran’s most recent report, as of this writing, included a $1,500 payment to Strategic Digital Services of Tallahassee for digital advertising for September, plus a $500 payment to ARC Media Production LLC of Sarasota for a video.

The registered agent of ARC Media is Vladimir Orgunov of Jacksonville, state Division of Corporations records show. The company filed its organizational papers with the state in August 2019, its listing shows.

In his filing for the period of Aug. 1-13, Moran listed his second-largest single payment, based on a News Leader review of his reports. That was $6,252 paid to Strategic Digital Services in Tallahassee for digital advertising. As the News Leader previously noted, Moran paid the same firm $9,435 in May.

He also listed another $500 payment to Robinson Gruters & Roberts in that report.

In Pienkos’ latest report, for Sept. 5-18, he included payments of $3,596.93 to Stones’ Phones of Rancho Mirage, Calif., for 3,623 “live calls”; $2,612.91 to Palm Printing of Sarasota for postcards, printing and postage; $540.69 to Allargando Campaigns in Port St. Lucie for 10,000 palm-sized campaign cards; and a total of $778.08 to George Thurlow of Gulfport for reimbursements for large campaign signs and Florida Democratic Party “Voter File Access.”

Pienkos also paid Thurlow $1,843.94 in late August as a reimbursement for signage and logo masks, that report shows.