In another sign Key Biscayne’s heated election is going into strange territory, mayoral candidate Fausto Gomez was accused of bumping his belly against Oscar Sardiñas and pushing and shoving him, according to a written statement he gave to Key Biscayne police earlier this month.
Sardiñas declined to press charges and police are not investigating the matter, said village Police Chief Frank Sousa.
The incident took place Oct. 18 at the conclusion of a candidate forum at the swanky Ocean Club condominium. Gomez and Sardiñas —who is running for village council— had a sharp exchange during the forum.
According to Sardiñas’s statement, Gomez first uttered an obscenity at close range after the forum. Minutes later, he wrote, “Fausto again approached me. As I moved out of his path, he change[d] direction and approached me head on and pushed his large stomach forcefully against me and then placed both hands on my chest and shoved me away,” Sardiñas wrote.
Nick Azar, the Ocean Club’s general manager, said there was a “minor altercation” but said by the time he had turned around, there was nothing going on.
Gomez declined to provide an account, saying “that’s the only comment I have, go look at the video,” even when told the condominium had declined to grant access to a security camera recording. Azar did not respond to a renewed request to view the footage Friday. Gomez is a member of the Ocean Club’s board of directors, records show.
A witness to the event who would only speak on condition that their name not be used, related a similar account, saying Gomez “kept walking straight into him,” and then “put both of his hands on him and pushed him back.”
The Key Biscayne Independent granted anonymity after the witness said they feared retaliation by Gomez’s supporters on local social media chats. The witness acknowledged being a Sardiñas supporter.
The statement given to police the next afternoon indicates Sardiñas’s wife and another person were witnesses to the interaction, but the other name was redacted after the witness asked that their name not be placed in the report, Sousa said. It’s not known if the witness who came forward to the Independent is the same one omitted from the police report.
Sardiñas’s statement also mentions that Andy Herrera, another council candidate, walked with Gomez to security at the event and “they began to tell security staff that I assaulted him.”
Lucia Marin, an Ocean Club resident and a critic of Gomez, said she requested access to the security camera footage. She said building management allowed her to watch but not copy the recording, saying she was told a second camera in the room was not working. Marin said the two men can be seen from the waist down, and that Sardiñas appears to jerk or step back, but she said the tape was inconclusive because of the camera angle.
Whatever happened between the two men may have been prompted by an exchange in the forum, where Gomez proposed the State of Florida purchase Virginia Key to “deal with the City of Miami” and protect Key Biscayne from uses the City may be planning that have concerned residents, such as a now-abandoned idea for a homeless encampment.
Sardiñas responded that Gomez was offering unrealistic ideas to “confuse the constituency,” adding “What is he telling you? What he thinks you want to hear.”
The Key Biscayne election has set records for spending, dark money, and by most accounts, nastiness. On Friday, Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey, who is term-limited, put out a video urging residents to “tone it down” in reference to a pitched battle over a ballot question on zoning issues.
“I am concerned that attacking people leaves a scar,” he said. “I don’t want us to be irreparably pulled apart.”
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.