It’s a real life game of Clue – Key Biscayne style. Who took the sign-in sheet in the Commodore Lounge at the Yacht Club following a meeting about sea walls?
It’s a “only on Key Biscayne type” of story that involves security footage, a former mayor and an irate Village Council.
Video surveillance obtained by the Independent through a public records request shows former Mayor Mayra Peña Lindsay with the sign-in sheet at the June 13 meeting. It appears the sign-in sheet is in the vicinity of her purse when it vanishes from view.
Readers can determine for themselves by watching the video above.
Peña Lindsay did not respond to questions this week when asked about the sign-in sheet. It turned up at Village Hall on Sept. 22 in a plain manila envelope with no return address.
So was it the former mayor in the Commodore Lounge with the purse?
“It is important to remember the context. The Village, in an effort to engage with its citizens on an important matter, held a meeting. One person took it upon herself, or himself, to steal the contact list for the attendees,” said Council Member Allison McCormick.
“Whether that was motivated by the desire to deprive the Village staff of access to that important information, or in furtherance of a political agenda, that behavior is not acceptable.”
Former Council Member Luis de la Cruz, who was also at the Yacht Club meeting, said the apparently purloined list is more reflective of the divisions presently on the island.
“There seems to be political parties in Key Biscayne now. It’s unfortunate. It’s very sad,” De La Cruz said.
“This is so petty. So many petty things – like taking a sign-up list. Why would anybody take a signup sheet?” De La Cruz said. “I guess to use it in some kind of mailing list or whatever.”
Peña Lindsay’s tenure as mayor was partly marked by investigation by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. Both looked into whether she violated state law by ejecting a resident during a public “sunshine” meeting in 2018 on the Village pension.
The Commission referred the case to the State Attorney, which declined to prosecute, finding that Peña Lindsay was sufficiently “contrite.” The Commision then closed its investigation. The Village ended up paying more than $35,000 of her legal fees.
Peña Lindsay has remained a political force on the island. At a recent meeting of the Key Biscayne Neighborhood Association, some in attendance encouraged Peña Lindsay to run for mayor again. She publicly has said she has no current plans to run but when asked directly by the Independent, Peña Lindsay said she had no comment.
The Tidal Flood Barrier Meeting at the Yacht Club on June 13 was organized by the Key Biscayne Community Foundation. Mayor Joe Rasco, Village Manager Steve Williamson and Chief Resilience and Sustainability Officer Roland Samimy presented the plan.
But the pushback on mandating new sea wall heights was intense and the Village ended up opting for just issuing guidance. When it became apparent the sign-up sheet was missing, the Village asked the Foundation to contact that Yacht Club to look at surveillance video.
Melissa White, executive director of the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, on June 20 emailed Stephen Clark and Victoria Litman – the director of food & beverage and events director respectively at the Yacht Club. “We are hoping to see who may have walked off with it in order to get it back and enter into the public record.”
Once the video was in hand by the Village, Samimy emailed Peña Lindsay on June 23 inquiring about the sign-in sheet. He said a public records request for the sign-in sheet had been made.
“I was wondering if you could please help us find the sign in sheets that were circulated that evening,” Samimy asked Peña Lindsay.
Samimy said he never got a response from the former mayor to his June email. He was not exactly thrilled the issue had ended up in his lap. “I mean, what else can you do? Right?” Samimy said. “I got a million other things to do other than chase down some stupid sign-in list.”
The issue of missing list percolated up to the Village Council at its August 29 meeting. McCormick asked if there could be a policy decision among the Council regarding public records that are stolen or go missing and how aggressively the VIllage should pursue them.
Council Member Fernando Vazquez wondered if there was some law against stealing public documents. Village Attorney Chad Friedman said it is the Clerk’s role to pursue them.
Rasco, with the consent of the Council, then directed Village Clerk Jocelyn Koch to come back to the Council in 90 days with recommendations on whether she needs more resources on how to handle public records and how to pursue them when they go missing.
Koch then reached out to Peña Lindsay by phone and then again by email on Sept. 8, attaching the surveillance video.
McCormick told the Independent that stealing a public document “is expected of children. From an adult, it should be considered pathetic and accountability should be pursued.”
The sign-in list then showed up at the Village 2 ½ weeks later.
McCormick had one word for the list being mailed back anonymously: “Lame.”