One of two boats maintained by Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti on the canal behind his home sank overnight April 16. As of press time, the boat remained in the water. Islander Photo: Courtesy Larry Solberg
Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti has his hands full, but not all of his work is at city hall.
His sunken boat is stirring up a stink.
According to code enforcement officer David Forbes, Monti’s boat, docked in the canal behind his home in the 500 block of Key Royale Drive, began to take on water overnight on April 16.
By morning on April 17 the vessel had sunk, generating an incident report with the Holmes Beach Police Department.
A neighbor across the canal, Larry Solberg of 67th Street, reported seeing a public works’ vehicle in the mayor’s driveway and city employees — at least one with a 5-gallon bucket attempting to bail out the boat.
Solberg said the city crew left when he asked why they were working at the mayor’s house.
Forbes said the employees were dropping off a pump that needed replacing.
Forbes didn’t explain why city employees were delivering a pump to the mayor.
“I spoke to both of the public works employees there,” said Forbes. “The chief is aware of the boat, and there was an incident report filed. I’m doing my due diligence.”
The U.S. Coast Guard received a call from a man who identified himself as the mayor, according to Petty Officer Sevn Castillo. The caller sought help to raise a sunken vessel in a canal, he said.
Castillo said the mayor was advised the Coast Guard only sends a rescue team to save lives, not boats, and further, it was apparent the boat did not pose a navigational hazard on the Coast Guard’s regulated waterway.
Castillo said he advised the mayor to report the matter to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center, which compiles information on oil spills, chemical releases or maritime security incidents.
According to command center supervisor Lt. Ben O’Loughlin at the NRC in St. Petersburg, the owner of the boat is responsible for salvaging the boat.
O’Loughlin said the incident was reported April 17. He explained that the appropriate agencies are contacted by NRC, including the local Coast Guard station and either the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or the local fire station, and someone responds to the scene.
The Coast Guard oversees that appropriate actions are being taken by the owner of the vessel. If not, fines are imposed.
O’Loughlin said he believed the owner of the boat was working to resolve the problem.
Solberg reported the presence of fuel in the canal April 18 to HBPD, the Coast Guard and NRC.
Solberg said the mayor has kept two derelict boats on the canal, the one that sank and a sailboat, for several years. He said the boats are eyesores and, at one time, obstructed the canal.
“She’s afloat,” the mayor said April 21, adding it was raised April 19. He indicated there were some challenges, including the tides, rain and a piece of wood stuck in the propeller. He hired a salvage firm to get it up.
HBPD Chief Bill Tokajer was on vacation when the boat sank, but he told The Islander April 20, “We do that kind of thing all the time. We’ve helped others in similar circumstances, and so has public works.”
More on the mayor
Also, a letter to the city’s code enforcement office dated April 15 asked Forbes to investigate a work-related trailer with commercial signage in Monti’s home driveway.
The letter writer, who asked to remain anonymous, apparently fearing retribution, said six residents in the neighborhood oppose the weekly presence of the work trailer. The writer claimed the trailer should not be parked there because city code prohibits commercial vehicles and traffic, as well as other signs of a business, in the residential neighborhood.
The business, My Garden Products LLC, is owned by Monti and registered to a residential address in Sarasota. According to the city of Sarasota property appraiser’s website, it is owned by Vaughn DuFour.
Forbes said he is responding to the complaint and following up on the issue. He said because the principal address of the business is in Sarasota, the trailer can stay. Commercial vehicles or trailers associated with a business are only prohibited if the principal business address is in Holmes Beach.
Monti routinely stores a trailer and a work vehicle at public works, alongside Birdie Tebbetts Field, “with permission,” according to public works foreman Gary Blunden — permission granted by the mayor.
Forbes also said he is waiting on proof of a tax certificate in Sarasota to complete his report.
“Make no mistake. I treat everyone the same,” Forbes said.
A call from The Islander to the Florida Commission on Ethics resulted in a reference to the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees, adopted by the Legislature. It contains standards of ethics conduct and disclosures applicable to public officers, employees, candidates, lobbyists, and others in state and local government.
No complaint was made regarding the use of city resources by the mayor, and the commission is reactive-only, meaning it reviews only official complaints. However they were able to provide direction to the applicable ethics laws in the instance of a public official using the resources of the city for his or her personal needs.
In particular, Kerrie Stillman of the COE referred to the ethics laws in Part III, Chapter 112 of the Florida Statutes:
(6) MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION. No public officer, employee of an agency, or local government attorney shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself, herself, or others.