Commission votes 3-2 to take no action against board chairman
In a special meeting Monday, the Safety Harbor City Commission voted 3-2 to not take any action against Planning & Zoning Board Chairman Victor Curti after a verbal altercation between him and mayoral candidate Tanja Vidovic at the Nov. 15 Third Friday event.
Discussion of the incident consumed more than one and half hours of the Nov. 18 regular City Commission meeting, and resulted in City Commission receiving several emails from those who witnessed the incident, a partial video of the incident recorded by a resident and an incident report from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputy who was asked to intervene in the incident.
In an email to Commissioners, Vidiovic said, in part, “I stepped over to (Curti) smiling, figuring that he wanted to speak with me and he stepped towards me as well. He immediately started to yell at me pointing his finger at me. I calmly asked him to step back, and he got so close to me that his belly touched mine, he puffed out his chest and looked angry.” An email Commission received from one of Vidovic’s supporters who witnessed the exchange also alleged that Curti was intoxicated.
Two days after the incident, Curti emailed Vidovic, City Manager Matthew Spoor and the Commission an apology, saying he was frustrated by an earlier exhaustive public records request Vidiovic made of all of his communications that he took as an attempt to intimidate his husband. In part, Curti wrote, “Ms. Vidovic is the one that, upon seeing me point in her direction walked out from her booth and confronted me in the middle of the street by asking why I was pointing in her direction. I didn’t want to speak to her but regretfully I did. My emotions, that I have held in check for months got the better of me and for that, I apologize.”
Commission also received an email from another resident, who could be seen on the partial video provided to Commission, disputing Vidovic’s characterization of the incident. The report from Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Alimenti said, “at no time while I was there did Victor raise his voice or cause a disturbance. … I informed him some people felt he was disturbing him and suggested his finish this political conversation in a more professional setting rather than a public festival. When speaking with Victor, I did not observe any signs of impairment or indications that he was intoxicated like the complaintant had mentioned. Victor nodded his head in agreement and walked away without further incident.” The report continued, “I confirmed with Tanja that nothing got physical and no threats were made.”
The video, all emails and the deputy’s report provided to Commission can be viewed on the special meeting’s agenda backup links.
At the Nov. 18 meeting, two votes failed by 3-2 votes. On the first, Commissioners Andy Zodrow and Nancy Besore voted to remove Curti from the Planning & Zoning Board, with Mayor Joe Ayoub, Vice Mayor Cliff Merz and Commissioner Carlos Diaz opposed. On the second, Merz and Diaz voted to strip Curti of his chairmanship but keep him on the board, with Ayoub, Zodrow and Besore opposed. Commissioners agreed to take this issue back up at its Dec. 2 meeting, but Ayoub later called for Monday’s special meeting instead.
At Monday’s special meeting, Curti spoke in his defense for more than 12 minutes, reiterating his apology for not walking away immediately, elaborating on his history with Vidovic and correcting what he said was some incorrect information. About a dozen residents, including many members of the Planning & Zoning Board, also spoke in favor of Curti or shared stories of their own frustration with Vidovic before public comment ended. Vidovic did not attend the meeting, and no one spoke in her favor.
Ayoub began Commission’s deliberations by saying that it was clear to him that the entire incident was concocted for political gain, that he believed that the video provided Commission had been doctored and that he didn’t think Commission should take any action against Curti.
Besore went next, expressing frustration that Ayoub called the special meeting instead of leaving the discussion for the Dec. 2 meeting as originally planned, and she said Commission will hear a different story on Dec. 2, when she said Vidovic’s supporters will give their version.
Ayoub said he called the special meeting because he felt an urgency to act on the issue as quickly as possible as social media was already ablaze with comments.
Diaz spoke the longest, criticizing Commissioners who had suggested that Curti’s apology was an admission of guilt, which he said happened to another resident in a previous dispute Commission wrestled with recently, adding that apologizing is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and that Commission should not be discouraging people from apologizing.
Diaz went on to say that he, too, felt the incident was a political stunt, and that Commission has a responsibility to protect city volunteers from that. He also issued a warning to everyone to not engage Vidovic on any issue, as he believes she is always looking for trouble.
Merz, too, said an apology is not an admission of guilt, nor should it be a weapon to wield. He said he saw nothing concerning on the video, and Deputy Alimenti’s report and the support Planning & Zoning Board members showed Curti were factors in him deciding that no action should be taken against Curti.
Besore said she has supported Curti in the past, but the combination of his apology and an email from one of Curti’s friends who witnessed the altercation and said, in part, Curti “got a little heated” and “did get a little loud” as reasons why she believes he should be removed from the board.
Zodrow did not speak the entire meeting, except for answering “no,” as did Besore, when Diaz asked both whether they had seen the video of the incident prior to the Nov. 18 meeting.
Ayoub made a motion to not proceed with any action against Curti, which Merz seconded. Ayoub, Merz and Diaz voted in favor, with Zodrow and Besore against.
MISSED THE MEETING?
Listen to an audio recording of it on the city’s website here: http://safetyharbor.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=2177
7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 2. It will be preceded by a Commission workshop at 6 p.m.
Facts, not rumors. http://www.informedsafetyharbor.com
For anyone interested, no one from Tanja’s supporters showed up to the meeting. They made a deliberate plan to skip the meeting in protest, and planned to go to the Dec 2nd meeting instead. Ms Besore confirmed this during her comments, and it was also confirmed to by one supporter to a friend of mine. They complained it was a secret meeting , although it was advertised and even communicated by the Connect. A few people showed up at the meeting to speak about the incident on Tanjas behalf and continued to misrepresent and lie. Enough is enough. They had a chance to come to the meeting but they chose not to, in order to extend the fabricated hysteria Another week in another meeting.
Is that really the tactic you’d expect from a mayoral candidate?
Diaz was misquoted. He said calling Tanja’s behavior a political stunt gives her too much credit.
Tanja’s harassment tactics in Safety Harbor have even extended to our new downtown Baranoff Park. On June 12, 2019, Tanja attempted to intimidate workers at the Baranoff Park by live streaming on Facebook their removal of dead and dying trees. Ms. Vidovic did this even though removal of these trees was part of the city plans for the new Baranoff Park. This park plan had been unanimously approved the City Commission, the city arborist, and all other city officials.
While Tanja was live streaming the event with her camera, she moved close to the park workers in an intimidating manner and kept telling everyone watching to call City Hall to stop the removal of these dead and dying trees. Her actions resulted in many nasty and angry calls to our City officials and it wasted a lot of our city employees’ time.
Also as mentioned earlier, Ms. Vidovic threatened our City Arborist Art Finn’s job at a meeting she had arranged with him to talk about trees. This incident was brought before City Commission on August 19, 2019. After spending valuable commission time discussing this incident between our City Arborist and Ms. Vidovic, the City Commission decided to pass an anti-bullying resolution to protect our city employees from harassment and intimidation. Unfortunately, the city’s anti-bullying resolution was not able to protect Victor Curti from Tanja’s provocations at the last Third Friday event.
This town has already been divided because of a hateful status quo group that pits neighbor against neighbor.
Now, a political stunt to make the divide even larger..
Playing the victim never goes over too well. Playing people for fools doesn’t either. Since she’s done both, one can see why she will probably not attain the position for which she arrogantly seeks.
Although many people at Commission Meeting came up to the microphone to speak about the Third Friday incident, not one speaker defended Tanja Vidovic or her fabricated version of the alleged incident. Virtually everyone spoke about how respected Vic Curti is as the Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board and as an outstanding resident of the community. In contrast, residents talked about how trouble seems to follow Tanja Vidovic wherever she goes. It was noted that Tanja has a history of starting verbal confrontations and provoking anyone who disagrees with her. This is what happened at the Third Friday event.
Ms. Vidovic’s behavior on Third Friday was not the first time such an incident has happened. On September 5, 2018, Ms. Vidovic had to be physically removed from Philippe Park by a Pinellas County Sheriff as she tried to physically prevent a park employee from doing his job as he was spraying an herbicide to remove some invasive plants at the park. Her outrageous actions resulted in a 1-year ban from Philippe Park. On August 8, 2019, Ms. Vidovic threatened our City Arborist Art Finn’s job at a meeting with him. The encounter disturbed Mr. Finn enough to write an incident report and send it to City Manager. At the August 19, 2019 City Commission meeting, Ms. Vidovic’s next door neighbor stated that Tanja continually harassed her and her pest control company for using pest control on their property. The harassment was so bad that the pest control company refused to return to Tanja’s neighbor’s property and the neighbor even had to remove her child from an elementary school because Tanja was causing harassment of the neighbor’s child there too. Unfortunately, Tanja’s patterns of bad behavior have a long history. During the last Third Friday, Mr. Curti unfortunately became latest Safety Harbor resident to suffer from Tanja’s provocations.