TREASURE ISLAND — A group striving to prevent a dog park from being developed in Rosselli Park on Isle of Capri sought assistance from the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to stop the project.
In a Sept. 14 email to the city, Glenn McKiel, representing the Save Rosselli Park Group, asked city officials to stop the project prior to his group taking further action. He included an initial response from the state agency that noted the Isle of Capri Civic Association might be in violation of the Solicitation Act, but not the state agency’s follow-up that exonerated fundraisers.
Mike Braddy, president of the ICCA, said in a follow-up to the initial notice sent to the association that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services already ruled the association is in compliance with the Solicitation Act. In a phone interview, Braddy added that in notifying the city of just the state’s initial response McKiel was just trying “scare tactics.”
On Sept. 14, McKiel emailed the city stating, “the Isle of Capri Civic Association has served as the fundraiser for the dog park on the Isle of Capri. As the fundraiser they were subject to the Florida laws as found in Chapter 496 and required to register properly as a charity prior to soliciting any donations.
“Through a public record request we learned that the Isle of Capri Civic Association did not register as a charity for fundraising purposes until May of 2019,” McKiel continued. “The Save Rosselli Park group contends that any donation received prior to May 2019 was collected outside of the law and should be returned to the donor and any fundraising begun anew after the May date,” he added.
“We will be seeking relief though all available state agencies or courts of competent jurisdiction and would like the city to be aware of this matter in hopes you will take the necessary actions to correct this prior to us doing so. … As a taxpayer I am concerned with the potential for liability that the city may be exposed to by the actions of the Isle of Capri Civic Association. “
In an initial response to a complaint on March 27, Kayla Creech, regulatory specialist with the Agriculture and Consumer Services, wrote the ICCA that “according to information received in this office it appears that your activities may fall within the purview of Solicitations for Contributions Act. … The law effective Jan 1, 1992, requires organizations, sponsors, professional solicitors and fundraising consultants to register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services prior to soliciting contributions from the public in Florida.” The department gave the civic association 30 days to respond.
However, in a follow-up email June 26, Creech notified the civic association that, “the department received your application submitted under the Solicitations for Contributions Act … based on information provided it appears your organization is not subject to a fee-based registration and has complied with the filing requirements. An annual registration is still required.”
She explained that organizations that are exempt have less than $25,000 during the preceding fiscal year and fundraising activities are carried on by volunteers, members or officers who are not compensated. In addition, the charitable organization cannot utilize a professional fundraising consultant, professional solicitor or commercial co-venturer.
In response to a request for comment from the Beach Beacon, City Manager Garry Brumback said, “this is between the association and Mr. McKeil.”
In a Sept. 16 email to Braddy and dog park project fundraiser Dominque Reiter, Brumback wrote; “I have spoken to the city attorney and this is not a city issue. This is between the civic association and Mr. McKeil. We believe you have several options:
“1) Ask those you received funds from prior to the May date if they want their money back, document their response and, if they don’t we can proceed.
“2) Ask the Department of Agriculture if, because you have received approval, there is any action required for the donations received prior to the approval date.”
In an interview, Braddy charged McKiel left out the subsequent response from Agriculture and Consumer Services that notified the civic association they already comply with the Solicitation Act in emails to the city and press in a deceitful effort.
Braddy added the ICCA did not solicit and never handled any donations for the dog park. All donations were made directly to the city for items such as pavers, benches, fountains, and fencing. He added the ICCA is a civic association, not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
“The state already said we are in compliance,” he added.
He said in writing to the city that McKiel was just “using a scare tactic. He lost in the court of public opinion and he lost at City Hall; he is now trying to use scare tactics with the city and should just give it up.”
The dog park is currently being bid for fencing and is scheduled to open in November or December.
In response to Braddy and the city manager’s comments, McKiel told the Beacon he never received the second notice from the state.
He added in requests for donations handed-out by the city and the association to promote the dog park, it says the association supports donations and is facilitating fundraising for the dog park.
McKiel added that while the ICCA may not have had to pay a registration fee to the state, the statute still says they should have registered, which they did after it started collection.
He added his group won’t give up the fight because “the Save Rosselli Park Group is comprised of 250 residents who feel they got the cold shoulder from the City Commission and civic Association.”