Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the charges against Zieg and Clavier. They have been charged with a second-degree misdemeanor of petit theft. The story has been updated.
On Sunday evening, Marathon City Councilman Dan Zieg and City Clerk Diane Clavier, who are in a romantic relationship, turned themselves into the Marathon detention center to be booked on charges of petit theft, a second-degree misdemeanor.
The charges were pressed by Councilman Mark Senmartin who said he has provided video evidence of the pair removing a sign that belongs to him posted to a stairwell near his business at Townsquare Mall on Nov 25. The sign read “Drop Dan Zieg.”
When brought in for questioning, and shown the video evidence Zieg and Clavier admitted they had removed the sign. Clavier told the police Zieg was driving and told her to “go get it.” Although the police investigation report said the pair were likely in the neighborhood to eat at Frank’s Grill, located in the same plaza, today Zieg and Clavier said they were there for another reason.
“We were there at the post office in Townsquare Mall to mail some papers to Tallahassee,” said Zieg on Dec. 9, at an interview in the Weekly offices.
After reviewing the video surveillance, Senmartin said he emailed Clavier two days later and cc’d City Manager Chuck Lindsey and City Attorney David Migut. According to the police report, he offered her “amnesty” if she would return the sign. He included video stills of Clavier.
But Zieg said Clavier never received the message because she was on vacation. There was also no way to return the sign because the garbage men had already collected it. Clavier told the police she eventually sent a letter to Senmartin offering $25 for the sign and told the Weekly she probably did that on Monday, Dec. 2.
Senmartin said he waited for a response, and ended up calling the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to press charges against the pair on Friday, Nov. 29. He would tell the investigating officer Amanda Coleman, days later, that “He told me that even if it was an official political campaign sign, there was a process that needed to be followed in order to have it legally removed. According to Senmartin, that process includes proper notification and proper tagging of the sign that is in violation.”
Zieg said he and Clavier thought the sign was a political advertisement.
“Political signs have to be taken down 10 days after the election,” Zieg said. “By then it had been more than three weeks.”
By law, political signs must have verbiage stating that it is a paid political advertisement. The sign did not. Zieg said, and Clavier confirmed, that she has taken down political signs before because they were in the right of way or because the election had passed. She also told the police that it was not in her normal scope of duties. Zieg also noted that candidate George Neugent did not have the proper “paid political” verbiage on his campaign signs and was fined for the infraction.
On Dec. 9, Senmartin said he did not commission the sign and declined to say who gave it to him.
“It was not a political sign,” Senmartin said. “It’s an expression of my free speech.”
When asked why he would press charges over the theft of a sign valued at $25, he declined to answer.
“The facts are in the police report. I think people should read the police report,” he said. “I think US1 Radio said it best: one councilman directed the city clerk to commit a crime against another city councilman. That is the real story. I didn’t make them [Clavier and Zieg] steal the sign.”
THE ETHICS COMPLAINT
The Florida Commission on Ethics can’t confirm or deny whether it is investigating Senmartin. A spokesperson did say, however, that the person who is being charged must be notified within 5 days.
So, did Senmartin press theft charges against Clavier and Zieg in retaliation for the ethics violation alleged by Clavier? Senmartin says unequivocally, “No.”
“I didn’t know about it until the Monday after I pressed charges,” Senmartin said. “It’s not part of the same story at all.”
The Weekly asked if he had an inkling something like this would happen.
“No, none at all,” Senmartin said.
According to the police report, on Dec. 4 Clavier told the investigating officer that “Senmartin was doing this in retaliation because she filed an ethics violation against him.”
Senmartin showed the documentation from the Florida Commission on Ethics to the Weekly. The material was stamped received on Nov. 26. The letter from the commission was dated Nov. 27. The letter was sent via certified mail, usually a two- or three-day service. Senmartin said he received the letter from the ethics commission late on Monday, Dec. 2 — three days after he reported the theft.
The ethics charges concern Senmartin’s move, in March, to trademark the city seal and claim ownership.
The violation alleges two things, Clavier said. She said that Mark Senmartin lied on the application for the trademark when he signed as a “business administrator” for the city on a notarized form. She also said Senmartin attempted to extort money from the City of Marathon.
Senmartin showed the Weekly documentation for the trademark application. In it, he identifies himself as an individual and lists his personal address.
In her notice to the ethics committee, Clavier wrote:
“On March 26th, Councilman Senmartin waved a paper around which was later discovered to be the application for registration (Exhibit A). Councilmember Senmartin announced he owned the city seal (see exhibit B, page 3) where Senmartin explained the City should consider this [sic] as its 30 day notice to cease and desist using his seal, and it would cost the City tens of thousands of dollars to remove the seal or the City could give $10,000 and he would give back the seal (page 4 of Exhibit B). This is in violation of FS 112.313 (6) misuse of public position and solicitation of acceptance of honoraria. Councilmember Senmartin was conducting business with his own agency by entering into negotiations as well as trying to get the Council to change their previous vote by extortion.”
As part of the evidence for the ethics charge, Clavier submitted minutes of that meeting which she is charged with compiling as part of her city job description. The city meeting minutes read:
“Senmartin: My intention was actually to protect it, because I’ve tried to explain this at previous meetings that we are leaving ourselves open for something happening. The response was, “well I’ve never seen someone pretend to be a code officer and put a seal on their door and walk onto a jobsite.” That is clearly not the only thing that can happen by not protecting our seal. So, it would be very easy for someone to do what I just did and then hold the city hostage and say you can give me $10,000 bucks and I will give you back your seal. I mean crazier things have happened. So, my intent was to protect it.”
Senmartin said his unscripted remarks were taken out of context by Clavier in the ethics complaint and also exonerated by the minutes that she herself took of the meeting, and introduced into the record as part of the ethics violation.
The city seal issue is an old bone between Senmartin and Zieg that grew out of Zieg’s political video endorsement for Michelle Coldiron’s campaign for a seat on the Monroe County Commission. In it, he was pictured seated on the dais, under the city seal. Senmartin said that wasn’t proper. Zieg responded with a video compilation of all the times former and current candidates, including Senmartin, had worn a city-branded shirt or posed next to a city sign. Senmartin said the instances presented by Zieg were allowed because they all involved incumbents campaigning for themselves. Neither side has backed down from their position regarding the proper use of the seal.
But in March, Senmartin stunned the audience and colleagues by announcing that he owned the seal at a council meeting, and had trademarked it with the State of Florida. At that meeting, he told the council it had 30 days to act to formally adopt the city and then buy the trademark back for $1, plus the cost of registration, $87.50. At the April 9 meeting, City Attorney David Migut told the council that U.S. law conforms to “first to use” standard rather than the “first to trademark” standard. Migut told the council, “In terms of trademark, we have nothing to worry about. Whether or not to adopt it or not is a policy decision.” The council declined to act. Senmartin said, “If the city refuses to adopt and protect the seal, then I will …”
The outcome of Zieg, Clavier and Senmartin’s latest actions is unclear. City Manager Chuck Lindsey said he is still “fact finding” and declined to say whether city employee Clavier would face sanctions. City Attorney David Migut has previously stated there is no conflict of interest that arises from Zieg and Clavier’s private relationship.
She said she believes she is protected by the Whistleblower Act.
“This is all over a cardboard sign that I threw away,” she said. “I just need the silliness to stop. I am done being bullied by Mark Senmartin.”
Zieg said he believes Karma will prevail. “I think it will be good for the city in the end,” Zieg said.
Senmartin said, “I am saddened by the whole thing. It’s a shame that this happened. It looks horrible for the city.”
The City of Marathon’s charter outlines reasons for forfeiture of office. Among them is if an officer is convicted of a first degree misdemeanor arising directly out of his or her official conduct or duties, or enters a plea of guilty or nolo contendere thereto, even if adjudication of guilt has been withheld.
The three will come face to face at the regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at Marathon City Hall. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.
End of October — Marathon Councilman Mark Senmartin posts a sign reading “Drop Dan Zieg” at Townsquare Mall on a stairwell, next to his business Cash Flow Pawn & Jewelry. He said he did not commission the sign and declines to name who gave it to him.
Tuesday, Nov. 5 — City of Marathon elections are held. Councilman Dan Zieg is re-elected to office. Zieg and City of Marathon Clerk Diane Clavier are open about their relationship, and she attends his re-election party at a local restaurant as his partner.
Wednesday, Nov. 20. — Thea Ramsay notarized the ethics complaint authored by Clavier. Ramsay is the mother of the elected Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay whose agency would investigate the crime. Clavier said she cannot remember what day she mailed the ethics violation complaint, but thinks it was sometime the week before (Nov. 18-22).
Monday, Nov. 25 — Video cameras capture Zieg’s jaguar in the parking lot at about 1:30 p.m. Clavier exits the vehicle, takes down the sign, puts it in the open car window and the car drives off. Days later, Zieg and Clavier admit to taking the sign under police questioning. Clavier said she was not working at the city this week, but was on vacation.
Tuesday, Nov. 26 — The Florida Commission on State Ethics receives the ethics violation filed by Clavier against Senmartin. Clavier and Zieg leave town for vacation.
Wednesday, Nov. 27 – Senmartin sends an email to Clavier, and cc’s City Manager Chuck Lindsey and City Attorney David Migut. He asks for the return of the sign he valued at $25 and included still shots of Clavier from the video feed. He promises amnesty if the sign is returned, according to the police report. Lindsey said he replied via email that Clavier was on vacation. Florida Commission on Ethics in Tallahassee writes a letter, dated Nov. 27, to inform Senmartin of the charges and sends it via certified mail.
Thursday, Nov. 28 — Thanksgiving.
Friday, Nov. 29 — Senmartin files a police report with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office at 5:30 p.m., pressing charges of theft against Clavier and Zieg.
Monday, Dec. 2 —Deputy Coleman is assigned the theft case by Capt. Don Hiller. She interviews Senmartin again. At some point in time, Clavier said she can’t remember exactly but probably on Monday, Clavier sent an email to Mark Senmartin offering to send him a check for $25. Senmartin said he received notice of the ethics violation via certified mail in the late afternoon.
Tuesday, Dec. 3 — Coleman leaves phone messages for Clavier and Zieg.
Wednesday, Dec. 4 — Zieg and Clavier go down to the sheriff station for questioning. According to the Sheriff’s Office, he admits it was his car and he was driving. He said he thought it was a political sign, required to come down 10 days after the election. Clavier told the police “Dan stopped the car and told her to ‘go get it.’”
Friday, Dec. 6 — The state attorney issues “probably cause” affidavits signed by Judge Ruth Becker charging both Zieg and Clavier with a second degree misdemeanor for petit theft and a $250 (each) bond is set.
Sunday, Dec. 8 — Zieg and Clavier present themselves to the Marathon detention center and are booked. Arraignment is set for Jan. 7, 2020.