Apr 032015
 
Ocean Key Hotel as seen from Sunset Pier

Ocean Key Hotel as seen from Sunset Pier

by JD Adler…

In February Ocean Key Hotel, subsidiary of the Nobel House corporation, held a for-profit concert on Sunset Pier during which the band, the Revivalists, invited local citizen Kelsey Haas and her dog Mali onto the stage to dance with them. Police, at the request of hotel management, removed and arrested Ms. Haas for being in the “VIP section” without, allegedly, having paid a $150 entrance fee. As reported exclusively in The Blue Paper, Sunset Pier is on submerged public land leased from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and this lease has specific stipulations for its use. Included in those stipulations are allowances for 12 public, for charity, events per year, and 1 private (e.g. wedding) event per month, but no public, for-profit events at all. So, it would appear neither Ms. Haas, nor anyone else, should have paid to be on the pier that evening.

Ms. Haas was also charged with resisting arrest. The  official report states she pulled away and pushed Officer Calvert during the attempt to remove her from the VIP section. However, Officer Calvert was working as off-duty security, which leads one to question whether she could be “resisting arrest” if Calvert was not acting as an officer of the law at the time.

Kelsey and Mali

Kelsey and Mali

Assistant State Attorney Val Winter, who is handling the case for the State Attorney’s office, decided to drop the charges (“no action”) against Ms. Haas, stating that since “she had no criminal history, there was no video of the events, and she had already spent a day in jail,” there was no cause to pursue the case further. Apparently, if she had been found guilty, with no criminal background, the day in jail would have been as much or more than the SA’s office would have sought. He went on to describe a significant motivator for dropping the charges was the discovery that she had been “invited onto the stage by the band.” A band representative did inform the KWPD of that fact during the arrest that evening, but officers did not record the information or take a witness statement.

KWPD Off-Duty Security

The KWPD has a policy regardng off-duty officers working security. This includes the ability to utilize vehicles and uniforms while receiving income from private sources. Salient to these events is section B:

Off-Duty KWPD working 3/09 event at Ocean Key

Off-Duty KWPD working 3/09 event at Ocean Key

B: Bars and Nightclubs

Officers working approved extra-duty employment at bars and nightclubs are not there as “bouncers” for the business.

1. The officer may not loiter inside the establishment; and,

2.  Should only enter the establishment when responding to an incident or as directed by the management for a specific purpose.

 3. The officer shall report for duty in the proper uniform/attire (as spelled out in GO 02.05 Uniform, Clothing and Grooming), unless pre-approved by the Chief of Police.

When Ocean Key holds private, for-profit concerts on Sunset Pier with a VIP section, off-duty KWPD officers are posted at the entry gate to the section. When management wanted Ms. Haas removed it was one of those officers (Calvert) who was sent in to remove her. In the report, Officer Calvert states that she, in fact, had been stationed at the entrance to the VIP section and was asked to remove Ms. Haas by management.

“My assignment was to secure the VIP entrance of the concert, located by the pier. I was approached by an Ocean Key House employee, later identified as Ryan Michael Gernaat regarding a female entering the VIP area without the proper bracelet.”

Per snagajob.com this would appear to fit the job description of a “bouncer” which, apparently is prohibited by KWPD’s written policy. There also remains the question of how a person could be “resisting arrest” by someone working security? A concept which would also appear to have internal contradictions within the policy, which both requires supervision for reports and describes what to do in case of arrest while off-duty:

H. If the significant event requires a police report to be prepared, the officer should summon an on-duty patrol officer to respond and complete the Offense/Incident Report. If the officer working the extra-duty employment makes an arrest, he/she will be required to complete the Arrest Affidavit and the Offense/Incident Report.

While it is well established that an off-duty officer happening upon a crime can, and would be expected to, attempt to arrest the suspect, an off-duty officer working a security job would seem to be in a different capacity. A civilian security guard attempting to detain you could not charge you with resisting arrest for pulling away, yet an off-duty officer working security did just that. Nationally there seems to be no precedent to firmly establish the law, but rather a list of grey area decisions as described in this 2014 Think Progress article on the subject.

In an attempt to gain some local clarity, the following questions regarding these issues were asked via email (interviews were refused) of KWPD Chief Donie Lee:

Q: If the officer was functioning as private security, which is why she needed to call in other officers to process the arrest, how could Ms. Haas be “resisting arrest” when she pulled away from a “security guard”?

Q: According to the policy, law enforcement personal, while on special event duty, are not allowed to function as a “bouncer” or loiter inside. Would not Ocean Keys’ use of officers at the entrance to the VIP section, within the concert area of the pier, be a violation of that policy? Would not having the off-duty officer remove unwanted patrons also be the work of a bouncer?

Q: As documented in the article published March 13, Ocean Key appears to be violating its lease agreement with the DEP by charging the public for access to Sunset Pier for public, for-profit events. Now that this information has been revealed, will the KWPD continue to provide security for these events? Will KWPD attempt to protect the publics’ right to free access on the pier?

At this time, the only response received to these questions from the KWPD has been, “As for the questions, we’ve provided the policy and statutes, and he will not be commenting further.”

Consequences?

When legitimate revenue producing events do occur on the pier the lease requires reporting and the payment of 10% of gross revenue. Ocean Key continues to refuse to respond to interview requests. They also continue to hold public, for-profit events on public land in apparent violation of their lease. The DEP explained that their lessees are responsible for handling annual reporting with DEP reviews occuring only every five years. However, as a result of recent events, “one of our inspectors in the Marathon Branch Office has been assigned to investigate this matter and determine if there any violations of the lease conditions…Failure to comply with reporting per the lease contract and 18-21.011 Florida Administrative Code, could result in enforcement.” Among possible repercussions includes, from the code listed above, 11. There shall be a late payment assessment for lease fees or other charges due under this rule which are not paid within 30 days after the due date. This assessment shall be computed at the rate of 12 percent per annum, calculated on a daily basis for every day the payment is late.” Considering DEP told The Blue Paper they had not received reporting from Ocean Key in two years, and prior years of reporting appeared to show public, for-profit events listed as private revenue generating events, this could potentially add up to a sizeable fine under that single section. Though that is certainly not the limit of the penalties availble to DEP.

When asked about Ocean Key possibly charging the public inappropriately for these for-profit events on public property, ASA Winter said, “We do not handle lease violations…” and “I am not aware of any theft complaints regarding the fees.” So, at this time, it appears neither the city police nor the state attorney’s offices are seeking to defend public rights to public land on this pier. The results of the DEP investigation remain to be seen.

Stay tuned…

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JD Adler
JD Adler is an author of fiction and journalism, holding degrees in English Literature and Publication Management. He has authored non-fiction books and science fiction novels as well as short stories and poetry. As a journalist he has covered national elections, environmental business, criminal trials, and local news.

JD's creative work can be viewed at jdadler.com
 April 3, 2015  Posted by at 3:55 am * Featured Story *, Issue #108, JD Adler, Uncategorized  Add comments

  14 Responses to “Dog Lady is Free! Ocean Key Investigated…”

  1. great reporting and my hats off to you jd.

    calvert was one of the Charles eimers beach cops and listed in the civil complaint if memory serves.

    it is such a shame we have this type of unethical and dishonest low life which illegally subjected an innocent young lady to an overnight stay in a jail which calvert in this writers opinion instead belongs in herself. in allowing the dog lady to be incarcerated calvert’s act was without conscience uncaring and nasty to its core.
    the key west cop shop sure has some real loosers in its ranks with no official paying attention.

    I hope ms hass sues the pants off of this city and out of control cop shop that allows such damnable hypocritical police activity.

  2. At the time of the incident, it was reported in the local media just how Officer Calvert “took down” Kelsey Haas. I found the description harrowing at best, frightening at worst as the solution to the problem appeared extremely excessive. Officer Calvert veritably bragged of the ease with which she dispatched the “Dog Lady”. It was all very reminiscent of the Eimers case, overreaction and over response to the situation. I believe that Officer Calvert clearly needs more training when it comes to “take downs”.

    I fully concur with your observation regarding resisting arrest charges when a police officer is working off duty. I believe that it is wholly inappropriate to permit police officers to work off duty while in uniform and armed. If you watch such officers comport themselves, they do not act any differently than if they were on duty. Here is another opportunity for training as to what is and what is not appropriate when a police officer is working private security.

    Thought the article was particularly well done, especially with regard to policies and procedures for police working as security guards. Will be very interested in hearing Chief Donie Lee’s answers.

    • I would not wait holding my breath for the ‘chiefette’ to respond…..if he does it will be some of the same blather babble just like in the eimers case…a nothing response and supporting the officer activity.

      imo training is not needed as much as some psychological filtering/screening out of the bad coconuts.

      calvert looks like one of them along with the established madman f…bomb lovette. these type of miserable angry sadists playing tv swatcop are not what makes a good police officer. they belong in a cage wearing stripes instead of blue wearing a badge and roaming our community with a gun no less. perhaps the ‘chief’ can join them too for dereliction of duty.

      that said the stupid idiot city cop-shop ‘policy’ allowing uniforms off duty must be rescinded. off duty is just that off duty….NO uniform NO badge NO open carry gun. period!!! civilian clothing only if an off duty cop wants to be a ‘BOUNCER’ and make no mistake a ‘bouncer’ is just what it is!

  3. Thank the Blue Paper for publicizing this injustice . It is the Key West police job to protect the people not fight with them or arrest them with phony,non justifiable charges.Remember police are given promotions and pay raises based on their arrest conviction ratios.If they do not make arrest and help pack the courthouse with paying customers for the lawyers, they will not be financially rewarded.

    Friends please do not forget,the prosecutor has discretionary power to drop an unjust arrest just like this. They do not like to drop the charges because the enforcement agencies get ticked off.As I stated before ,if Catheren Vogel does not drop phony charges we have to stick together and throw her a– out of office.We also would then have to call for a boycott of the law offices where the disposed prosecutor will be working.This will send a chill down their spines and the abuse will stop.

    • I really like your approach…boycott the after they are gone law offices.
      but don’t blame me for vogel…I sure didn’t vote for her especially when the ‘grind them into the dirt’ X-city-lawyer coven in the duck’s case was on vogel’s ra-ra cheering team.

      what happened to Kelsey Haas is an abomination and needs a harsh correction. a few million again out of the city and a few million out of the ocean key house needs be in the wind. I hope the ‘dog lady’ sues both of their a**es off.

  4. It amazes me that the KW cops are still acting the same after the Charles Elmers murder, turning Shawn Murphy into a vegetable and clearly being in the wrong with the Dog Lady. I think it is quite strange the locals at the concert didn’t jump in and halt what the police were doing to the Dog Lady. Yes, I am sure the locals who have been at the concerts many times knew what was happening to the Dog Lady was wrong, especially since one of the musicians kept telling the police that she was invited on stage, Obviously, Key West is experiencing the DUMBING OF AMERICA virus. Get a back bone locals or your paradise will be broke without our tourist dollar.

  5. April 13, 7-9 PM, Harvey Government Center, 1200 Truman Avenue, Key West, excellent group to talk about “Policing in Paradise” sponsored by the KW/Keys ACLU. PLEASE GO AND ASK QUESTIONS

  6. This is a super piece. Thanks.
    I’d like to do a “continuation” piece on police “details,” investigated in its use by New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) by DOJ and Louisiana State Police and described by the former as “the aorta of corruption” in the NOPD. Your work on this in KW is inspiring. Martha

  7. WOW where do we start with this case ?
    1. Haas was on public land and invited on stage.
    2. The band told the cops she was invited on stage.
    3. If indeed Officer Calvert was posted to watch this VIP section then she must be blind and deaf as she would have known this. Seem KWPD are very good at not taking reports that turn into evidence and destroying it.
    4. Next issue is the KWPD policy is she could not be a bouncer and in fact that is exactly what she was.
    5. Now comes the resisting arrest. How can you resist arrest until you’re told “you are under arrest” and that requires a cop and Calvert was security guard at the time.
    6. Sunset Pier had no right to charge anyone to be in the so called VIP section.
    7. Assistant State Attorney Val Winter never had a case and he knew that. He simply did not add to the law suit by backing down.
    8. Fact remains Kelsey served a jail sentence for a crime she never committed. And she needs to be compensated for this. This should be several thousand dollars alone.
    9. “B: Bars and Nightclubs “
    “Officers working approved extra-duty employment at bars and nightclubs are not there as “bouncers” for the business.
    1. The officer may not loiter inside the establishment; and,
    2.  Should only enter the establishment when responding to an incident or as directed by the management for a specific purpose.” This alone should be dealt with by Chief Lee but once again he refuses to do his job.
    Must give him credit he will stand behind his cops and defend anything they do no matter how wrong they are.
    When Ocean Key holds private, for-profit concerts on Sunset Pier with a VIP section, off-duty KWPD officers are posted at the entry gate to the section. Seems this in itself is illegal being such a VIP section can not keep anyone out. They are there to act as intimidation to collect money illegally..

    I do hope Haas finds a lawyer willing to go after Sunset Pier and KWPD. The people of Key West and tourists will not be safe until this type of stupidity stops. Hope she goes after more than 1 million as then the taxpayers will face the balance. Please don’t back down as only a large settlement gets attention.

    A few side issues do come to attention. Is the stage actually on public land? If so then was it build with a permit and inspected? This could get interesting as maybe anyone can walk on stage at any time FREE.

    To Chief Lee, please start being honorable and answer questions asked by public. Up till now we thought of Key West as nice friendly party town and we visited often and actually were planning to buy one of the older homes for our vacation use. That is on hold till your out of office.

    Please resign so people can once again be protected.

  8. Here is something to look into. This is PUBLIC property so open container laws kick in. Now that will really hurt them. And she can sue the cop too as she was OFF DUTY.

  9. I think Assistant State Attorney Val Winter was very insulting to the Dog Lady as well as those of us with any reasoning abilities. Since the Dog Lady was invited by a band member, since she had a clean record, and since she spent one day in jail the charges were dropped. Such statements by Assistant State Attorney Val Winter suggest that if there was not any public criticism the Dog Lady would have been charged.

  10. I just came back from Fort Walton Beach. I spent a couple grand. I had absolutely no hassles other than some drivers pulling out in front of me. I even slept in my car in the beach parking area and was not bothered. Do you think I could do that in Key West and live??