Oldsmar mayor claims non-existent titles, mixes campaign and city communications, claims ignorance on PSTA scandal

In mass emails to the public, Oldsmar Mayor Dan Saracki has twice claimed important sounding titles at PSTA that don’t exist. Saracki would not unequivocally answer whether his “Community Corner” mass email is a personal communication or an official city communication. This is an important question because the city also uses the term “Community Corner” for its podcast called “Mayor’s Community Corner.” On its website, the city describes it as “a podcast hosted by Oldsmar Mayor Dan Saracki to engage the community on City initiatives, local businesses, events, and projects.”

“Your question about PSTA Executive Committee,” Saracki responded. “Good catch, you are correct. I will correct this.” Saracki was responding to our question about the above image from his September 2021 mass emailing in which he claimed to be a “PSTA Executive Board Member.” No such board exists.

Saracki served as a board member on the PSTA Board of Directors at the time. Saracki also a member of the PSTA Executive Committee at the time, but that body has no decision making authority.

In the header of his January 2023 “Community Corner” mass email, Saracki claimed to be “PSTA First Vice President (shown below). Also in this case, no such title exists. Note that appearance of the city seal in header as well.

(photograph of the email header provided by a reader – from a January 2023 “Community Corner” email)

Although the “Community Corner” emails do not have the political advertisement disclaimer by Florida Statutes, they appear to be campaign communications rather than civic-minded effort to “better communicate with the citizens of Oldsmar” that Saracki claims they are. The evidence for their political campaign nature can be found in what Saracki himself says when a recipient clicks on “Update Profile” at the bottom of a Community Corner email (as shown below):

Saracki ran for mayor in 2022 and won.

Connecting the dots: official City of Oldsmar communication are provided through a podcast called “Mayor’s Community Corner” featuring Mayor Dan Saracki in his official capacity. But Saracki the private citizen sends out mass emails for political campaign purposes which are also called “Community Corner” in which he says that effort is “in partnership with” the City of Oldsmar. Those emails display the official Oldsmar city seal in their header.

Meanwhile, the mass emails that are official city communications also display the city seal, but it is obscured behind the elected officials.

“The seal with the stars is the In Partnership Seal,” Ann Nixon, Oldsmar City Clerk told us in an email. “The City of Oldsmar created this version in order to have control over permitted uses by having a dated version of its City Seal. Organizations wishing to use the In Partnership Seal make a request with any City staff, and then the City Clerk coordinates the request coming before City Council for approval.”

However, Florida law prohibits the use of city seals for “political or campaign purposes.”

We asked Saracki repeatedly via email and text to provide “an unequivocal answer about whether the Community Corner emails are official city communications, or your personal communications.” Saracki said he would call back in 15 minutes, but never did. He also asked several times to “meet for coffee” when asked to answer questions in writing. We declined.

When asked about the Pat Gerard bus stop scandal involving PSTA that we broke the news on, Saracki responded with “I know nothing of this. This is before my time. I need to review with staff on this. I need more time.”

However, Saracki was in fact informed of the Pat Gerard bus stop issue via email by PSTA CEO Brad Miller eleven days before we asked him about it. Saracki’s “I know nothing of this” statement raises the question of whether he is seeing important emails from the PSTA CEO. It may be an IT issue, it may be something else.

“As records custodian for the City of Oldsmar, I can only verify that the emails I produced are from the myoldsmar.com exchange server,” Nixon responded to our question. “I cannot speculate on whether or not emails are read by their users. At this time and to my best knowledge, the City is not aware of any technical issues with its email system,” Nixon continued.

This is a developing story and we expect to have more reporting on the above and other important issues involving the City of Oldsmar. We will follow up with the City of Oldsmar with additional public records requests.

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