When Justin Bean sat down with the Tampa Bay Times earlier this year to discuss his candidacy for the City Council race, he was upfront about what his political opponents would undoubtedly unearth at some point — a DUI arrest in 2013.
Not mentioned at the time was a 2010 resisting arrest charge in Polk County.
Bean said Thursday that the incident happened after he left a concert at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. He was walking to his home a few blocks away when he was stopped by a police officer who asked to see his ID.
“I didn’t know why he was stopping me and I asked him why, and he said, ‘I need to see your ID,’ and I asked him again for a reason. In retrospect, I should have just given him my ID, but I didn’t, and I asked if I was under arrest, and he said I was resisting arrest.”
The officer wrote a citation and Bean, 23 at the time, pleaded no contest and was not charged with a crime.
“It was kind of one of those things that you learn from. Looking back as a younger person you don’t necessarily know how to interact with officers,” he says. “Looking back, I would have just given the officer my ID and kept quiet. Instead, I asked him why, and that led to that arrest.”
Bean says that he didn’t bring up that arrest when discussing his DUI because “it wasn’t something that I was thinking about” and the charges were subsequently dropped.
Bean also has been cited numerous times for traffic infractions, including a citation for driving with a suspended license in 2012 in Pinellas County.
Should voters in St. Petersburg be concerned about those violations?
“I would say no, that was when I was much younger,” said Bean. He added that he was unaware he was driving with a suspended license.
Bean said he was disappointed when a local blogger posted the violations earlier this week, a story that he deems a “hit piece” that was aimed to attack his character.
The 30-year-old Bean is a local businessman who started a nonprofit partnership designed to attract more activities to downtown’s Williams Park. He was recommended by the Tampa Bay Times and won the most votes in that primary contest last month.
He now faces St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association President Gina Driscoll, whom he blames for regurgitating his past.
“I’m disappointed that my opponent has made that an issue and focused on it, trying to dig up the past instead of focusing on the issues, and I think that’s because she might not have a strong platform,” he says. “I’m focused on the issues. There’s lots of things that we need to work on in St.Petersburg, so I’ll continue to focus on those things.”
When contacted, Driscoll said it wasn’t the crime, but the cover-up that St. Petersburg voters should be concerned about.
“This isn’t something I’ve been talking about during my campaign. Now that we know the true story about Justin’s arrest record, I have the same concerns I’m sure everyone else does. It isn’t the crime on its own, it’s that he hid this resisting arrest charge from voters,” she said.
“I’m also not surprised that Justin won’t take responsibility for his deceptions — his criminal record shows that’s a pattern,” she adds. “It is, however, very disappointing and childish for him to blame his problems on me. Now he’s misleading the voters again. Does he really expect voters to believe he didn’t remember being charged with resisting arrest? How can he learn from his mistakes if he doesn’t even remember them?”
“That’s not leadership. I hope Justin will address why he misled voters and come clean instead of blaming others for his mistakes,” she says.
At the League of Women Voters’ candidate forum on Monday night, Bean decried the level of partisanship in the race. Although officially a nonpartisan contest, Bean is a Republican, Driscoll a Democrat.
“One of the reasons why I’m running is because as a leader I think that the right thing to do if you have the right opportunities is to stand up for what you believe in,” he says. “Even though I am a Republican I believe in climate change. I (also) don’t support Donald Trump. I did not vote for him, and I don’t support him.”
He says that despite his criticism of Trump, people are still attacking him as a Republican, “because people want to be able to divide people because that’s how they win. So I’ll continue to try to unite people and bring them together, and if I get attacked for that, then so be it.”
Bean supporters note that there wasn’t nearly the outrage in recent years when Democratic City Council candidates were revealed to have a DUI or had other charges in their background that came up in their campaigns. In fact, those candidates won in both cases.