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Conservative activist Tom Rask sues City of Treasure Island

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Tom Rask is suing Treasure Island. In a self-authored lawsuit filed April 15, the Tea Party activist complains the city does not adequately publish notices of public meetings.

He’s asking that two meetings from March 17 and April 7 be deemed “null and void.”

The ultra-conservative Republican ran unsuccessfully for Pinellas County Commission in November. In an overwhelming defeat, he lost to incumbent John Morroni, a more moderate Republican.

Here’s what happened in the meetings Rask is trying to get tossed. They approved two events that would allow cars on the beach. One event is the annual Fourth of July fireworks display, the other the Sanding Ovations celebration.

As a Tea Party god, Rask is obviously not pitching a fit about celebrating ‘Merica’s birthday and it’s unclear whether he has a real beef with intricate sand castles.

He does have a problem with cars on the beach.

Now, as Tea Party thinking goes, that objection surely isn’t for environmental reasons. It’s purely financial. You see, Rask owns a business that runs websites for businesses. Three of his clients are hoteliers currently entangled in their own lawsuits against Treasure Island over, you guessed it, cars on the beach.

The group won their lawsuit to ban vehicular traffic on parts of Treasure Island Beach behind the Thunderbird, Windjammer and Page Terrace hotels. However, the city is appealing that decision.

In addition to having the two meetings from March and April tossed, Rask is also seeking to have any decisions on the appeal thrown out as well.

And he makes a pretty good argument.

Rask’s lawsuit alleges several problems with Treasure Island’s public notification of meetings. He provided documents showing there is no location listed for meetings, it’s not clearly pointed out that the meetings are public and a notification board at City Hall cuts off parts of the city’s official calendar. He provided photographs showing that.

He also argues that the city does not adequately post meeting minutes on its website for public consumption. He cites several state and constitutional statutes as evidence that the City is breaking the rules.

He also points out that, during his own public comment, he informed city commissioners that if they knowingly broke these statutes they were guilty of a misdemeanor.

On his website bio, Rask gloats he’s “been using email since 1984.”

Oh, and Rask is also asking for a $500 settlement to cover the cost of filing his suit.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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