SARASOTA - What started as a misunderstanding seems to have morphed into a full-fledged controversy over a popular Sarasota park.
Earlier this week, the skate park at Sarasota's Payne Park closed down after it was thought it had been robbed of equipment. It turns out the missing equipment wasn't missing at all. Instead, it was delivered by mistake to the Sarasota Police Department across the street.
But the skate park manager, Dan Giguere, had already decided to close the park -- and took to Facebook to let people know. On Sunday, he posted a message saying "the park will remain closed until the scumbag responsible for stealing the holiday package returns it."
That posting caused such a stir from skate park users that many took to Facebook to complain. And those messages led to this most recent post -- a lengthy response, reading in part: "If you are a regular at the park and were quick to judge, point fingers, curse and insult me, I am considering making you do community service prior to being allowed to skate."
Giguere's postings on Facebook have gotten a lot of attention. But now, he says that was just a way of throwing people off so he could deal with another issue. However, it's an issue he's not talking about.
According to the contract with the city -- no matter the reason -- Giguere has the authority to close the park for one or two days throughout the week. After many used social media to criticize him for doing that, he's fighting back, even if he fibbed about why the park was closed.
“It actually worked out that I could blame it on that without giving the public too much information because it really isn’t any of their business,” says Giguere, who won't even tell ABC 7 what the issue was.
He does take issue, however, with several of those who decided to trash him on social media for closing the park. “I think people need to take a step back and think before they post something...try to get more information and not jump to conclusions.”
Giguere himself wrote the testy post on Facebook saying he will make those who criticized him do community service if they come to the park. “If they feel good about their comments, then I don’t want them here. They don’t deserve to be here.”
We showed the message to deputy city manager Marlon Brown. “I think Dan needs to step back a little and take a breather.”
Brown says Giguere can't deny people access to city owned property.
City officials plan to talk with Giguere soon, hoping the two parties can move forward. Brown says the city has always had a good relationship with Giguere and his skate school. The contract with the school -- unless renewed -- ends next November.
The skate park re-opened Wednesday.