Grant Stern is no stranger to litigating municipal governments when he feels they make a bad call.
In Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine’s case, that bad call was blocking Stern on Facebook and Twitter.
Stern, a mortgage broker who gained notoriety in recent years after leading opposition of the Midtown Miami Walmart development, filed suit in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court this week against both the city of Miami Beach and Levine, demanding the release of public records regarding Levine’s social media accounts.
The conflict began in July when Stern tweeted at Levine’s verified Twitter account, criticizing the mayor’s handling of pollution in Biscayne Bay, which was linked by the Miami Herald to city water pumps fighting sea-level rise. Stern was blocked by the mayor not long afterward.
According to the suit, a similar situation played out on Facebook. Stern posted on the mayor’s verified Facebook page asking for Levine to release his last 30 days of tweets. His posts were deleted and again he was blocked.
Things escalated after that. Stern called in a public records request to the city, again asking for Levine’s block list. It and several subsequent requests were denied on the grounds that the mayor’s Facebook block list isn’t a public record.
Stern’s newly filed lawsuit suit argues otherwise. It asks Levine and the city to turn over the mayor’s list of blocked people on Facebook, his last 30 days of tweets, and any recordings or agreements related to Levine’s radio show “The Mayor.”
City attorney Aleksandr Boksner said to his knowledge, the city has not yet been served with the suit. He added that Miami Beach typically doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Besides his dispute over whether Levine’s social media accounts should fall under Florida’s public record laws, Stern said he wants to send a message that public officials shouldn’t be blocking their constituents.
“Basically anybody who questions [Levine] or says anything critical gets blocked,” Stern told TRD. “He’s sanitizing his social media presence.”