ORANGE PARK – Town Council member Roland Mastandrea filed a libel and slander lawsuit against a town resident who questioned the councilman’s professional behavior and economic leadership during the debate over the proposed Orange Park Plaza project.
Mastandrea sent letters to a handful of Orange Park residents saying he would sue unless public apologies he believed were due were made. Some of the residents who received the letters posted them in the public Orange Park Hub Facebook group. They reveal Mastandrea’s request to receive publicly posted apologies within 10 days of receiving the letter. He said in the letters the offenses made by those that received the letters were statements of falsity.
“It is understood that you have made statement of falsity as relates to Mr. Mastandrea’s professional behavior and economic relationship to the Orange Park Plaza development,” the letter from Krumbein Law, PLLC, of Jacksonville reads. “Mr. Mastandrea will forego litigation if you will retract your statements by way of a public apology. That apology must be in writing and is to be posted over social media whereby any statements that were made attacking the character, professionalism, and allegations of corruption including self-dealing or use of public office [motivation] for private gain must be addressed affirmatively.”
Mastandrea filed suit against at least one resident on May 28. Clay County court records indicate three open cases under Mastandrea’s name, all dealing with libel and slander, but each case has the same case number and the same defendant. Mastandrea is suing the defendant for libel and slander.
The official complaint says that the defendant made “false statements about Plaintiff [Mastandrea] that were published to third parties” and that these statements were made with “the purpose of diminishing Plaintiff’s reputation in his immediate community.” The complaint states that the defendant made these statements with “reckless disregard for their veracity as well as with actual malice.”
“On or about March 19, 2020, [defendant], while near the entrance way at Town Hall in Orange Park, Florida published to several individuals’ defamatory statements about Plaintiff,” the complaint reads. “[Defendant’s] statements were made with knowledge or with reckless disregard as to their falsity. [Defendant’s] statements were made for the purpose of diminishing Plaintiff’s reputation in the immediate community.”
The complaint goes on to say that the defendant said Mastandrea was “on the take” with respect to the application for the rezoning of the Orange Park Plaza project set to be constructed by Provision Impact Ventures. It also states that the defendant said Mastandrea is working for Provision Impact Ventures. Mastandrea “experienced actual damages” as a result of the statements made by the defendant, according to the complaint.
Mastandrea’s suit is seeking damages exceeding $30,000, court records show, and he has requested a jury trial. A summons was issued to the defendant that states the defendant has 20 days to respond. Other court documents indicate a request for a video deposition as well as a set of interrogatory questions to be answered by the defendant within 45 days.
As of Wednesday morning, the defendant has not responded, at least through court documentation, and there are no official court events beyond the documentation.
Mastandrea is being represented by Jacksonville-based attorney Jack Krumbein.
The judge of the case is Don Lester.