An aspiring South Florida politician was banned from a Coral Gables Publix after the manager said he shoplifted $23 in groceries and ran out of the store before police stopped him.
Gary David Robinson, a candidate for South Miami’s city commission, admitted he “did something really stupid” last month when he ducked out of the 1401 Monza Ave. store with a reusable shopping bag stuffed with two packs each of ground beef, potato buns, salad hearts of romaine, tomatoes and cucumbers.
It wasn’t his intention, he said. A client was calling him, and his reception was spotty.
“My phone rang, I couldn’t get reception, and I just ran to the door, and I forgot that I still had some stuff in my hand,” said Robinson, 62, who works as a Realtor.
But before he left the store and headed toward a white Audi, he took the groceries into a restroom for a couple of minutes, according to an incident report filed with the Coral Gables Police Department. The incident took place Jan. 11.
Instead of pressing charges, the store manager banned Robinson from the store indefinitely and had police escort him off the property. The manager confirmed Saturday that Robinson remains banned and directed further questions to the grocery chain’s corporate office. He can face charges of trespassing if he returns.
With less than two weeks before South Miami’s nonpartisan election, Robinson said his opponents have been spreading the news of his ban across the city of 12,000 people, but voters he spoke to told him they understood his mistake.
“If it weren’t for the politics, nobody would’ve ever heard of it,” Robinson said. “I just have to make sure that I don’t do that in stores anymore.”
Sandra DiMare-Vivar, one of Robinson’s opponents in the Feb. 13 race, said she doesn’t think Robinson is capable of serving in government, regardless of whether he took the groceries by accident.
“That could happen also when he’s running our city,” she said. “He could get distracted.”
DiMare-Vivar said the race has been clean thus far, but she acknowledged that word of Robinson’s Publix ban has been “spreading out like crazy.”
Robinson, who said he was surprised by DiMare-Vivar’s comments, said he believes voters will understand he is human and makes mistakes, and that his experience serving on three city committees, including the Budget and Finance Board, makes him uniquely qualified to join the commission.
“If Sandra is so perfect that she never makes mistakes, then she deserves a much higher office than commissioner,” Robinson said.
South Miami residents will cast their ballots to fill two commission seats and the mayoral position. Longtime Mayor Philip Stoddard, a favorite of environmental groups for his solar energy initiatives, will compete against former mayor Horace Feliu, a rematch of the 2016 election that Stoddard won.
Stoddard, a biology professor at Florida International University, last year championed a groundbreaking South Miami ordinance requiring anyone building a new home in the city to install solar panels.