Thursday, December 22, 2011

Trying to be impartial despite haters


Yes, Ladra is back. I'm preparing a few posts on things going on in Hialeah, Miami Lakes, the county, Homestead and elsewhere. (More on that later).

Ladra has been absent for a while because, let's say I've been distracted. In addition to having to work on my actual paying job in social media and media consulting, a group of friends and I embarked on a new project, a new avenue to provide information for the people of Hialeah, who sorely need it. 

I realized that the blog wasn't getting to everyone. Certainly not to the over 55 residents who vote and read mostly in Spanish, and hardly online. So this newspaper -- which will cover the city council and politics, sure, but also community events, school news, the business community and more -- was born.

And it's been a hard labor. Not just because we are learning as we go along -- and the second issue will look a lot better than the first. But because while Ladra's critics are constantly challenging her to be impartial, they won't let me when I try.

Here is the English version of the first column published in the inaugural Dec. 16 edition.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But I didn’t think it would be this hard.

When a group of friends and I decided that we would publish a newspaper in Spanish to counter the misinformation fed to the residents of Hialeah, we realized there would be some resistance. Mostly from those who do not want information to flow freely.

But we did not realize it would manifest itself in censorship and lack of transparency that is a staple of dictatorial regimes from which our families fled.

It is perfectly natural for politicians, elected officials and high-paid government types to be wary of journalists and bloggers who expose them as they buy votes with pancakes and collect absentee ballots from viejitos who don’t know who is running for what. And while this is my first column as editor of La Voz de Hialeah, I have grown into this position through my blog, Political Cortadito, in which I have written about those things already. I admit I have been critical of the city administration and elected officials – in my sarcastic, Cuban-American smart ass style. While well-received by many residents and city employees, the blog has become a thorn in the side for the powers that be.

I understand the discomfort. But I have every right to question their methods, intentions and actions. Perhaps even an obligation. After all, my parents left Cuba to make sure I grew up and lived in a country where freedom of expression and freedom of the press was not only guaranteed, but taken for granted. And if I see something wrong, it is my duty to them and to us all to point it out. Sometimes, that can be seen as impartial. And sometimes it is. The criticism cuts both ways and when Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez and the Seguro Que Yes city council call me biased, they are sometimes right. I am proudly biased because my slant is derived through the study of public documents, knowledge of historical reference and luck for inside information. And bias has its place. Like in these two [editorial/opinion] pages of La Voz de Hialeah. All bias is welcome here. Not just the bias from one side. And so I invite the mayor and city officials to write letters or guest columns for these pages.

But impartial information also has a place. Like on the other 14 pages. Like in the story about the opening of LA Fitness. Most people would see that as a positive story for Hialeah. But what is not in the article is that I was asked to leave the event by someone with the facility, most likely at the behest of the mayor or one of his lap dogs. On another day, the spokesman for the police department refused to send me a press release that had gone out to other media about the arrest of some juveniles after a smash and grab at Palm Springs Mile.

While criticism is important and, even, necessary to guarantee democracy, unbiased news and information can be more vital to a community. Especially one that is lacking it. La Voz de Hialeah was created in the void of such a beacon. And its aim is to cover the city in all its glory and beauty and cultural richness, not just its dirty little secrets. There is room for both and we hope that we will be allowed to public events so that we can take the images and information to the homes of the people.

Perhaps it will only take a little time, and a few editions of La Voz de Hialeah, for the mayor and other discomforted city officials to realize that we are here to cover both sides of the coin.

And that we are here to stay.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Political payback: rewards & revenge

Some have been promoted. Others have been punished. But make no mistake about the changes going on at Hialeah City Hall and in the city police department: The political payback and retaliation has begun with employees who were involved in the city's mayoral and council elections last month.
Those who supported and helped su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez are getting rewarded. Those who supported and helped former mayor Raul Martinez, who lost in a runoff Nov. 15, are the butt of the retribution. In Spanish, this is called un pasado de cuentas. In English, it's a settling of accounts.

Among those who have been spanked are three veteran police officers who have dedicated their lives to this community:

Commander Urbano Dieppa was busted down to sergeant after Hernandez saw he gave $100 to both his campaign and the Martinez campaign. He had been solicited for a contribution by Hernandez but expressed fear of retaliation if Martinez won. So another officer suggested he make the same donation to both candidates. That drew su alcaldito's ire. Rather than take the obvious political demotion in stride, Dieppa chose to take early retirement after Hernandez allegedly told him "You are either with me or you are against me.

Detective Sgt. Barbara Ricano, who is months from retirement and was a regular staple at the Martinez campaign office, was transferred to patrol as soon as the elections were over. Ricano, photographed here as she worked the first round of early voting at JFK Library, has not been on the road for more than a decade and has never been a patrol sergeant, which could be a safety issue to her and to other officers on that shift. And while the city may try to justify the move by saying that they are trying to crack down on patrol overtime, other officers beneath her rank have kept their desk jobs and juicy task force assignments.

Det. Ricky Garcia, whose organized fraud investigations have netted dozens, if not hundreds, of insurance scam artists and made headlines -- as well as secured a bunch of borrowed unmarked cars for the department from insurance companies only too happy with his work -- was transferred to patrol this week. There was no other reason to demote this 2009-2010 Investigator of the Year except that he was vocal about his support of Martinez. Here he is photographed with other Martinez supporters, some of whom may still feel su alcaldito's wrath.  Garcia, who is currently working several cases and had gone in on his day off to write some arrest reports because he loves his job, was not given a reason or even a head's up. He simply found the tranfer paperwork in his mailbox. His commanding officers didn't even know about the decision -- which shows it was made from the top.

It is obvious political retaliation against those who dared to be independent and exercise their constitutional rights. And there may be a class action lawsuit here.

But let's take a moment to juxtapose those against the rewards to others for their political choices.

Let's start with the case of Arnie Alonso, the completely unqualified lackey who drives su alcaldito around and does his bidding and served as his spokesman during the campaign (wonder if he was still getting his city paycheck to do that). Even though Alonso (photographed here during the first round of early voting, in white, standing next to his boss, and below on Nov. 1, standing next to his boss guarding him from Ladra) started his career at the city in parks department, where there were issues about some missing money from one of the sports leagues, he has now been promoted to chief of staff. Ladra wonders what kind of salary raise (read: payoff) came with that. I've asked. But who knows when we will learn. Acting City Clerk David Concepcion told me today that he would "submit the request to the appropriate department and provide you with the information once it becomes available." It should be as easy as a phone call.

And then there is Hialeah Police Commander Sergio Velasquez, known inside the city as Hernandez's chief enforcer and Godfather in the santeria religion, who was promoted to deputy chief despite holding the rank of sergeant. Forget about the fact that he is hardly qualified for that position, or that his history at the department has been full of questionable actions that have been investigated or covered up. Forget the fact that he made retaliatory investigations to further his career. Forget about the fact that he registered for college classes last week so he could qualify for the job. Those things don't matter because he is su alcaldito's friend and mentor. Police Chief Abuser Mark Overton, who Ladra heard has already one foot out the door to a position in Miami Beach (more on that later), told a reporter that the promotion was directly ordered by Hernandez.

Read that again: Directly ordered. Now why does the mayor of the city direct the police department's personnel moves? I understand he may have to approve them, but that would only happen if the changes came via the normal, administrative process for these types of transfers. But they don't. They come the other way. Which means they are political payback.

And the ones who will end up paying the ultimate price are the residents and business owners in the City of Retrogress.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Political con artist's AKA unveiled

You heard it here first. Actually, months ago. Ladra is not just a public watchdog. She's a political psychic.

Back in April, when a Miami Lakes dentist sued Constant Contact about an email he says defamed him to find out who the signed author "Sandra Lopez" really was, Ladra came right out and bet it would turn out to be Vanessa Brito, a political conartistultant who had campaigned for the recalls of former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas.

Dentist-turned-activist David Bennett knew it, too. It was Brito's trademark cowardly, anonymous style, her exaggeratedly derisive and contemptuous language. What we want to know now is who paid for it. Vanessa is perpetually broke and sucks the life out of everyone around her, like a locust, until they're spent dry or realize they're going to bleed to death. And Pizzi had more interest in bashing Bennett, a longtime vocal critic of the mayor's who formed an anti-Pizzi and pals PAC and had started to work on a recall effort. The bouncer-like mayor, who recently got hired as the town attorney in Medley (more on that later) and was involved behind the scenes in the election of Hialeah's alcaldito Carlos Hernandez and his slate, was counsel for Brito's Miami Voice PAC (read: Promotional Assistance Con) during a legal challenge of their dubious recall petition collection. And the two, photographed here during early voting for the recall campaign, became ratherbuddy-buddy during those weeks. Brito announced late last month that she was the campaign manager for his re-election campaign (guess Pizzi isn't worried about her recent track record). Also, the attorney that showed up in court to request that the Constant Contact client remain a Jane Doe was none other than David Reiner, who worked with Pizzi in the recall challenge. Now, in a second lawsuit on the matter (read on), a third recall lawyer, Ben Kuehne, has joined in to defend Brito and the rest named in the suit.

But, wait. Let's go to the beginning of this wonderfully entertaining tale, which began in April when attorney Stephen Cody filed a lawsuit on behalf of Bennett. It demanded that Constant Contact disclose the name of the account holder that sent what they referred to as a defamatory email blast from "Sandra Lopez." The email called Bennett a fraud because he had registered the name Miami Voice, Inc., in the state Division's of Corporate Records (you snooze you lose, Vanessa) and questioned his motives (well, maybe I question them too. But I also applaud them). Despite attempts by Reiner to keep the identity of "Jane Doe" -- apparently, one AKA is not enough for this con artist -- a judge ruled Nov. 7 that the company had to disclose the names associated with the account from which the email, Exhibit A, was sent. Said Cody: "This is not an abuse case or a witness protection case." Fort Lauderdale attorney Ari Glazer, representing Constant Contact, sent Cody an email Nov. 17 that said the company -- whose policy states that you need to use a real name in their emails -- identified the "Sandra Lopez" email as an account associated with Vanessa Brito, Heidy Medina and Myami Marketing, referring to Brito's life partner and corporate firm, respectively. He also disclosed two addresses associated with the account, Brito's parents home west of Sweetwater and her address with Medina in Northwest Miami-Dade near the Broward County line. "Constant Contact does not know which of these 2 individuals is responsible for composing or sending the e-mail," Glazer wrote.

It doesn't matter. They are one and the same. It was a Brito bomb. Gotcha!

Now, Cody filed a new defamation lawsuit against Brito, Medina and Myami Marketing based on the information disclosed and among the things he asks for in his stack of discovery documents is the list of how many people got the email and who they are, who paid for the digital missive and how, and all communication between the client and the company about the creation of the email. "They're going to say 'They're just after the list,'" Cody said, referring to the fact that Bennett has been in a long, heated battle to get the town's email list -- which he is entitled to, even if it is for his own political purposes. "But it's more to gauge the size of the damages," Cody said. "Let's say the thing went out to 10,000 people in Miami Lakes. Having to defend himself against such a large number of people who know him gives a potential for much greater damages than if she sends a random email to someone in Washington State who doesn't care."

Separately, Cody has asked the town of Miami Lakes for copies of the statements of all the credit cards used by the mayor and his office. But he may have to subpeona those, too, since he asked a month ago and he has still not gotten it. "And it should be a fairly simple matter going to the finance department, opening a file, making a copy and giving it to me." Ladra suspects they may be dragging their feet because the payment is there. As established, Brito is broke all the time and Pizzi, who likes to get freebies at town restaurants, did not yet have his big $200,000-a-year job in Medley. I can't see him taking this out of his own pocket if he can pay for it out of the city's general fund. Cody might want to get that in the discovery with Constant Contact instead.

Among the other things he asked for that Ladra will be eager to see is every email sent out from that same account since January, 2011. Who knows what other evil emails could lurk there? Maybe another email from some other false name, like "Blanca Rosa" who says she lives in the city of Miami and urges her neighbors to vote for Kate Callahan in her recently failed race for city of Miami commission. And if that email doesn't have a political advertisement disclaimer, then Brito may face a whole new slew of election law violation complaints and, maybe, lawsuits.

Ladra called Brito when she learned of the ruling, you know, to gloat, er, I mean get her side of the story. Miami Voice Chief of Security Ivette Lisa Taylor answered Brito's new phone, and I guess that it's new because had my name come out on the contacts list, nobody would have answered. I calmly explained the reason for the call and if she could get a message to Brito -- or Medina for that matter, since she was named in the lawsuit individually as well -- and Taylor was cordial and fine. She suggested I call Michael Pizzi. "He's handling that." Oh, really? In hindsight, I suspect she could have been answering Brito's phone to keep at bay all the people las malas lenguas say Vanessa owes money to from Callahan race. Because in less than five minutes, Taylor called back.

"Vanessa told me to tell you that she wouldn't speak to you if you were the last blogger on Earth," she said, and I almost spit out my Starbuck's. "She says you better stop calling her and her family," referring to Medina, who is also named in the court documents as an account holder at Constant Contact and is treasurer of the Miami Voice PAC. I began to explain to Taylor -- who needs to be spoken to slowly lest she's had a few forbidden cocktails already -- that Brito is, indeed, a public figure and that if she tries to fool said public again for her political gain (or her friends' and allies'), I would have to ethically call her, again, to give her an opportunity to set the record straight or provide context. All she has to do is say no comment. But she hung up on me before I could add that she can say no comment with style, ala "not even if you were the last blogger on Earth." Funny stuff.

Coincidentally, she could now face the same kind of reluctant subject as a blogger herself. Last week, the Huffington Post announced that Brito would be a contributor to their new Miami edition. That was a surprise to most people who know her well, many of whom are taking bets on how many weeks the arrangement will last before she blows it completely after exhausting her many patent excuses.

I wonder if those people at Huffington did any kind of vetting -- or even a simple google search -- of their Miami staff line-up, which also includes Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez, City of Miami Beach Commissioner Jerry Libbin, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, University of Florida wildlife ecologist Dr. Frank J. Mazzotti, PR guru and queen of the night Tara Solomon; NBC Miami Nitecap host Peter Bailey, "smart growth" blogger Tony Garcia and Miami Museum of Contemporary Art Director Bonnie Clearwater. Because one of Brito's first pieces is an analysis of the politically-connected gaming industry's interest in our community. Hmmm...

I wonder if she's doing any professional political work with or for the multiple lobbyists and consultants involved (more on that later), which would also raise the question of whether or not the blog entries should come with a paid political advertisement disclaimer.

Maybe Brito should have written her blog or column under the name Sandra Lopez.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kissing the ring at the swearing-in

The swearing-in ceremony at Hialeah City Hall Friday was more like a circus or a carnival than a solemn, vow-taking induction for a new (same as the old) government body. From the Mariachis to the teary-eyed thank you from Su Alcaldito Carlos Hernandez when he mentioned his financial backer, Roberto Cayon to the three-part harmony from three female judges who swore in Hernandez -- more like The Cheetah Girls than the Supremes -- to the photo-ops for a cluster of electeds who came out in masse to kiss the ring.

Former State Sen. Rudy Garcia -- the third place finisher in the first mayoral race round who later endorsed the man he had heavily maligned for months -- waved to the crowd as if from a parade in a valiant effort to stay relevant (more on that later). Also in the audience were Miami-Dade Commissioners Jose "Pepe" Diaz and Rebeca Sosa -- whose proposed absentee ballot fraud prevention amendment last month suddenly looks like an opportunistic move for political appearances, since she posed for pics with the guilty parties. She has to know there are concerns about that process in the City of Progress. But, heck, who is she to stand in the way of a good party? Other political hangers on in attendance included Miami Lakes Mayor Michael "Muscles" Pizzi and Councilman Cesar Mestre, Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yosiel de la Cruz and Medley Mayor Ramon Rodriguez, Hialeah Chamber of Commerce Chair Mandy Llanes, Hialeah Housing Authority Director (and AB pirate extraordinaire) Julio Ponce, Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia, Miami-Dade School Board Member Perla Tabares Hantman (District 4), State Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R, District 113) and representatives from the offices of State Reps. Jose Oliva (R, District 110) and Eddy Gonzalez (R, District 102) and State Sen. Rene Garcia (R, District 40), Alina Garcia from the office of U.S. Rep. David Rivera's office, and a letter of congratulations with a pledge of support for Hernandez from U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R, District 21), who had endorsed su alcaldito some days earlier despite Hernandez backing former Mayor Raul Martinez, who he beat last Tuesday, in the 2008 race for the seat against brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart (who resigned shortly after for "personal" reasons).

It should have been a smorgasbord for a political junkie like Ladra. But I was disgusted by what seemed, instead, like a trough of slop for the political piggies.

Speaking of swine, the most exciting cameo appearance for the pro-alcaldito crowd was former mayor Julio Robaina, who came in through the city clerk's office and shook a host of hands before he took a lonely spot on the platform next to the dais. "Julio, Julio, Julio," the crowd chanted, encouraging his run for county mayor in 2012 -- as if he needs encouragement. 

But the circus clearly defined su alcaldito as the new ringleader, or king of the Hialeah political hierchy, who just happened to be embracing Robaina as the Mariachis played "El Rey." While Robaina may have caused a bigger stir, su alcaldito was absolutely cast as the new leading man in the telenovela, As Hialeah Churns. Robaina stood back against the dais, pretty much alone. Police Chief Abuser Mark Overton stood close by. Councilwoman Vivian Casals-Muñoz -- who surprisingly cheek-kissed and hugged archrival Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez, despite some deep mutual disrespect -- sat in her regained chair behind Robaina, but wasn't very chatty with her one-time brother-in-law and political mentor/master. In fact, the words she had for the audience that also seemed directed sort of to him and to su alcaldito -- una galleta sin mano, or a slap in the face without using hands -- was, again (like she is trying to convince herself), about running her own campaign, independent of any mayoral candidate.

"And I want to thank former Mayor Julio Robaina and Mayor Carlos Hernandez for respecting my decision," she said, also thanking the council members for accepting her choice "without thinking my decision was against anyone." But now that she is the odd woman out -- the only candidate not on su alcaldito's Seguro Que Yes slate, and possibly rendered  ineffective -- maybe that was more damage control than declaration. "It was a personal decision. I never made negative comments about anyone here," she said, sort of begging to be let into the cool group. But give that woman an Academy Award for what was perhaps the best performance of the afternoon show as she individually congratulated each of the council members who won, in effusive enthusiasm. "Congratulations first to Carlos Hernandez, for such an excellent victory," she said, before going down the list. She also thanked Council Vice President Luis Gonzalez and Councilwoman Katherine Cue for their support. Gotta hit them all if you want to start building your faction.

Gavelgirl -- who kept her gavel and her title at the last council meeting after she was re-elected -- also strutted her stuff, but went in a completely different direction and her act was harder to swallow. "Thanks to all who supported me," Gavelgirl said. "It was a very difficult election and it wouldn't be possible without the friends and supporters. The best thing about this campaign is that they did it from the heart." Well, we know that some of them got paid up to $100 a day. She thanked her family and -- after the crowd sang Happy Birthday to her mom -- she did some ring-kissing of her own. "I have had the opportunity to work with many leaders in this community," Gavelgirl said, naming former Senators Rudy and Rene Garcia, Commissioner Bovo and State Rep. Eddy Gonzalez. "But there is one person who showed me what higher office is, and that is Mr. and Mayor Julio Robaina. It's important to recognize his work here. We must recognize the pride we have in the work of Julio Robaina," she said taking the alcaldito's favorite word for her own.
Alas, while the ring is kissed on King Alcaldito's finger, he got busy kissing someone else's you-know-what. Before he thanked Robaina and before he thanked Roberto Cayon -- a  main contributor to his campaign -- and before he thanked Rudy Garcia or Robaina or Mestre, Hernandez made a point of kissing up to AB Fraud Queen Sasha Tirador. She was the very first person he thanked. And rightfully so, since he likely owes his re-election to her questionable AB and get-out-the-vote tactics. He introduced her as "a grand part of the reason I am here today," in an uncharacteristic moment of honesty. "I respect and love her so much. My friend, Sasha Tirador." But he didn't break into tears (that came when he began to mention Cayon and Councilman Cesar Mestre, a fellow former Hialeah cop). But while she may not get tears, Tirador got VIP treatment. Ladra hadn't realized until then, when she rose halfway to the audience applause, that the AB fraud specialist was sitting on the platform, behind the council's dais, as if she owns the place. Well, maybe she does. She's put everyone in office there. Again and again. Back there, alongside Tirador -- which can be translated into the "thrower" as in throwing a race -- were Alex Martinez, Gavelgirl's poor wife, and Felix Lasarte, the city's main lobbyist and boss to Councilman Paul "Huh?" Hernandez, who has to recuse himself from multiple important votes because LaSarte's firm has one or another thing to do with it.
The three of them seemed to have supporting roles that are much more important than the other council members who were sworn in at the grande finale of this dramatic electoral farse. But the telenovela plays on -- and Ladra can't wait for the next episode. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Su alcaldito's reign of terror begins

Hours after he felt the confidence boost of his election -- through fraud, lies and trickery -- to the mayor's seat he has exploited for months, Hialeah's alcaldito Carlos Hernandez again abused his power Tuesday night. From a booth at Flannigan's. And he may abuse his power against employees he will likely now target because they supported former mayor Raul Martinez in the race.

It's not like he hasn't done it before. During this campaign, he fired two part-timers and transferred one full-time civil service employee to a more difficult position -- all because they support Martinez or did not report him when he visited a resident at public housing building at the resident's request.

He has had his thugs, including his chief enforcer Glen "The Goon" Rice take photos and/or video of them during early voting. Some employees told me he even asks them to smile for the camera. They have such total, arrogant confidence that nobody will police them that they think they can get away with anything, including violating people's rights. And roughing up an independent journalist blogger. Rice pushed me around Tuesday night inside Flannigan's on West 84th Street, where the mayor and some unidentified friends (photos here) had a celebratory meal. He stomped on my foot and stayed on it, applying painful pressure in an apparent effort to provoke me and keep me from taking photographs of the mayor enjoying dinner with friends while four officers -- three of them on duty -- were babysitting right outside Flannigan's. That's why Ladra was there, to document the misuse of city resources by an abusive dictator who thinks he owns the city. Rice even started saying that I hit him in the stomach, which is what he wanted but which never happened -- unless he means when he physically and forcefully bumped into me several times to move me physically away from su alcaldito's table.

He then had Sgt. Manny Montalvo, who was officially the only one of the four police officers out in the parking lot who was off-duty, issue me a trespass warning in the parking lot (again) after Rice, a disgraced former cop forced to resign, basically demanded that the manager have me trespassed. After I was already in the parking lot. Because I had left of my own accord after Goon Rice made a scene. Another illegal trespass warning by the disgrace of a police department that the Hialeah PD has become. And I do not mean the rank and file who support what I am doing and tell me so regularly and are ashamed of what they are forced to put up with and put me to at the behest of their command staff, which is acting on the orders of su alcaldito.
This is what makes it a criminal rather than civil matter. An elected official is misusing city resources to harass, intimidate and silence a political blogger. He must be so orgulloso!
And while I have tried to get other authorities involved, I am getting the runaround. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office has not taken this complaint serioiusly and the Florida Inspector General and Attorney General say they have no jurisdiction. Craig O'Connell at the FDLE in Tallahassee, at the Inspector General's office, said they would have to refer the complaint to Hialeah Police Chief Abuser Mark Overton. Like that is going to go anywhere. He is the one who battered me last week at the Goodlet Adult Center when I went to cover an endorsement circus event. He is the chief of the department that is harassing me and intimidating me and investigating me illegally.

But Ladra is not worried about herself. Not too much, anyway. What can they do? Issue me trespass warnings? Illegal ones at that. Eventually, they will be seen for the thugs they are. So go to it. Any attempt to violate my rights and curtail my freedom temporarily will fail and will be fought hard. The law and my rights are on my side. Ladra worries more about the dozens of employees who may face retaliation as early as today from a vindictive thug mayor who will stop at nothing to retain his power and build his pension and continue to provide his friends and campaign supporters with juicy no-bid contracts (read: kickback opportunities) and botella positions. I personally heard su alcaldito -- who would not answer the phone or return calls to comment on this behavior --ask his Lady in Waiting Arnie Alonso and Goon Rice to take photos "of every single employee out here" supporting his opponent. during the first round of early voting. Even Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez got in on the intimidation. Check out the smirk on her face as she takes photos of employees with Raul Martinz shirts and signs below.

Just ask Roberto Santos, a 15-year fleet management employee who was told by su alcaldito at the Moose Lodge polling place Tuesday "I'll see you very soon!" with two thumbs up in a threatening manner. "Like he was trying to scare me," Santos told me. During the second round of early voting, he said Councilman Jose Caragol, who won in the first round, told him, "I squashed you." Some of the employees told Ladra that they were warned by their supervisors not to go to early voting sites or to the precincts on election day. "They are always taking photos of us. A neighbor even told me that a police officer showed up looking for me at my house," said one parks worker. "Arnie [Alonso] told my supervisor he wanted to see me buried." As he said that, Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez laughed and waved at him. "Look at her. She thinks she's a joker." Another employee said: "It is a way to intimidate and try to put us on the floor. But I know I am not doing anything wrong supporting another candidate." A firefighter told me that Alonso but his hand across his neck and told him "You will be gone in two weeks," referring to the threat to fire 105 firefighters -- 70 of them on Thursday -- for taking a stand against the administration's strong-arm tactics. Or the employees in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj2nxLZfhEg

Barbara Hernandez, the president of the general employees union, said that many of the employees feel they will be retaliated against now that Hernandez has been elected. "He has shown in the past that he is not above firing people or transfering or disciplining them for political retribution," Hernandez said. "We have filed grievances on behalf of employees who have been targetted."

They feel intimidated. They feel threatened. They are scared. And they are right to be. This alcaldito and this administration is abusive and, as I said, will stop at nothing to stay in power.

Will nobody stop them?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Martinez concedes, but it ain't over

Former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez conceded early Tuesday night as soon as the absentee ballot machinery of su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez showed it had almost a 4,000 vote lead. A suspicious 4,363 vote lead counting ABs and early voting numbers.
"Se acabo," Martinez told supporters as he made his way outside to the TV cameras. "It's over."

He later lost by a total of 6,689 votes, which means that 2,326 people at the polls voted against him on Election Day. That's almost half of those who voted against him absentee. Really? Really? And if it is supposed to be a true reflection of the whole community, why is it that absentee ballots were disproportionately high, at about double the in personal votes? And uncannily equal among the alcaldito's slate. Let's review the early voting and AB counts. There were 10,408 votes for Hernandez (compared to 6,045 for Martinez), 9,943 for council candidate Lourdes "Who?" Lozano, 9,883 for Vivian Casals-Muñoz and 9,352 for Pablito "Huh?" Hernandez. Too close for comfort, just like in the first round. Ladra says. And more circumstantial evidence that the ballot brokers were successful. In comparison, the Back to the Future slates absentee numbers differered much more: 6,045 for Martinez, 5,690 for former councilman Alex "The Professor" Morales, 6,202 for Frank Lago, and 4,537 for former cop turned Hialeah Housing Authority employee Danny Bolaños. Only the Professor's and Martinez's votes are close, which is a natural thing.

Wednesday, Ladra, Martinez, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo and some other concerned citizens turned fellow volunteer watchdogs will be making formal, written  complaints with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office as well as the FDLE and the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit so they investigate the irregularities you readers have seen here in this blog and in other media outlets. We will take the photos we have of Hernandez campaign workers helping incapacitated ALF residents to vote, video of known boletera picking up ballots at a public housing building and other documentation, like a woman who volunteered for the Hernandez campaign because she was promised housing. We will ask Miami-Dade State Attorney Kathy Fernandez-Rundle to recuse herself from the investigation and have the state appoint a new prosecutor from a different jurisdiction. I'm hoping for some old gringo from Lee County who would be outraged by these incidents. Fernandez-Rundle was accused Tuesday of having taken campaign contributions from Hernandez and bundles from his support base (read: illegal maquinita industry) and of having invested in the ponzi scheme by Luis Felipe Perez, whose loans from former Mayor Julio Robaina and Hernandez. Former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo -- who might be the only person in South Florida who knows more about absentee ballots than Ladra -- made the allegatoins on MegaTV's Los Implicados Tuesday night to denounce what is obviously a fraudulent absentee ballot operation and then he dropped the bomb about Felipito. We will both be at the State Attorney's tomorrow to make the stink public.

This is not about sour grapes. If su alcaldito would have won the absentees with a proportionate amount of votes, instead of double the amount cast at the polls, if we didn't already have documentation of known boletera, or ballot runner, Emelina Llanes knocking on doors last week in a public housing unit to collect ballots, if his campaign manager weren't Absentee Ballot Fraud Queen Sasha Tirador, if we didn't already have more than eight cases of ALF residents who voted with "assistance" from Hernandez supporters or campaign workers, then su alcaldito would have a mandate and the people would have, indeed, spoken, like Martinez said in his quick, spontaneous, respectful speech to accept defeat.

But while I have supported Martinez -- and only because I do not want to see Hernandez continue to rape this city and its employees, who have been threatened and intimidated (more on that later) for his own personal gain -- I disagree with him (again) when he said "the people have spoken." The people have not spoken. The people were spoken for. Big difference. Votes were stolen. Votes may have been paid for. We know at least one vote was promised public housing to support his candidacy -- and she was arrested at the Hernandez campaign office after the first round victory when she approached the media to complain about the housing situation. Of course they did not want her to do that. Who knows what they were trying to cover up. That is one of the other incidents Ladra will take to the state attorney and the authorities.

Because this is not over people. I want the residents and employees of this city -- and su alcaldito and his Seguro Que Yes rubber-stamping board --  should know also that I am not going away because he won. In fact, I am going to continue even more with my investigations first into the ALF fraud, then into the botella positions, then into the no-bid contracts and, maybe, into his moonlight job as an individual bank for loans to Felipito.

This is not over. Ladra is far from being done here. Someone else might be done. But not me. Not Carollo. Not former Mayor Julio Martinez, who wants to form a watchdog committee and propose changes in the AB process."I went to war to protect democracy and what these people did is a sham," Martinez told me.

This election might be over. But the investigation has just begun.

Election Day turnout low in Hialeah

The election in Hialeah is today but the results have likely already been decided.


Voters trickled in one and two at a time Tuesday morning at three of the bigger polling places: The Salvation Army, the Moose Lodge and the JFK Library. And that spells doom for former Mayor Raul Martinez, who is in the fight of his life against a scheming alcaldito Carlos Hernandez. Unless those who got outraged and became indignant over the abuse of absentee ballots and AFL residents come out en masse, the election will be decided by the more than 13,000 mailed-in ballots -- and we all know who has more control (read: fraud) over those.

Less than 3,000 voters cast ballots during the shortened 3-day early voting period last week so that will hardly make a dent. If at least 10,000 people do not vote today, the process was circumvented by fraud and trickery and the voters let the machine -- operated by the candidates and their campaign operatives, which includes Absentee Ballot Fraud Queen Sasha Tirador -- decide the fate of their city for them.

It's also a shame that it seems more people are voting against Martinez than necessarily for Hernandez. He may become mayor by default again. One man told me at the Moose Lodge, "I would be dead first before I vote for him," referring to Martinez, who has been cast as a bad guy because of past attacks on him -- all of which he has legally deflected. That's some mandate, alcaldito. You got the default votes.

There is still time, however, and what the people of Hialeah and the Martinez Back to the Future slate of council candidates -- which includes former Councilman Alex Morales, former cop and Hialeah Housing Authority employee Danny Bolaños and Frank Lago, who lost a bid for state rep in May and is the former chief of staff for Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño -- need is for all teachers, municipal workers, and gente con mas de dos dedos de frente to come out this afternoon and vote.

And stop the theft of an election.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Casals-Muñoz hit with loan lawsuit

While Hialeah Councilwoman Vivian "I'll notarize that!" Casals-Muñoz has publicly denied any ties to su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez in her re-election campaign, she has openly maintained a beneficial relationship with former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, her one-time brother-in-law, freelance banking business partner and political mentor. Robaina has helped her raise funds and has voiced support in robocalls and radio ads.

Now, as of last week, both Roba-y-na' and Casals-Muñoz are named as third party defendants in a lawsuit that claims they conspired to charge 36 percent interest on a mortgage loan. Florida statute states that anything over 18 percent is usury -- or loansharking -- and, thus, illegal.

Documents obtained by Ladra look like someone kept $7,200. Maybe it was Casals-Muñoz or maybe it was Robaina. Maybe it was a little for both.

The plaintiff is Guillermo "Willy" Zuñiga, a one-time city employee fired by Robaina in 2009, who is supporting and regularly seen standing next to former Mayor Raul Martinez -- who is in a heated race against Hernandez for the mayor's seat.  The lawsuit was filed in Miami-Dade County Court Nov. 8 by attorney, Richard Gross, who also happens to represent Martinez.

The motion claims that the two politicos -- principals of the 1st Hialeah Bank of Julito -- and Robaina's wife Raiza "The Fallgirl" Villacis-Robaina conspired "to charge a criminally usurious interest rate (35.73692%) on the loan to Guillermo Zuñiga by overstating... the amount of funds to be paid to Chase/J.P. Morgan, Zuñiga's first mortgage, as $17,335.4`1 when only $10,037.29, at most, was actually paid... with the balance of $7,298.12  being diverted to the benefit of the schemers: RVR Holdings, Raiza Villacis-Robaina, Julio Robaina, C & M Title, Inc. and Vivian Casals-Muñoz."

Indeed, documents in the court filing obtained by Ladra -- the latest motion to answer a December 2010 lawsuit filed by RVR Holdings after Robaina became a player in a federal investigation -- include a settlement statement that shows $17,335 as "payoff of first mortgage loan" and an Oct. 31 letter from Maria Balignase at JP Morgan that indicates only $9,900 on the mortgage, which brought him current (for monthly payments from Sept. 21, 2006 through Aug. 8, 2007) on his deceased father's house on East 23rd Street, That's not paying it off.

When first questioned about it, Casals-Muñoz -- whose hands trembled as she held the documents Ladra showed her -- said Zuñiga got part of the $17,335 given to him. Later, she had one of her new campaign volunteers -- a driver borrowed from the failed "above the fray" fight by third-place candidate and former Sen. Rudy Garcia -- provideme with a 2007 letter from attorney Marshall Watson, representing Chase, that shows a $17,335 total balance due, including escrow installments, attorney's fees, accumulated late fees and foreclosure closing costs.  But still, how come the settlement statement (shown here) shows the whole $17,335 as payoff of the loan? Hmmmm? And what a coincidence (read: not) that it turns out to be a 36 percent interest -- the same magical number reportedly charged to convicted ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez by Hernandez and by Robaina for the loans made to him. And she could not provide any checks or other documents that showed how the wire transfer was made.

"The Grand Jury has this file and the pay-off letter," Casals-Muñoz told me as we chatted about it in her campaign office on West 68th Street Sunday morning. She said she gave investigators "boxes" when they asked her, as owner of C & M Title, for "any documents I had in regards to Julio Robaina, RVR Holdings and Recaredo Gutierrez and Luis Feliple Perez." How many boxes? Two boxes? "Boxes," she said. Ten boxes? Because, you know, it makes a difference. "Boxes," she said again. Why is it so hard to get a straight answer?

The councilwoman could not produce the checks or wire transfer copies for the $17,335, saying again, "that file was given to the Grand Jury" and said she had not been served with the lawsui. But Casals-Muñoz -- who has been implicated in the investigation by witnesses I've spoken to who say she came up during their testimony and by a federal investigator who said "her fingerprints are on everything" -- declined when Ladra offered her a chance to make copies of the documents I have and which she evidently had not seen before. "I don't want to deal with Willy Zuñiga. I want my attorney to deal with Willy Zuñiga," she said. When I asked who her attorney was, she said, "I don't know which attorney I'm going to use." What? Does she have a pool of different attorneys or nobody representing her right now at all?

"They need to produce those checks," Gross told Ladra, adding that the the loan was set up by Julio Robaina through his wife's company. "But Raiza had nothing to do with the loan," Gross said, adding that the $4,150 included in the July 2007 letter was paid by them in February when Robaina advanced him $5,000. "Julio told Zuñiga that Vivian had some of his money and he got it from her," Gross said, adding that the conspirators also put both that East Hialeah property and Zuñiga's own Palm Lakes neighborhood house in the mortage deed without his knowledge.

Casals-Muñoz questioned the timing of the motion and said it was politically motivated. But Ladra -- who everyone knows is Danny's dog -- wonders why she didn't get copies of the documents as soon as it was filed. Or why the motion wasn't filed three weeks ago before the first round.

Now that would have been a smart political move. Nah, this is just the latest twist of the ongoing As Hialeah Churns telenovela.

And Ladra predicts it will play on long after next Tuesday -- with or without political persuasions.

Friday, November 11, 2011

ALF voters "assisted" in electing

One of the most outrageous things seen during the pretty riduculous Hialeah elections came Friday when a group of elderly and confused residents from an assited living facility on West 18th Avenue were driven to the early voting site in a chartered school bus and were "assisted" in voting by people working for or supporting Su Alcaldito Carlos Hernandez.

Many of them, or maybe all of them, voted without any identification. They were allowed to vote using provisional ballots that will later be reviewed and, Ladra believes, deemed invalid. Most of them, or maybe all of them, were assisted in the voting process by people from the home or this woman photographed in a black shirt assisting a man with a walker, who told them not to speak to the media and called police over when Ladra took photos. She was told that there was nothing they could do to stop me (that was refreshing). She is driving a Nissan Versa registered to Carmen Rodriguez Echea with Hernandez campaign material inside and a bumper sticker for su acaldito and also council candidates Pablito "Huh?" Hernandez, who is in a runoff with candidate Frank Lago, and Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez (who won in the first round over former councilwoman Cindy Miel). She would not give me her name but was identified to me by a Martinez supporter as someone who works for AB Fraud Queen Sasha Tirador, su alcaldito's campaign manager, who has been investigated for electoral fraud before. The woman is supposedly her right hand woman. The woman with the white shirt and colorful scarf, who posed for Ladra as she sat on the platform at JFK Friday with Carlos Rodriguez, a paid alcaldito supporter, is the woman in black's daughter. She smiled and preened and pretended to be Rodriguez's girlfriend while her mom basically voted for the six voters from the ALF.

One man's diaper was showing and he complained of having urinated on himself. Others could not tell the reporters -- not just Ladra, but Erika Mayor of MegaTV, Sandra Peebles of Univision 23 and Marili Llano of Telemundo 51 -- who they voted for or what their names were even. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SGLayUBxS4) One man said "We were told we have to vote today." The driver of the bus told The Miami Herald's Christina Veiga that she did not know where she  picked them up and did not know where they would be dropped off. All of this to supress the fact that these people's votes downright stolen. Veiga followed the school bus, which went in circles through a residential area before finally coming to a stop at the ALF -- in an apparent effort to lose the tail. Owner (since 20120) Alicia Almeida arrived right after -- likely called by the bus driver or this lady in black or Hernandez people, in a black Lexus, Veiga wrote.

Hernandez denied having anything to do with the half dozen voters. "I don't know about that," he was quoted in El Nuevo Herald as saying. "I think that it is very important that the people who come to vote are people who are capable and can do so." But when Veiga talked to Almeida, owner of Alelise ALF at 6230 West 18th Ave. -- where there is a large "Keep Carlos Hernandez" sign in the front yard -- the woman said Hernandez had sent the yellow school bus. She did not allow Veiga to speak to any of the residents, claiming they had been shaken up by the media that clammored to find out what was going on -- not by the crazy detour taken by the bus driver in an un-airconditioned vehicle. Almeida also toldVeiga that the residents of the home -- which has a license to care for seniors with mentall illness -- were "of sound mind... They make decisions." But that's not what reporters saw when they were at JFK library and in Florida, voters can be barred from excersing their right if they are deemed mentally incapacitated.

Almeida added, as quoted in The Miami Herald. "They know Carlos. They’ve seen him They know I support him. But they can vote for whoever.”

Garcia-Martinez said she saw campaign workers for former Mayor Raul Martinez -- who was voting with his wife, Angela Martinez, when the bus came -- had helped seniors vote. "There have been frail seniors here all day," Gavelgirl told Veiga. "I’ve seen Raul’s people ...actually going in and voting for people. I have no idea how that was allowed.” Martinez called her a liar and said she was just trying to take attention away from what Hernandez had done with the frail and confused voters.

But the truth is Martinez has not chartered any bus for ALF voters to be shuttled to the library. And his campaign reports do not show any ALF contributions. The Hernandez campaign finance reports, however, show more than a dozen ALFs made donations that add up to thousands of dollars to su alcaldito's the campaign. A resident at another such facility, where the office is filled with su alcaldito's campaign, said that they were told that they had to vote for Hernandez because he was "going to improve the situation at the ALFs" and a nurse at a rehabilitation center told a Ladra collaborator that su acaldito himself had been there a couple of weeks ago to talk to residents about making improvements.

This is being added to the documentation that Ladra is compiling about absentee ballot fraud and voter manipulation on behalf of the Hernandez campaign. Let's see if more busloads of elderly and confused voters -- who can't tell us their names of what day of the week it is -- vote Saturday.

AB fraud machine caught on video

The video doesn't tell the whole story but begins to peel back the onion on the absentee ballot fraud that is going on in Hialeah, perpetrated by the campaign for su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez and his campaign manager, AB Fraud Queen Sasha Tirador.

Taken by Political Cortadito cameraman Raul "El Toro" Torres and posted on the El Nuevo Herald website Thursday night, the video of known boletera (ballot harvester) Emelina Llanes shows how scared she is to be questioned earlier that afternoon about what she is doing at a public housing building entering apartment after apartment and carrying bags of what we can only assume are absentee ballots. But what is not shown in the video also speaks volumes. Shortly after she was caught red-handed, and called the police out of some over-exaggerated show to try to cover up what she was doing (you judge for yourself from the video), Hernandez's security chief Glen "The Goon" Rice showed up and began to question El Nuevo Herald reporter Enrique Flor about what he was doing there. Flor, whose journalism has taken a harsher edge on the current administration as of late (ahem), had gotten a tip about Llanes being there taking ballots and had rushed from the JFK library where early voting had begun Thursday. Rice even suggested Flor was working for Ladra, because they cannot believe that other journalists are beginning to catch on to their crookery. But, while Flor left that part of the story out, it's important because everyone knows Rice was not there out of his own concern or will. He was sent there by Hernandez, to make sure Llanes didn't say the wrong thing -- and maybe secure whatever ballots she had collected. The police report is not public yet y dicen las malas lenguas that police spokesman Carl Zogby is sitting on a bunch of information reports that won't come out until after the election. What a coincidence.

Flor also forgot to mention that she was driving around in a Nissan X-Terra that belongs to su alcaldito's wife, Nancy Hernandez. The cops should have ran the tag on the X-Terra because it belongs on a 2000 Chryler Voyager that Llanes owns. The Chrysler is sporting a tag that is blocked -- likely because it belongs to a law enforcement officer (Hernandez is a former cop) and was flipped with the tag on the X-Terra. Why? Perhaps so they can pick up ballots in the Chrysler and when the tag is run, nobody can know who it is. Perhaps for another reason. But all Ladra knows is that it's fishy and should be investigated. Kathy Fernandez-Rundle, are you reading this? I'll send it to you.

Llanes works for Hernandez. Or, better said, Tirador. She worked for the county mayoral campaign of former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and the campaign finance report reflects a $300 payment for "housecleaning services" at the campaign office. Yeah, riiiiight.

Llanes once misdialed and called the wrong person, not the person she thought she called, and -- on speaker phone -- several people heard her saying that she needed the AB list and how she was going to go and collect absentee ballots. She said that since the mayor had already remodeled her house three times (Ladra is going to need to get the building and zoning history for that address), that this time around, she needed a new car. She had been driven around by Jonathan Martinez, Robaina's aide, during that election cycle. Fernandez-Rundle knows this. Why? Because Ladra and the firefighters -- who have been cooperating and working with the state attorney's office, the FDLE and the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit (Det. Miriam Gordils can confirm that) -- have given them this information. And keep giving them information. They know also that a dentist named Victor Verejano also helped collect absentee ballots for Robaina. They know also that Daisy Cabrera, another known boletera, offered to collect absentee ballots for council candidates Frank Lago and Cindy Miel, who declined her services but have spoken to investigators. Political Cortadito interviewed them before the Nov. 1 primary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUCRfUn4spU). Cabrera, photographed here (in the green t-shirt) on the second trip to JFK early voting site on Thursday, would not speak to me and ran to su alcaldito to report that I had photographed her.

In the video by Flor for El Nuevo (http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2011/11/11/1063106/nuevas-acusaciones-en-campana.html, former Police Chief Rolando Bolaños tells the reporter that he and some friends had been watching and following Llanes for a couple of days after getting reports from people inside the housing buildings and the assisted living facilities throughout the city that she was to pick up ballots for the Hernandez camp. Ladra rode with one of the teams and later with El Toro Torres to document their comings and goings. Why? Because the authorities won't do it so we have to document what we know is absentee ballot fraud on a major scale. Su alcaldito decried it and said it was improper. But he's just scared that we might be breaking his machine apart. In the video, he denounces Bolaños, who he says has been driving former Mayor Raul Martinez around (that's another lie) and Hialeah Police Det. Ricky Garcia, an organized fraud investigator with 28 years experience, who took three days off in order to help with the independent surveillance operation that has been coordinated by civilians after a lack of interest by the authorities showed us we have to do everything ourselves. I told the state attorney's office I was going to do this. Ricky does not have a radio or a badge or anything on him. He does not engage. He simply drives. Su alcaldito said in the El Nuevo video that Garcia is a union official but the detective is not even a PBA member (another lie to try to discredit people who are doing good work to uncover the Hernandez fraud machine).

Su alcaldito said on the A Mano Limpia show on Wednesday's debate that he had video of firefighters intimidating seniors at night in a public housing building. He claims that they are stealing absentee ballots. But he is lying again (imagine that) and the video given by police to Enrique Flor simply shows the firefighters and general employees union President Barbara Hernandez, accompanied by Martinez's former secretary and campaign worker Mabel Mizrahi, entering a public housing building where they were invited by a resident. Nothing more. See it for yourself. This alcaldito has to lie at least 10 times a day to feed his addiction to falsehoods.

He has claimed that Martinez is committing AB fraud when all Martinez is doing is trying to stop the theft of ballots from his supporters, which is what happened during the primary. That's why 7,000 of the 21,000 ABs requested were never returned. And there are Martinez supporters who say that someone from the campaign came by to pick up their ballots when nobody from the campaign was sent to do that during the first round. Of course they are doing it now. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Su alcaldito won the primary with a disproportionate number of absentee ballots. His slate also got disproportionate numbers of ABs. Coincidence? Does anyone believe that? The problem here is that su alcaldito's game is up. We know about his machine and we are trying to stop it.

Other people we know collect absentee ballots that Ladra asks all her readers to be on the lookout for include "Papito," otherwise known as Juan Afre, who drives a red Jeep Cherokee and was with Tirador at MegaTV the night that Jose Gonzalez, brother of the Hialeah council's vice president Luis Gonzalez, assaulted El Toro Torres, the cameraman, outside in the parking lot (more on that later). Afre can be spotted at JFK wearing a Carlos Hernandez t-shirt (photographed herewith Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez) during the first round of early voting). And also, maybe, Alejandro Llanes (maybe related to Emelina, Ladra is not sure), who is photographed here shortly before he called the police on Ladra -- after she took a photo of an empty Hernandez campaign office last week -- and had a homicide detective issue a trespass warning over the telephone 18 hours later. The Hernandez campaign has been using the police force for months to intimidate and try to silence Ladra as well as the opposition and critics of his administration.

These are only some of the people getting absentee ballots for su alcaldito. There are more. Next post will be about a group of severly mentally-challenged seniors who were bussed to the JFK on Friday and who were assisted to vote even though none of them or most of them had no identification.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Firefighter guest blogger with truth

Ladra is lending her space today to Hialeah Fire Union Vice President Eric "Slick" Johnson (aka "Braveheart")  who lays out the truth in the firefighters' ongoing battle with the administration and the lies and lack of transparency they have been trying to fight:


I would love to use this forum to explain why we are in this predicament, but It would be hard to sum up three years in a short story. Basically, what is happening is clear cut political retribution. The retribution started with Former Mayor Julio Robaina and has now been passed along to Interim Mayor Carlos Hernandez. Nothing more and nothing less.

In a few years time Hialeah Collected over 93 Million dollars in excess revenue and spent EVERY PENNY carelessly. We as a fire department have asked, for three years, for transparency and honesty as we have prepared all along to make necessary concessions with the clear cut economic crunch facing society today. The same year the Housing Market was crashing the City actually offered us raises. We stated, at the table and on tape, during a negotiations session that we are not blind to what is going on with the economy. We told the city please review your numbers as were ready to do our share. As the belief was the City’s numbers were incorrect.

OOPS we were right it seems.

The then mayor (Julio Robaina) stated there would be no cuts and no raises as the city had spent years preparing for times like this. There would be absolutely NO LAYOFFS. In fact, he traveled department to department spreading this news. Amazingly enough, within two weeks time, we had an imaginary 5 million dollar deficit. That number changed to 13 million then again to 23 million. The numbers were way off on a daily basis and changed as often as we all change our socks.
That same year we asked the City Council to conduct a forensic audit, which the city REFUSED – which means they had something to hide. Instead they forcefully and illegally imposed a contract on the general employees resulting in some employees facing pay cuts of up to 30%. Yes, I said 30%. Please keep in mind Hialeah is the lowest paid municipality in Miami-Dade County. The general employees reacted by pleading their case to the state of Florida and won, but the City refused again to return any money and held a new hearing. The City then re-imposed another contract calling for 17% pay cuts across the board. Again, the employees took the City to court and again the City lost. To date, the City has the case tied up in the appeals process, as to stall the inevitable repayment.

On May 18, 2010 Former Mayor Julio Robaina SWORE UNDER OATH that he did not impose these draconian cuts upon the employees and that the City faced a 5.8 to 6 million dollar shortfall that year. Low and behold, the CAFR (Certified Annual Financial Report) was released just before the Miami-Dade County election and revealed there was a 19 Million Dollar surplus. YES SURPLUS!!!!

Let's face the facts here………… We waged “WAR” against our former Mayor Julio Robaina, who was running for county mayor, as we knew that if elected he’d destroy the Miami-Dade County as he did with the City of Hialeah. Besides the ongoing investigations against him for mortgage fraud, Federal Tax Evasion, high interest loans with a Ponzi Schemers, and his deals with illegal MAQUINITAS (coin machines used to gamble) operators his past would clearly predict his future. Our City Council were merely puppets in his Political show, as they just nodded their heads as bobble head dolls do. No matter what he asked for he received, due to his political power and the obvious fact that with his support he could ensure them to remain in office.

Robaina and the council decided to build an unnecessary 166 Million Dollar Reverse Osmosis Water plant in the height of a depression and among firing over 200 employees. This all the while he was forcefully imposing some of the largest pay cuts in the United States Of America. Funny though that the builders of that water plant were some of his largest campaign contributors. Since, it seems I am at the heart of the investigation from ROBA-I-NADA, Regalado and now Carlos Hernandez the retribution and threats have been more directed to me in the way of threats, intimidation and coercion. Boy did those fools pick the wrong man… So sorry Charlie…. Life is not worth living unless it is under the flag we fly inside a democratic society where we have rights and freedoms guaranteed by the blood of millions of American men and women.

We the employees have been accused of driving up pension costs, as we are grouped with places that have no comparison to us. It is true that our pensions costs have risen, but please allow me to tell you why. For three years in a row Former Mayor Julio Robaina went to our retirement board and asked to draw money by lowering his pension contributions. Not one year, not two years, but THREE YEARS IN A ROW. He was warned that if he did this it would drive his pension contributions up for almost 15 years. He knew full well and now we suffer the consequences of what politicians have done to create this imaginary problem… DID YOU READ THAT???? The MAYOR and the Council caused the pensions to go up.. NOT THE EMPLOYEES…. It seems allot easier to just blame the employees rather than gather the facts.

Now, during the last few months we have gone again from a deficit to a surplus – depending on what day you ask. We have no confidence in the numbers the city presents. We are ready and willing to make necessary concessions as long as it is with a clear view in site.

I almost forgot.. When we asked for the audit we asked the City to join us and we would pay for it to the best of our ability and asked for a contribution from the City so that we may work hand in hand with the independent outsider. What we received was a Nickel taped to a letter from a Council member saying consider this our contribution.

Now we are facing the largest FIREFIGHTER workforce reduction in American history, in a town that does not sleep. Services have already been reduced and due to Imposed Cuts lives will change further as time goes by. We can only help if we are here. And, for the ladies and gentleman that intimated that we asked to raise taxes you definitely have the wrong group of men and women. We have never asked for that as we also are tax payers. We just want to figure out what happened to the 93 million extra dollars we collected and where it went.

Is the truth to much to ask for???

Is transparency so out of reach????

WE HAVE NOW BECOME THE TARGET FOR POLITICIANS IN OUR CITY BECAUSE OF OUR QUEST FOR TRUTH!!!

The only way to change this City is to start changing is politics. WE ASK THAT YOU REACH OUT to everyone and anyone you know inside our City and ask them to Vote for change.

DO NOT VOTE FOR CARLOS HERENANDEZ!!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ladra is battered by police chief

Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart have officially endorsed su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez at circus event at the Adult Community Center at Goodlet Park Wednesday.

And I guess both are okay with Hialeah Police Chief Abuser Mark Overton shoving me out of the comedor less than 30 seconds after I got there, at the behest of alcaldito's #1 do-boy Arnie Alonso, who su alcaldito repeatedly uses for his abuse of power. It was like I was in Cuba all over again and the state security was questioning me at the airport as I left with photographs of disidents who had denounced that government's abuse of power against them. This is the same thing: An elected official, su alcaldito, using his armed police force to intimidate, harass and silence an independent journalist. I understand that Robaina would allow it, nay, actually revel in the bliss it must be for him to see me harassed. But it is disgraceful that a sitting U.S. representative who says he defends human rights and freedom of the press would allow such abuse of power and censorship and intimidation of a political blogger to occur just steps from him. I guess it's okay if it's politically convenient for his preferred candidate. Huh, Mario?

Ladra couldn't capture what Robaina or Diaz Balart said at the press conference, where many TV news cameras captured their prepared speeches so we'll hear it together, dear readers, when it airs on the news tonight. Political Cortadito cameraman Raul "El Toro" Torres was also ejected -- this time by a police commander at the request, or order, of su alcaldito's chancletera secretary, Lissette Franco -- but, after other members of the media objected and started recording the incident, he was allowed to stay. We will see video of all that very shortly after he uploads it to our YouTube channel. I was able to get off  snap one photo (above) before Overton came over to me and grabbed me by my left arm, pushing me out of the room and telling me I had to leave. (Right). In the first of three blurry photos of Overton, his left hand is on my right arm, but it's not in the image. In the third photo, that's Alonso standing in the doorway. He was the one who motioned to Overton as soon as I walked in.

"This is a press conference. I got a press release," I told Overton in the hallway (and if there is no video of me being ejected, it is because I did not want to cause a scene). "You are not media and this is a city property. You have to leave," Overton said, and pushed me again, this time on my right forearm. Ladra tried to get some photos of the assault by the police chief, who should be stripped of his law enforcement badge, but was being manhandled at the time and could not get my digital camera on video or get a shot of the chief's hands on me. I've already contacted some media friends to see if they captured it, but Ladra is sure they were focused on Robaina's chubby cheeks as he yelled into the microphone pep-rally style about whatever it is that makes su alcaldito his candidate (read: he's the only one who won't bring out all the misdeeds and malfeasance Robaina inflicted on the city and its taxpayers).

I did ask two officers outside -- after I left when asked to leave -- to write a report about the chief shoving me and grabbing my arm twice (read: simple battery). They took down my information and went inside to get Overton's version of events. When Officer Nirio Nieves came back outside, he said "The problem is you are being issued a trespass warning." Say what? I left when I was asked to leave and now -- now that I am reporting the battery at the hands of the rogue police chief -- I am being issued a fourth illegal trespass warning outside in the parking lot? "So you can't return," Nieves told me.

This is ludicrous and Ladra will not stop barking about it. If what they want is to silence me, they got another thing coming. Whoever is giving you media advice, alcaldito, fire her or him. Because just like the mess at the IHOP -- when all you had to do was give me 2.5 minute soundbite about the event and how it was being paid for but, instead, imploded your campaign with insults and your arrogant mistreatment of me and balseros everywhere -- this is going to backfire on you. I will amend, again, my complaint with the state attorney's office and have already contacted the FDLE about it. I have also sent the two illegal trespass warnings I have already to the media with a denouncement of this police harassment and abuse of power. And I will now, again, call the ACLU and try to get legal representation. If I can sue you, I will. You cannot get away with this.

Whether you are elected or not on Tuesday through the theft and fraud of absentee ballots, you will not get away with this. I promise you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Casals, Garcia won't do what's right

The silence on the Hialeah mayoral race from former Sen. Rudy Garcia and Hialeah Councilwoman Vivian Casals-Muñoz is almost criminal -- and a sure sign of why they are not fit to be elected leaders of any community. Leaders lead by example, unafraid of the political consequences of doing what's right. They do not stay in the relative safety of the silent shadows.

What's right in this case is to throw their support behind former Mayor Raul Martinez. Not because he was a great mayor, which is arguable, or a great administrator, which is not. Not because he is squeaky clean, which is impossible to believe, or because he is a nice guy, which depends on the time and day. But because he is the least of two evils 24/7 and 365 days of the year. Because the alternative would be two more years of oppression, corruption, conflicts of interest and fraud under Su Alcaldito Carlos Hernandez. And that is what Casals-Muñoz and Garcia -- or anyone who claims to "I Love Hialeah" -- must try to stop.

Garcia -- who is not returning phone calls and threw me out of his family business, Atlas Carpets and Tile, Friday morning when I went to ask him about his plan to combat absentee ballot fraud (he has none, it was all more hot air) -- has said that he has not decided who to support. That, in and of itself, is disgraceful. Here is a guy who served for more than two decades in Tallahassee and wanted to be the mayor of the city, who wanted to lead the people and represent them. But he needs more time to decide if he should back a man who is raping the city, threatening employees, approving fraudulent budgets that call for a drastic and unnecessary reduction in firefighter paramedics, giving away millions in no-bid contracts to his friends and contributors of his campaigns and lying about everything, from the increase in water connection fees to his role in a loanshark operation where he was getting $5,400 a month in interest paid to him by a convicted ponzi schemer. The Senator kept saying he had to speak more to his wife, so maybe we should ask her who he is going to support since she seems to be the one who wears the pants in the family. At the Garcia campaign office Tuesday night, when I asked if he might cower in to the Republican party pressure to back su alcaldito, Zuly Garcia said, "Hernandez, no way!" So maybe there is hope. But don't expect Garcia to do the right thing and back Martinez. It's too politically inconvenient. And he's not a leader. He's a politician.

Casals-Muñoz, who won the first round Tuesday with more than 49 percent and thanked her opponent, former cop Danny Bolaños for running a clean race, won't do the right thing, either. At least she didn't do the completely wrong thing. Even though Hernandez has sought her for his run-off slate, Casals-Muñoz is staying independent. "I am going to stay by myself. I like who I am with and where I am," she told Ladra in a telephone interview Monday morning.

But it's not because she doesn't think Martinez is the right man for the job. She apparently does.

"I'm not going to support someone who is supporting someone against me," she told me, referring to Bolaños. When reminded that she might easily take the run-off even with Martinez supporting her opponent -- and that it would be an opportunity for her to show how much bigger she was than the political circus around her -- she scoffed. "He has a candidate against me. There's a protocol."

Really? Really? There's a protocol? You can't back Martinez, even though you know he is the best of the two options, because he won't abandon his slate mate and long-time family friend? Casals-Muñoz acknowledged that if Martinez did that, she would not support him anyhow. Of course not. And he won't. He is nothing if not loyal to those who are loyal to him. But why is protocol more important than the people of Hialeah? Ladra just doesn't get it. Shouldn't you represent the people who elected you and who are clammoring to elect you again?

"The people choose the candidate. And if Raul gets his message out loud and clear, he can get their votes," Casals-Muñoz said. "He's done a wonderful job of getting the message across."

Ladra can't help but wonder if it would be inconvenient for Casals-Muñoz to have Martinez, or Anyone But Carlos, in office on the fourth floor at City Hall. Martinez promises to open up all the no-bid contracts and contracts that look like they were quid pro quo for political favors. Who knows how much of that would involve Casals-Muñoz -- who notarized several questionable loans for former Mayor Julio Robaina and also loaned money herself to a condo-conversion king that got loans from Hernandez, Robaina and former Mayor Alex Penelas, in addition to others like Roberto and Mercedes Blanco. That certainly could be the perception among the voters.

But the silence is certainly inconvenient for voters and residents who are not being represented by these two. They are the ones who will lose much more than just an election if the silence is interpreted silence is that Garcia and the councilwoman are okay with Hernandez continuing with his corrupt, repressive and retrograde regime.