Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gables candidate's past rears up

Coral Gables commission candidate Brad Rosenblatt, president of the downtown Business Improvement District, has made business experience a staple of his platform and is the only one of six wannabes for Wayne “Chip” Withers seat to support a $16-million Miracle Mile makeover.

He’s also the only one once charged with embezzling $88,000.

That was in the fall of 2000, and records about his Miami Beach arrest, the lawsuits that followed and his 2002 bankruptcy were distributed to the media this past week by either his opponents or their supporters.

“False accusations,” says Rosenblatt, who promised to provide Ladra Thursday afternoon with other paperwork – like the recant from the main witness – that were conveniently not in the inch-thick package the media got.

“There was no wrongdoing,” Rosenblatt said, adding that it was a setup and that his mistake was to trust too much. He said he was 22 or 23 (he was 25) and naïve and he was misled and he didn’t know what he was doing. But he also said it made him a better businessman and makes him a better candidate for the commission.

“It made me more aware,” Rosenblatt told Ladra in a late telephone call Wednesday. “I regret the fact that it happened, but it made me a better person today. It’s made me more pay attention and made me more fiscally responsible.” (Of course, he couldn’t be less fiscally responsible).

Rosenblatt said he did not see this coming, which would make me think twice about voting for him much more than a 10-year-old charge that could be explained as a he said/she said thing and twisted by the right spin doctor to mean that Rosenblatt will, better than any other candidate, be able to spot thievery and fraud. Because, really. Come on. If you don’t know this kind of thing is going to come up, then you have no business running for office.

“It was a surprise to me. I thought that was 10 years behind me,” Rosenblatt told Ladra. “And I’m disappointed to hear that certain city commissioners have gone out of their way to distribute false accusations against me.”

That’s right. He blames one of the electeds already there is trying to block him from grabbing a neighboring seat on the dais. Through the elimination process of his fans (Anderson, the mayor and Chip Withers, who basically does whatever Anderson and the Mayor do), we came to a shortlist: Vice Mayor Billy Kerdyk and Commissioner Ralph Cabrera.

“Kerdyk would never do something like this,” Rosenblatt said.

Cabrera, who could not be reached for comment, is said to be discreetly supporting Sanabria.

Ladra got the package, too, but was suspicious of its origins, and with good reason. Adjudication was withheld and Rosenblatt, who pled not guilty and filed a lawsuit after he was arrested for breach of contract, had the record expunged. So, Ladra wants to know how does someone get an expunged record and isn’t that illegal to get and distribute? Did the person who wanted everyone to know that Rosenblatt was accused of a crime 11 years ago, commit a crime the other day to do it? Ladra whined and pleaded with me to post this, but I thought she wanted bacon. Now that Channel 10 aired it last night and we know Miami Herald’s Tania Valdemoro is working on a story, we can add a little context, as we often like to do.

This is classic smear campaign and even a dog like Ladra knows some people still hire muckrakers to dig up dirt – real and make believe – on the other candidates rather than focus on their own strengths and issues. We can see them jumping for joy when they found this Sept. 29, 2000 arrest report that says he transferred a total of $88,008.92 from the account of R & O Media, where he was president.

The company had formed that January by Rosenblatt and Richard Olsen, who may have been mayor once of Bay Harbor Islands, to publish and distribute Channels International Magazine. So that would mean Rosenblatt was skimming almost $10,000 a month. Since there was no money for bills, Rosenblatt – who is president of Rene Ruiz Inc. -- also wrote more than 120 rubber checks, little more than a dozen a month. He said on the Just News segment by Todd Tongen that he signed blank checks over to his partner because that’s what he was asked to do.

But while there is no criminal record in the Miami-Dade system, Rosenblatt apparently did agree to some kind of restitution or settlement: R & O Media, Christopher and Richard Olsen and Channels International Magazine were all on a list of creditors whose debts were discharged in his 2002 bankruptcy. The Chapter 7 also erased away $133,300 owed to American Express, $118,125 to a relative of the Olsen’s named John E. Downey (Rosenblatt lost that lawsuit the year before), $19,719 in what look like school loans, $9,760 to Bank of America and $1,160 to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, among others debts.

Olsen was interviewed by Tongen and said that Rosenblatt ended up paying about $20,000 in restitution. He said the candidate was deceiving people and called him “a thief” who “hasn’t changed his colors.” It’s not like they’re buds who hang out now, so I figure that last part he was just guessin’.And, apparently, the people who do know Rosenblatt now are standing by their man. Former Mayor Dorothy Thomson and Commissioner Maria Anderson, who has been the city’s liaison to the BID, both said they would continue to give Rosenblatt their support. Irela Bague, who helped him launch his campaign, told Ladra Wednesday that she would still vote for him on April 12.

“That kind of negative campaigning really doesn’t do very well in Coral Gables,” Bague said.

And she is right at least by recent memory. Gonzalo Sanabria tried to embroil Anderson two years ago in some scandals and tie her to business contracts awarded by the BID to her husband’s business partner. In the end, the negativity was what probably cost him the election. That and his voting record of 0.

I’m sure that is no longer true. He voted for himself at least once by now.

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