Here's a fine example of how the Miami Voice PAC, who used the property tax increase to sway voters to recall a veteran county commissioner and mayor, use taxpayer dollars: making false police calls, tying up patrol officers for kicks.
Ladra finally got the Miami-Dade Police incident report from the dispatch call to the Miami Lakes library last month on an early voting Saturday. Oh, didn't we mention that PAC Chair Vanessa Brito had called the police on us? It's a bit of a disappointment, however, that we are not actually named in the report (which might have made this actionable, gosh darn it!). But we know it's Ladra.
Brito told me that March 3 morning -- no, warned me is better -- after refusing to answer why she still had not filed financial disclosures that were more than a week late. She yelled something and then said she was "calling the police" and whipped out a cell phone. Wonder if she dialed 911. (And if I can get that tape.)
From the "offense-incident report," obtained through the police department via a public records request: "This unit responded to the listed location reference a complainant, "Vanesa" [sic], saying that a white female reporter was harassing voters. Upon arrival, complainant was GOA [gone on arrival]. All appeared to be under control. No one was breaching the peace."
That's cop speak for false call, basically. And at least 30 wasted minutes for at least two officers, S. Walker and the officer who wrote the report, Officer R. Viera. The call was made at 9:59 a.m. according to the report and dispatched as a "dispute" at 10:04. Officers arrived at 10:12 and cleared the scene at 10:42. (I wanted to post the pdf of the report, but couldn't here. Contact me if you want it and I will forward it to you.) The "vic" was named only as "Vanesa," but Ladra did not recognize the phone number as the PAC contact number. So I dialed. Miami Vice Head of Insecurity Ivette Lisa Taylor answered the phone and said that the organization stands by the report. I asked how many other times PACkers had called police during the recall election. Taylor's first answer: "That is information that you don't need to know." When I started reading back her quote from my notebook as I wrote it down, she balked and said Ladra put words in her mouth. (Really? Those words are the best words Ladra can think of to put in your mouth? 'That is information that you don't need to know.'? Am I a Russian spy?). Anyway, I said, okay, let me ask again. Her second answer was: "That's none of your business." I didn't put those words in her mouth either. Because, basically, she said the same thing twice (albeit the former was more poetic).
Brito offered far more creative and cryptic answers, as usual. "I have not been in the presence of any police report being written," she said, and now that I read it again and type it here, this sounds like maybe it was intentional, rehearsed, like maybe her attorney (and he was present) suggested it. "Don't be here when the cops come." Makes sense. Anyway, when I asked if she or any PACkers called police at any other voting sites during the heavy campaign for the recall in district 13, she specifically said she herself had not. "I don't know if anybody else called the police." Ah, and now perhaps that is why it was Taylor's phone number on the report: Unaccountability. She did say that "yes, several complaints were made" at voting sites during the November elections, when the PAC was still collecting signatures. (Ladra has requested public records on calls made to the voting precincts during the more recent election cycle, as well as the tape and transcript from this March 3 call. We will follow up with any findings.)
Ladra wasn't there at those "incidents" last year, but she is sure I am the "white, female reporter" that "Vanesa" called police on in this report. We had gone to the public library parking lot because Brito would not answer phone calls to ask about the lateness of the financial disclosure, which lists contributions and costs made by the PAC in their campaign to recall former commissioner Natacha Seijas (whose name is spelled wrong in their placards. So they can't do math and they can't spell either?). Not that it's needed (her credibility being what it is, even among those who continue to support her), but I know there are several witnesses, including a police major volunteering to hold an anti-recall campaign sign (with correct spelling), who will tell anybody that I was the one being harassed and heckled by the Vanessicans, including Miami Lakes Mayor Muscles Pizzi. Maybe we should also take an account from Police Officer S. Walker, who is not mentioned in the report but also responded to the call and spoke with me in front of electrical union guys supporting Seijas (I'm an equal opportunity "harasser" I guess). She said someone "over there" [points to the parking lot area where PACkers were] told her I was the one she wanted to talk to. Probably another PACker since "Vanesa" was GOA. Walker asked me what was going on and, identifying myself, I told her why I was there and that she would likely want to speak to a woman "over there" [now I point] named Vanessa Brito who told me she was calling the police because she did not want me there asking uncomfortable questions... oh, wait a minute... could that be why the complainant on the report is only known as "Vanesa"? Because none among the PAC would go on with her criminal false call? I never talked to Walker again, but there were two patrol cars parked next to PACkers area for, apparently, about half an hour. And none of the PAC people had the gumption to speak on behalf of their leader and back up the police call by providing information? I wish I had known. I would have been happy to provide them with the details. I was there for at least an hour after the officers left.
Now, why is this important? What I want to know -- and I bet Brito will say this is more "harassment" -- is how much that call to police cost. And what about the cost of the time that a supervisory officer by the name Pichardo reviewed it and closed it, marking the reason "exceptional." Yes, exceptional, indeed. Exceptionally false. And are there any more such police calls costing how much? And what is the penalty for making a false police call and filing a false report? If I read the state law correctly, it could be a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. According to Florida Statute 817.49, "whoever willfully imparts, conveys or causes to be imparted or conveyed to any law enforcement officer false information or reports concerning the alleged commission of any crime... knowing such information or report to be false, in that no such crime had actually been committed," could be charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree. This means you don't have to be there to see the report being written, "Vanesa". You just have to call to report a crime that you know is not actually being committed. Like, you did March 3.
Maybe there is indeed a crime that needs to be reported now, after all. But Ladra's instinct is to blow it off or wear it proudly as a badge. Unless, of course, the records I requested come back and show more calls to police made from complainants who disappeared from voting precincts from phones that are linked back to the PAC. That might be something Ladra forwards to the state attorney's office.
Or at least writes far too much about in a future post.