Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Sandra Lopez" to be unmasked

Ladra has a message for whoever hid behind the name Sandra Lopez to send out an email to Miami Lakes residents last month bashing a local dentist who is leading an effort to recall Mayor Michael "Muscles" Pizzi: Come out, come out, where ever you are.

You are going to be outed anyway, so you may as well come out now and save some face.

Melissa Ayers, a spokeswoman for Constant Contact, called me back today about the lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court seeking damages for defamation in an email blast they sent March 8. But even though David Bennett, president of the Concerned Citizens for Better Government PAC formed to recall Pizzi, sued the company, what he really believes is that Pizzi was somehow behind the email.

Ladra isn't so sure. I mean, he's an attorney first. He must know that the records can be retrieved via subpoena. And Constant Contact does not fight subpoenas, Ayers told me, so it's just a matter of time before everything is revealed.

I am willing to bet Sandra is a pseudonym for Miami Voice PAC Chair Vanessa Brito, who we suspect also hides behind the pages of actual sitting elected officials whose facebook accounts she administers or manages (ala "Vanessa Brito!" is who won in the Coral Gables elections and also who someone wants for mayor. "Vanessa Brito!" The elected has denied making those posts to someone else. He still has not called me back, but I will post it anyway. More on that later).

The email in question was sent after Bennett registered Miami Voice, Inc., under his name in Florida's Division of Corporations (Brito had not secured it and only registered at the county. Why?). "Sandra Lopez" called what Bennett did fraud and questioned his motives, alleging he was going to use the "good name" of the fraudulent PAC (sue me for defamation, I dare you) to raise funds. Of course, "Sandra Lopez" took the opportunity to campaign for the recall of commissioner Natacha Seijas in this email, which by the way had no political advertisement disclaimer. I mean, if it is not a PAC plant, who or where is this suddenly very vocal and active Miami Lakes resident "Sandra Lopez," who still has not returned two emails sent from me to her at, and why is she so outraged on behalf of Miami Vice? She goes so far as to say that "No greater fraud of deceit has been perpetrated than Dr. Bennett creating an organization named Miami Voice." That is very extreme, no?, if she is not a board member. She has not been quoted or seen at any Miami Vice rallies or court appearances. Ah, maybe she is just a Pizzi fan. "Sandra Lopez" did two days earlier send another Constant Contact email -- with more misspellings -- that praised Pizzi for serving as pro-bono attorney for Miami Vice against a lawsuit from Seijas' supporters that challenged hundreds of questionable petitions. Maybe this is the bono in pro-bono.

"I am a resident of Miami Lakes and Miami-Dade County. I want to congratulate Mayor Michael Pizzi for being the only mayor in Miami-Dade to have the courage to publicly support the voters in their quest to recall Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas.

"This past September, Mayor Pizzi appeared before the County commission and urged them not to raise taxes and he set an example by lowering taxes in his own city. In fact, Pizzi was the first mayor to sign Mr. Braman's recall peition and staged a rally in Miami Lakes to protest agaisnt raising taxes.

"Michale Pizzi then foguht in court pro-bono to make sure that voters have the right to vote in the recall election. Finally, in March, Mayor Pizzi completed his fight for the people when he cast his "YES" vote on the recall of both Seijas and Alvarez."

This email included a photo of Pizzi at a pro-recall rally with "hundreds of residents" before casting his vote. But the photo expired from the Constant Contact system and Ladra could not see if they were truly residents or Miami Vice's paid sign-holders. And that email, as well as any other email sent by "Sandra Lopez" or the client who paid for it under different names, will be part of what Bennett's attorney, Stephen Cody, will demand in court. He also wants every single email that it went to and suspects the email addresses were provided by Pizzi, or someone at the city at Pizzi's request. Ladra says they were provided by Miami Voice, who already had gotten them from Pizzi. It doesn't matter, what is left of their credibility will be tarnished unless, and I can hold a tiny little shadow of a doubt better than anyone, "Sandra Lopez" comes forward.

Ladra can't wait for this to play out in court. Cody is going to ask for two years worth of the "Sandra Lopez" client's email records and we suspect other political campaigns might be, shall we say, embarrassed. by some of the things he may find.

Ayers, the Constant Contact spokeswoman, said this type of defamation claim on emails "comes up all the time" and that the company is not liable. "We don't control the content and our policy is very clear. The content is the responsibility of the client." She confirmed Cody's report that they had talked to the client. "We do reach out to the customer, we tell them a concern has been raised and make sure they are notified that they can't do that. The person who sent this email has been contacted and that person said they would not do it again."

Okay, but since we don't think that person is really honest, you can't just believe it, Melissa. And since it is being used as a manipulative tool to malign someone for political benefit, with none of the regulatory checks in place like campaign finance reporting or political disclaimers, you need to do more, Melissa. Or we are going to see more of these pseudonymous bashing email blasts.

Cody suggests a screening filter for words like "fraud" or "criminal" and maybe "rapist" -- let me add "pedophile" -- to a spam filter so someone can review them if they are flagged. It should not be so difficult. And it might save you the cost of going to court when it "comes up all the time."

Because, trust me, if changes aren't made, it will come up again from another "Sandra Lopez."

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