One of the candidates in the Hialeah elections may be in the race or may have switched his group at the last minute to get favorable treatment for his business from the city and alcaldito Carlos Hernandez.
Tony "Phony" Vega, the owner of a gun shop cited for building an illegal gun range last year, told a firefighter in July through a facebook message that Hernandez had offered to help him get his permits. "Yo Bud. I met with the Hernandez camp. They are gasping for support and offering sweet deals," Vega wrote to Eric Johnson, an 10-year veteran of the department and vice president of the firefighters union. "My range is getting fast tracked as a result."
Let Ladra say that again: "My range is getting fast tracked as a result."
This week, Vega said it was a dirty trick.
"With the ease in which you can do that with a network that is so open like facebook, it must have been someone hijacking my account," Phony Tony tells Ladra in this video by my news partner, freelance cameraman Raul Torres. "It's not unlike Hialeah politics. It's a dirty trick," Vega said. "I'm telling you whole heartedly right now it is not me, they are not my messages...it doesn't come from me... Here's what you got here. You got fabricated messages with a picture that is publicly available on facebook."
Well, I told him, when the State Attorney investigates, they can do a forensic audit of Eric's hard drive and establish the legitimacy of these messages. "I will cooperate with any investigation."
See the interview yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdK4qA3oLNQ
Ladra's heart is warmed by that. Because the message thread is already in the hands of Assistant State Attorney Johnnie Hardimon, who met with Johnson and Ladra Thursday to go over the apparent bribe and the permit history on Miami Guns, which had every inspection denied on August 24 and started getting approvals the second week in September after he was allegedly walked through the process by one of the mayor's lackies. Hardimon took the allegation seriously -- and a full page of notes.
We went to the state attorney's public corruption unit because this sounds a lot like the promise that former mayor Julio Robaina, the alcaldito's mentor/master, made to Luther Campbell when he vowed to hire a campaign aide for Campbell's endorsement. What would the deal be this time? Support for the mayor's candidacy? Or was it to switch from Group 1, where Hernandez already had a slate mate in Lourdes Lozano, to Group 3, where he had nobody to run against incumbent Councilwoman Vivian Casals-Muñoz and former cop Danny Bolaños?
Both Vega, who told Ladra he switched because Group 1 was a and Hernandez deny being on the same slate, though their platforms sound exactly alike and Vega's signs were posted on Hernandez's poles all over town the first week he had them. He has since taken them off, after this blogger noted it in an earlier post, and el alcaldito has supposedly complained to City Clerk David Concepcion about it. But in the facebook message thread, on August 29, he said that Robert Blanco, who was implicated in shadow banking loans and a ponzi scheme with Robaina and Hernandez, would be supporting him as well.
"Ok, Eric. Here is the deal with me. I went to school with Robert Blanco, it just so happens that he is in the heart of the storm in Hialeah," wrote Tony Phony. "He is a big fundraiser for the political machine here. He's raising money for Carlos and soon for me as well. I am keeping an arm's length from everybody for obvious reasons but I need the political machine to get elected."
On Sept. 8, he wrote: "Carlos people were feeling me out but I have no deal with them. I think seat 1 would be the easy choice." Later the same day, which was one day before the qualifying deadline, he said he was switching. "Yo Big Dog, I'm going to try to unseat Vivian group 3. I can do this. Don't get ruffled by my alliances. Tony Vega is still the same. I gotta get in there to be able to help."
But Johnson says he is not the same and he and other firefighters are appalled at the apparent about-face. Vega had told Johnson in the private message thread that he would help them get transparency and a fair contract because he understood their anger and frustration. "I told him [Hernandez] he should take the offer of the forensic auditor you guys extended and lay the cards on the table. I'm allergic to bullshit and double dealing. I told him that lack of action with regards to the fire deal showed him as incapable of solving city problems." But he apparently abandoned that attitude when he qualified. He told Ladra on the day he qualified the union leaders were being unreasonable. "There's a big push to satisfy the unions who don't want to take any steps down," Vega said right after he qualified. "They want what's best for their members, but not what the city needs."
He has also lauded the alcaldito's efficiency law, making illegal rooms legal for a fee.
For his part, Hernandez denied any connection to Vega. "I don't know Tony Vega," he said when Ladra asked him about it on Thursday at the IHOP lunch campaign event where both he and Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez had a meltdown. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0ogy70eAnw
Vega's nickname was almost "Wasn't Me" because he continues to deny, deny, deny. He also denied writing a post by MiamiGunRange on a forum in the Florida Shooter's Network website under the title line "Help Hialeah Closing me Down and banning gun shops" in April of last year. "It wasn't me," he said. Even though his Miami Guns shop was cited with a violation for building without a permit. "It wasn't me," he said, even though the post asks his "fellow shooters" to support him at his hearing April 27.
Later, the MiamiGunRange writer posts a comment on his own post: "Folks it's a really bad empty feeling when your elected officials turn their noses at you. I have spent the last 2 days at city hall and the reception has been very mild. Luckily I made a few donations during election season and those guys were more receptive." Really? Do we have to worry about him being "receptive" to campaign contributors to his campaign.
And why is he even running for office after he wrote on that forum "I plan on moving a mile or two up and be free of the political septic pool we call Hialeah."
Oh, that's right. It wasn't him.