Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Truth is coming out

Copied from the New Times/Bob Norman May 1, 2008

Muddy Politics
A sure-fire technique to rile a city: Accuse people of anti-Semitism
By Bob Norman Published: May 1, 2008

Eisinger knows how to scare up some votes.

It's been reported in both the Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald unquestioningly as "anti-Semitic." The Broward Sheriff's Office agrees and has gone as far as using subpoena power to investigate what it says may be a hate crime.

What is it? A Hitler mustache and the words "Nazi bitch."

The offending material appeared on a political blog in Cooper City during the height of the election season in January. A post on the blog pictured Mayor Debbie Eisinger with a square of scribble on her upper lip and the epithet included.

This, of course, isn't anti-Semitic on its face (so to speak). Think about it: Whoever posted it was comparing Eisinger – who is known as a power-hungry politician in Cooper City – to the most reviled dictator of all time and certainly not in a favorable light. If anything, it's anti-Nazi.

Bloggers compare George W. Bush to Hitler quite a lot, and, while some might call it distasteful and wrong, I've never heard it called anti-Semitic. And I've certainly never heard of any instance where it was investigated as a potential crime.

Except in Broward County, where deputies took the extreme measure of sending subpoenas out to Google and AT&T to uncover the owner of the blog, which was called "Save Cooper City" and is now defunct. The blog's owner, according to deputies, is Commissioner John Sims, who is now the subject of a recall petition organized by the mayor and her political backers.

Their cry: "Anti-Semitism!" My cry: "Anti-Americanism!"

The pro-mayoral forces are led by former commissioner Elliot Kleiman and Eisinger's campaign manager, Lori Green. Also lurking in the background is big-time Broward lobbyist Judy Stern, a paid political consultant to Eisinger who is blamed, rightly or wrongly, for some of the more extreme tactics employed by Eisinger and Co.

And together they are trying to overturn a democratic election based on a spurious argument that Sims hates Jews. It's an emotional heart-tugger of an accusation that is sure to get pens to wagging on petition forms.
If you ever met Kleiman and Green, you would notice immediately that they seem to be perfectly nice and reasonable people. But the blood sport of politics has obviously gotten under their skins.

They are holding meetings to encourage people to hound Sims at City Hall until he gives up and resigns, and they are distributing all kinds of personal information about the commissioner in an attempt to disgrace him further.
"To save him the embarrassment of being recalled, he can resign," Kleiman told a group of citizens at a recall meeting last Tuesday. "And I think we should remind him of that at commission meetings."

This coming from a buttoned-down and bespectacled former professor whose main issue, prior to losing his election in March, was lowering the speed limit in Cooper City neighborhoods.

All indications are that he's become obsessed with destroying John Sims. And though Sims is certainly no saint and has likely brought a lot of this upon himself, no one deserves the underhanded beating he's being given.

In addition to leading the recall drive, Kleiman has a personal website ( that is all about Sims, all the time. Ironically, it's the only place in town where you can see the original post that compares the mayor to Hitler.
The recall group is also handing out information about a domestic battery charge filed against Sims back in 1991, when he was going through a tough divorce and was accused by his ex-wife of pushing her and trying to pull the wedding ring off her finger.
Involved in that case was a psychological evaluation that basically found Sims has some psychological problems, including a penchant toward narcissism and an inability to deal with stress but that he didn't seem violent by nature.
The court documents, by the way, are actually recycled news. Kleiman's son, Scott, himself a former commissioner, trotted them out during Sims' campaign last year, and it didn't keep the candidate from winning.
"I wasn't even aware my son was going to present that to the commission, believe it or not," says Elliot Kleiman of his son's rather low political tactic. "And I didn't want to distribute the stuff about his past. But [the recall committee] elected to do so."

The animosity between Sims and the members of the recall committee goes back to a CBS-4 report in 2006 that included undercover footage of Kleiman, Eisinger, and other Cooper City officials drinking prior to commission meetings. It was a sizable scandal that shamed Eisinger and may have led voters to oust Kleiman during the last election. Kleiman blames Sims as the source for the story, but both Sims and the reporter on the piece, Mike Kirsch, deny that.

Ed Wooley, a retired freight executive with an MBA from Harvard who lost his bid for election, says the real reason for the recall is simple: Eisinger wants to get rid of Sims so she can have the necessary four votes to decide who will be named city manager (longtime city manager Chris Farrell recently retired).
"I don't believe this is really about anti-Semitism at all — it's all a red herring," says Wooley, who has been active in Cooper City politics for the past decade. "And they've roped some people into believing it."

The mayor's campaign manager, Green, says it's about the reference to Hitler.
"This is above and beyond criticism, this is referencing an atrocity in international history under the Hitler regime," she says. "This is on the same level as a noose or a cross burning."

Green, who like Kleiman is Jewish, says the blog posting doesn't constitute a hate crime — yet. "Right now there is no legislation against Internet bullying or hate," she says. "But I absolutely think there should be."

Obviously the blog posting isn't a crime; it's free speech if ever there was such a thing. So why did the BSO investigate it? Well, that's where this case gets very interesting.

After the blog posting appeared on January 12, Green and the rest of the Eisinger camp were up in arms. Green says she didn't speak with deputies about it but that someone from the campaign might have. Bottom line: There was nothing that could be done about the Hitler mustache. Six days after the blog posting, a car owned by Green was vandalized in her driveway in the upscale and gated Embassy Lakes neighborhood. Apparently someone had scratched a swastika into it with a rock.

No one can ever remember such a thing ever happening in Embassy Lakes before. Green complained to deputies and told them about the "Nazi bitch" blog posting and gave them the Web address. She also told deputies that she and Eisinger had "political enemies" who might be responsible.
That's when Cooper City investigators turned to BSO's sex crimes unit, which is adept at obtaining IP addresses, and subpoenaed the information from Google and AT&T. It's similar to a political case in Deerfield Beach where another blog (Deerfield Beach Insider) was exposed by deputies after comments were posted that were critical of the city and deemed to be threatening. No arrest was made in that case, thankfully, and no arrest has been made in this one either.

The swastika also remains a mystery. Some, including Sims and Wooley, say it was either a kids' prank or that someone from Eisinger's camp did it to get sympathy votes for the election. Green emphatically denies that it was a campaign ploy, and there is certainly no evidence that it was one.

Sims, for his part, says he had nothing to do with the swastika or the blog, even though BSO claims it was started on his computer. He says he has lawyers working on a lawsuit that he intends to file against Eisinger and other members of her camp.

"Judy Stern and Debbie Eisinger are masters at this kind of thing," he says, adding that he thinks it's all payback for the CBS-4 piece. "I look at the people they are tied to in this campaign against me and it scares the hell out of me. The target on my back just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

"I'm going after these people. It's pretty serious what they have done here. We're talking about civil conspiracy, defamation, you name it, it's happened."

His last word on the subject: "I'm not going anywhere."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Anti-Simsitism Hits Cooper City

Copied from the New Times/ Bob Norman's Blog
Tue Apr 22, 2008 at 09:58:40 AM

The Sun-Sentinel's Elizabeth Baier reports this morning on the scheme to recall
Cooper City Commissioner John Sims and I think it stinks.
Most recall efforts are bunk. Unless they are truly based on crimes of corruption (that perhaps a certain state attorney might have ignored), I don't want to hear about them. Why? Because the people voted and a few politically motivated players with a clipboard and propaganda campaign shouldn't be allowed to undo democracy. The effort to recall Steve Gonot in Deerfield Beach, for instance, was a sham and a disgrace.
And so it is with this recall campaign in Cooper City. The grounds for recalling Sims are generally pathetic (failing to be prepared for meetings? you have to be kidding), but throwing in the charge of anti-Semitism should get the ol' kick-the-bastard-out-juices going, eh? And what is that based on? A blog that was registered to Sims that apparently depicted Cooper City Mayor Debbie Eisinger with an Adolph Hitler mustache.
First of all, that isn't anti-Semitic on its face. It is, however, American free speech. I don't think the alleged anti-Semitic comments that appeared on the blog have been published, so I'll withhold judgment on them until I see them.
It was a BSO subpoena that proved the blog was owned by Sims, who says somebody else put up the offensive stuff. BSO is saying that the blog postings constitute a hate crime, according to Baier. What utter nonsense. The fact that it's vile doesn't mean it's a crime. BSO threw the Bill of Rights out the window on this one, just as it did in Deerfield Beach when it subpoenaed Google to reveal the owner of another political blog (under the guise that it was part of a sex crimes investigation, no less). They are tying it into an incident where Mayor Debbie Eisinger's campaign manager's car was apparently vandalized with a Swastika. Now that looks like a hate crime -- but there's no evidence tying Sims to it. Why would a man running for commission (and with enough popular support to win) do such a thing? It makes no sense.
Look, the voters can decide what they think about John Sims. They don't need former commissioner Elliot Kleiman to tell them what to do. Voters already decided what to do with Kleiman -- they kicked him out of office. Now he wants to return through a back door. This isn't about anti-Semitism -- it's about anti-Simsitism. It's a move by the Eisinger-led old guard to regain power and put the dissident Sims out to the curb.
Let's hope the residents of Cooper City don't fall for it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sour Smell of Secrecy

A Palm Beach Post Editorial

Another misguided bill in Tallahassee seeks a major exemption from Florida's exemplary open-government laws.
Current law correctly lets elected officials meet privately to discuss tort litigation, such as a personal-injury claim, filed against a government. The proposed change would let local politicians and their attorneys meet in private to discuss lawsuits that haven't even been filed, an idea that would invite abuse.

Senate Bill 1510, sponsored by Minority Leader Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, would allow private meetings as soon as someone provided notification of an intent to file a tort claim. Now, a transcript of any closed-door litigation meeting becomes public once the litigation is concluded. Under Sen. Geller's proposal, what would happen if litigation is never filed? There's no trigger for releasing the record of closed-door meetings to discuss potential litigation.

"The bill really stinks in that there's no opportunity for public oversight," said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. "As currently drafted, the bill violates the standard, and we would first ask for a veto" by Gov. Crist, who last month praised the state's public-access rules, which collectively are known as the Sunshine Law. "If he failed to veto, which I sort of doubt, then we would certainly consider a constitutional challenge in court."

Not surprisingly, given Mayor Lois Frankel's efforts to control information, West Palm Beach supports the proposed exemption. But she's hardly alone. The Florida League of Cities also favors the exemption, which would give public officials new excuses to conduct the public's business in secret. This bill never should get out of the Legislature. If it does, surely the governor who says repeatedly that the people are the boss wouldn't make it harder for the bosses to know what their employees are doing.