Grudge Match

Feuding Miami Beach tennis instructors Richard Johnston and Howard Kaufman need to find a new racket, before there's another arrest

Gelber: "Howard, you're going to have to finish your statement."
His voice suddenly booming, Kaufman rips a sheet of paper from his notebook and raises it in the air. "Somebody offered somebody $300 to write a nasty letter about me. I notified every member of this commission because I sent a copy of my letter to the administration about it. Nobody ever investigated that deplorable, disgusting act. I think it's indicative of a conspiracy within the city to get me out of that park. This letter was written by an employee of the administration. Now if that's the way you want me to finish --"

Gelber: "Thank you sir, and good day."
Kaufman: "And I would further request that an investigation be made of this deplorable act. I don't know whether or not this is a violation of the law --"

Gelber: "Would you please step back now and allow us to continue the meeting?"

Kaufman: "And I'm very disappointed in you and in all the members of this committee."

Gelber: "Thank you, sir. Good day."

Though not every day, as before his arrest, Kaufman continues to teach kids tennis without paying for the court. One day last week, after he was asked to leave the court by a tennis attendant, Kaufman claims Johnston began taking photographs -- "evidence" -- of him playing.

"They got me where they want me," Kaufman says. "They've curtailed my activity and they're harassing me as much as they can. They're restricting the kids' right to use the phone again. We're back to square one already."

Kaufman shows no sign of giving up or going away. And Smith, who in late December said he had drafted a letter to Kaufman that would unequivocally revoke his volunteer status, now says that he is "rewriting" the letter. He says he's in a squeeze between the public's perception of Kaufman as the jolly-good volunteer and the hardball reality that he is the greatest nuisance the recreation department has ever encountered.

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