Thug Meets Pug

Busy entrepreneur Fane Lozman just wanted to relax, but a North Bay Village big shot named Al Coletta had other ideas

By now Lozman believed he had enough information to go to the authorities. Toward the end of April he met with Joe Centorino, head of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's public corruption unit. Recalls Lozman: "He was ecstatic with the information I brought forward. He told me with what I gave him, he had enough to indict Dugger. He said they could conclude their investigation in three months." (Centorino would not comment on the progress of his investigation.)

Buoyed by the possibility of seeing Dugger and Coletta in handcuffs, Lozman began to appear at city commission meetings to inflict collateral damage. At the May 13 commission meeting he publicly accused Dugger of not disclosing to fellow commissioners the existence of a 1979 memo from the city clerk's office, which addressed the refusal to issue a building permit to convert the penthouse apartment to a nightclub. The document had not been brought up during previous commission discussions, but Lozman contended Dugger must have known about it because he had access to the building's files as the property manager. "Dugger has tried to backdoor this zoning change for his soul mate Coletta, a matter that should get him fired as manager of the Bayshore property and censured by his fellow commissioners for trying to pull a fast one on them," Lozman boomed from the speaker's podium in the commission chambers.

"Do I really have to sit here," an angry Dugger pleaded to Mayor Alan Dorne, "and listen to these personal attacks?"

Steve Satterwhite

"Excuse me, I'm talking here," Lozman fired back.

The commission voted that night to table indefinitely Coletta's zoning request, despite threats by his attorney that Coletta was ready to sue. The next day Coletta did just that, bringing suit against the city under the state Bert J. Harris Act, which allows property owners who claim to be excessively burdened by zoning laws to sue municipalities over lost profits.

At the next public meeting, June 10, during a presentation before the commission, Lozman encouraged audience members in attendance to "keep the dirt" coming to his Website. "Dumpdugger.com has produced a wealth of information," he gleefully told them. "If Coletta hasn't killed me by the next commission meeting, I'll share some of that information with you at that time."

Meanwhile another North Bay Village commissioner was feeling some heat. Just nine days after Lozman's keep-the-dirt-coming rant, Commissioner David Murray Fleischer, who had received campaign support from Dugger and Coletta, was arrested and charged with bribery and "corruption by threat of a public servant," both third-degree felonies. Fleischer, a first-time candidate who was elected in November along with Dugger, was accused by the State Attorney's Office of demanding special treatment from city employees based on his position as an elected official. Prior to the arrest, Lozman says, Fleischer had warned him, in what he took as a threat, to stay away from Coletta. "He told me Coletta was a dangerous guy and that I'd better watch myself," Lozman recalls. Fleischer, who has since been suspended from office by Gov. Jeb Bush, did not return phone calls seeking comment. The case against him is pending.

At the July 31 commission meeting, Lozman was again present, distributing to commissioners and audience members copies of Coletta's alleged FBI rap sheet with a cover page titled "Portrait of a Pimp." Below the title, a sentence read: "Why is Dugger pushing the Pimp's penthouse nightclub agenda?"

"What a great evening this is tonight," Lozman began as he stepped up to the public podium. "One commissioner charged with felony corruption and bribery, arrested and relieved of his duty -- one to go. Dugger, you will be joining your comrade-in-corruption, Fleischer, in the near future."

"Mr. Lozman," Dugger interrupted icily, "it's time for you to leave." He motioned for two police officers to remove Lozman from the meeting. As he was hauled out, Lozman launched a parting salvo: "Dugger's and his soul mate Al Coletta's days of intimidation and fear on the politics and citizens of this city are over!"

Following the expulsion, Commissioner Dugger took a moment to address the crowd. He would recuse himself from future discussion or action on Coletta's zoning request or his lawsuit against the city, he announced, and he explained that he'd conferred with the city attorney shortly after the November election and was told he had no conflicts of interest. He'd also sought counsel, via a July letter, from the Miami-Dade County ethics commission, which concurred with the city attorney but with the caveat that a perception of conflict existed. "For this reason I am going to abstain from voting on this issue," he declared in a solemn voice. "Please stop harassing me, my wife, my children, and my friends."

But Dugger didn't tell the ethics commission the whole story. In fact he failed to explain in his letter to Robert Meyers, the commission's executive director, that Coletta had actually bailed out the Duggers when their investment properties and residence were about to fall into foreclosure. He also failed to mention that his friend helped arrange for his company to manage the Bayshore condominium. "Our opinion that Mr. Dugger didn't have a conflict was based on the information he provided," Meyers says now, declining to comment on whether the commission would have ruled differently had it known of Dugger's true relationship with Coletta.

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