As a longtime muckraking blogger covering North Miami and North Miami Beach, Stephanie Kienzle, who runs the site VotersOpinion.com, takes her role as local government watchdog seriously. She values her public voice. But when she posted an unflattering blog about the North Miami police chief nearly two months ago, Kienzle says, the chief began harassing her through various intermediaries in an attempt to tamp down her content.
"What he's doing is just trying to [use] people -- anybody -- to get to me," Kienzle says. "How old is this guy?"
Through a spokesman, North Miami Police Chief Leonard Burgess declined to address Kienzle's claims with New Times.
Kienzle has a long history of calling out local public officials, including Burgess. But her post on January 22 was relatively benign: A local radio host, she wrote, had criticized the chief for retaining an allegedly bad cop on the force.
The next afternoon, though, Kienzle says she received a phone call from an old acquaintance who brought up the previous day's post and told her she didn't know the whole story; when the caller repeatedly defended the police officer in question, Kienzle deduced that the acquaintance was actually calling on behalf of the chief.
"I know you're good friends with him," she told the caller. "And I don't appreciate him using you to get to me."
The caller denied he was acting on behalf of the chief, but several days later Kienzle was called again, by somebody inside the police department, who said the chief had asked him to call her; a few days after that, Kienzle got a voicemail: A friend of hers who used to work in the department said "she was talking to the chief, and he wants to have a sit down with you," Kienzle says.
The blogger was perturbed. "I'm like, 'I don't want to be friends with this guy,'" she said. "If he wants an interview with me, let him have his secretary call and set up an interview."
Kienzle has continued blogging -- requesting public records about the officer and posting on her site, including more sharply criticizing Burgess. (One post, on February 11: "OMG! This Chief!")
Following the phone calls, she says, someone else recruited by the chief tried to publish a lengthy, inaccurate rebuttal in the comments section of her blog, which Kienzle didn't allow. (She then wrote back to the commenter explaining why, because the entire comment was a transparent attempt to discredit her, she says.)
Kienzle maintains she would be happy to meet with the chief; in the meantime, she says, she won't be stopped from criticizing Burgess and what she sees as his blatant unprofessionalism.
"Nothing intimidates me," she said. "But he's trying."