Letters to the Editor
Demetrio's Ethical Challenge
Didn't that law-school honor code mean anything? As a student at the University of Miami School of Law, I have followed with great interest the tale of young Demetrio Perez's candidacy for the Miami-Dade County school board. Since moving to Miami in 1994, I have been repeatedly disgusted by the state of local politics. It was therefore no surprise to me when I began reading about this year's candidates' transgressions. It came as a shock, though, when I realized that a fellow UM law student, sworn to abide by an honor code (which provides sanctions for, among other things, "engaging in conduct which casts serious doubt on the student's honesty, integrity, or fitness to be an attorney...."), has been involved in an unethical and dishonest campaign.
Most disgraceful was Perez's apparently smug attitude when Rebecca Wakefield questioned him about his indiscretions ("Down but Probably Not Out," November 30). What he fails to understand -- and what is too often ignored in the legal and political communities -- is that people are not judging the legality of his actions but rather his questionable character. By continuing to argue that his misrepresentations did not violate the letter of the elections law (and that he simply "should have read the map more carefully"), Perez misses the point that, as an applicant to the Florida Bar, he will be expected to have adhered to a much higher ethical standard.
I appreciate New Times's coverage of Perez's saga and look forward to the day he is shamed into apologizing to the communities he has chosen to represent.
D. Porpoise Evans
I Do Hereby Advocate Free Speech
Just not insulting free speech: I am writing in response to Lee Klein's review of The House restaurant (my client) in the November 30 issue of New Times ("Mickey House").
I have been a fan of New Times since I moved to Miami more than five years ago. It has always presented opinions that are well formed and refreshing. Over the years I have had many clients reviewed or written about, some positive and some negative. As an advocate of free speech, I am completely open and accepting of everyone's right to an opinion, good or bad. But I do not believe in moving beyond constructive criticism to a point of insult.
Had Mr. Klein conversed with us about The House at any point before he submitted his review, he would have learned that chef Maria Rossi was let go on November 17. The management of the restaurant was not pleased with the cuisine she was creating and moved quickly to resolve the situation. We did not send out a release announcing the change, as we were waiting to announce it with the invitation for a media-only dinner.
In fact we had begun plans this past Monday, November 27, for our media-only dinner to launch the restaurant and introduce the new chef, Alex Cherond. To this end the restaurant is closed until December 5, so that chef Cherond can put his menu in place before we introduce it to the media and the public.
When I learned of the review, which I was confident would not be positive based on chef Rossi's cuisine, I spoke with New Times associate editor Anne Tschida about it and told her of the change in staff. I was not calling Anne to try to change the review or request that it be dropped. I was well aware that the deadline was past and that of course this would be an inappropriate request. My goal was -- and is -- to alert the paper of the staff change and to ascertain what kind of damage control would be necessary.
The tone of Mr. Klein's review certainly is damaging and will be a hurdle for the restaurant to overcome as it moves forward. Many of his comments were, in the opinion of my client, unnecessarily biting. To mention a few: "Mickey House," "stupefyingly insipid," "lull you to sleep from the sheer boredom of its offerings."
It is our desire that the restaurant receive a second chance for a review with the new chef.
Bernie Diaz, Director of Miscommunication
It'd be funny if it weren't so dangerous: As the founder and director of DanceSafe, I feel compelled to respond to Bernie Diaz's letter in the November 23 edition of New Times, in which he demonstrates exactly why zero-tolerance policies jeopardize lives and increase drug-related harm.
As director of communications for the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community, Mr. Diaz retracts his statement that MDA is in Robitussin cough syrup by claiming that he actually said, "MDMA ... was present in Robitussin via its derivative chemical compound, DXM." DXM is not a derivative of MDMA, and promoting this misinformation may incline young people to start downing bottles of Robitussin in the hopes of achieving the mood-elevating effects of MDMA.
We at DanceSafe were the ones who first found out about the prevalence of DXM on the Ecstasy market a little over a year ago, and we warned the public about it through our Website at www.dancesafe.org. Mr. Diaz knows about DXM only because of our harm-reduction efforts. Too bad he doesn't respect harm reduction enough to actually understand what DXM is and why teenagers are being unwittingly exposed to it.
DXM is an adulterant being passed off as Ecstasy (MDMA), not something people are choosing to take themselves. Scam dealers are trying to cash in on the pleasant effects of Ecstasy (MDMA) by selling dissociative anesthetics like DXM and Ketamine (not to mention deadly poisons like PMA) to unsuspecting teenagers, telling them it is "Ecstasy." Zero-tolerance policies like Florida's new anti-Ecstasy laws only further encourage more dangerous adulterants to be passed of as Ecstasy to unsuspecting teens.
While no drug use is 100-percent safe (even legal drugs), it is a pipe dream to think we will ever eradicate recreational drug use from our communities. If Mr. Diaz would shed some of his ideology, we might be able to work together to actually reduce drug-related harm and save some teenagers' lives.
Emanuel Sferios, executive director
When It Comes to Our State Attorney, I Beg to Differ
You would too if you'd had the delightful experience of being indicted: While I agree with letter-writer H. Scott Fingerhut (November 23) that Alberto Milian was not well suited for the position of State Attorney in Miami-Dade County, I wish to challenge his claim that Katherine Fernandez Rundle is, in his words, "the servant of the law,' the one who ensures these uniquely democratic philosophies: to fairly prosecute guilty people and ensure that the innocent are exonerated." Anyone who watched the two of them debate before the election could clearly see that the choice was between a fanatic and a very smooth politician, neither of whom could be classified as "a servant of the law." One appears to be a servant of his own ego and the other a servant of one particular political party.
Having been investigated and indicted in 1998, based mostly on evidence that the State Attorney knew or should have known was false or incompetent, only to have the misdemeanor charge dropped once it served its political purpose, I would be glad to describe to Mr. Fingerhut how the process really works, since he obviously has no clue.
In my particular case, Ms. Fernandez Rundle chose not only to accept the testimony of an obvious liar but also to make false and stigmatizing public statements based on that and similar testimony, the purpose of which appears to have been to aggrandize herself at my expense, to bias the pool of potential jurors in my case, or both.
The path down which I was led during this process was anything but, again in Mr. Fingerhut's words, "one amber path down which to travel and seek community peace while preserving fundamental freedoms." This is Miami-Dade County for God's sake. Nobody believes that kind of hackneyed B.S., and nobody believes the State Attorney is attempting to promote community peace by prosecuting criminals.
Amber is the color of caution. Rose must be the color of the glasses through which Mr. Fingerhut sees the world, including the criminal-justice system. What is the nature of his relationship to Ms. Fernandez Rundle, I wonder?
Editor's note: Lee Martin, a former Miami-Dade County building official, was indicted in April 1998 on a misdemeanor charge of culpable negligence for allowing the Dadeland Station shopping center to open despite alleged construction defects. The State Attorney's Office dropped the criminal case against Martin in November 1999, after disagreement among expert witnesses regarding the building's safety. Martin is now suing the county for reinstatement and damages.
Dear Madam Chair
Allow me to express my disgust over Norman Lindeblad: After reading Rebecca Wakefield's article about Norman Lindeblad, former head of the school district's Office of Professional Standards ("Still Employed After All Those Leers," November 9), I wrote the following letter to Perla Hantman, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County school board:
It is very disappointing to me, a 49-year resident of Miami-Dade County and a hard-working taxpayer, to see a person such as Norman Lindeblad, arrested for soliciting prostitution, happily remain employed with my hard-earned money. Taxpayers, I believe, do not desire to fund Mr. Lindeblad's retirement years.
Mr. Lindeblad, the school board, the superintendent, and everyone connected directly or indirectly should shudder with embarrassment. Do you feel he set a good example for the children? Perhaps they should be exposed to Mr. Lindeblad's comments to the police decoy "prostitute" (as reported by New Times) so they know what conduct is prohibited by law.
The article goes on to say that Mr. Lindeblad's car was impounded, and he was accepted into a deferred-prosecution program. Had he not committed the offense, don't you think he would have hired a defense lawyer and fought the State Attorney?
You and your board hold the public trust in your hands. The fact that the board decided to delay the crucial institution of an ethics commission is unacceptable to taxpayers. The fact that Mr. Solomon Stinson needs more time "to think about the ramifications" does not adequately serve the interests of the county, the parents, the faculties, staffs, and above all the children. I hope you agree.
It's time for a renaissance in governing this school district, which is among the most prominent in our nation. I thank you for your comments and for expressing my thoughts to the entire board and administration.
Ira R. Gordon, Esq.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.