If you're like Riptide and you live in Miami, chances are you don't think about Homestead, our fine neighbors to the south, all that often.
But these last couple weeks, the good politicians of that southern burg have done everything they can to put their hamlet back on our radar by waging one of the craziest, sexiest, racist-iest text message scandals in South Florida history.
The fun all started in November when the city council voted to suspend City Manager Mike Shehadeh.
At the time, the move looked like a pretty standard, post-election house clearing by new council members. But when Shehadeh pushed the city for a bigger severance payout, commissioners pushed back with a private investigation by North Miami Beach's Franklin Investigations.
The results -- including a review of months of internet activity, blackberry messages and emails by Shehadeh and other leaders -- began trickling out this month. And the fallout has not been pretty.
Riptide caught up with Vice Mayor Judy Waldman on Friday to talk about the scandal, which has led to Shehadeh's ouster, a possible federal investigation and now, Waldman confirms, the resignation of the city's parks director for sending some seriously racist emails.
"All we've done for the last three months is deal with this absolute mess," Waldman says. "But there comes a time when you have to be accountable for what happens on city phones and emails. I don't know when people are going to understand that."
First, to Mike Shehadeh.
The council hired Franklin to investigate the former manager after he rejected a $100,000 severance and asked instead for a $265,000 payout.
The investigators were asked to look into whether Shehadeh had helped his brother's construction firm wrangle city contracts. When they looked into his emails and web traffic, they found that Shehadeh was fond of visiting a dominatrix site called "Temple of the Goddess Qetesh" and several Arab singles dating sites hundreds of times at work.
They also found a long list of sexual texts between Shehadeh and his deputy manager, Johanna Faddis. For example:
"I have a problem! I cannot entertain another woman in my mind beside you. I am deeply in love with you girl. I am getting deeper and deeper into it."
The city tried to meet about Shehadeh last week, but the former city manager was a no-show.
Then, on Friday, Robert Landen, head of the city's parks department, called it quits after a slew of inappropriate new texts and emails emerged.
Here's the star of the bunch, a joke forwarded by the departmental head, as reported by the South Florida Times:
"OMG!! Ur not going to believe this [expletive]!!! I got a tattoo of a ni*** on my shoulder, and now my [expletive] arm quit workin'!"
Waldman tells Riptide that city council members each have a CD with thousands more emails, texts and phone records from the Shehadeh investigation.
Landen, she says, won't be the last guy to fall in Homestead City Hall.
"Robert Landen sure isn't the only one in these records, and I feel bad that he's being singled out," Waldman says.
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