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It's that time of year here in SoFla.  No, I don't mean the beginning of the winter tourist season.  And while it's a happening event that's just around the corner, I don't mean the Key West Fantasy Fest, either.

Things should be slow on the political scene, right?  Legislature not in session, local politicos quietly taking care of business and doing their best to help their party bring home the bacon in any small way they can this national election year.

You'd think.

So, what am I talking about?  I mean burgeoning political scandals that make a long hot and humid summer that's drawing to a close seem cool and dry by comparison.

South Florida politics is a species apart.  Many of the players are Cuban and most of those are Republican.  Two Republican state representatives are currently at the center of a political firestorm that has led Governor Jeb to use words like "explain yourself," "seek forgiveness," "tragic," and "sad" referring to Rep. Ralph Arza (R-Hialeah) who left a 20 second message on the phone of Rep. Gus Barreiro, fellow Republican representative of the Miami Beach district (including ultra-ritzy Fisher Island) that went like this:
Hey, bitch.  You're nothing but a bitch. You're a bitch. You're nothing but a bitch. God Bless you, bitch.  Miami Herald

Apparently not satisfied that he'd expressed himself clearly enough,

Arza left a second message for Rep. Gus Barreiro. "Hey, bitch. You ain't nothing but a bitch. You ain't nothing but a bitch, brother, my nigger."

Listen for yourself.

Now the Florida state House Leadership is in a tizzy.  They want Arza gone, but he's declined to oblige and will not resign.  There's a partisan battle looming and count on the Democrats not to give in on their position, which is they will refuse to sit in the same chamber as Arza, except to vote on his expulsion or accept his resignation.  Apparently, having to refer to him as the "honorable" Mr. Arza during workaday legislative business just sticks in the collective craw.

The GOP, no less disturbed by the recorded tirade, has cajoled Arza for three days to resign from the House, entreaties he has consistently rebuffed. Failing at persuasion, Republican leaders have launched a fast-track inquiry into Arza's behavior, and expect to decide within a week whether to punish him.

Punishment could include reprimand, censure or expulsion. The latter option requires a two-thirds vote of the House.

So, what's behind this flap?  Rep. Barreiro filed a complaint with the Florida House Rules Committee against his colleague, Mr. Arza, charging that he (Arza) had used a racial epithet in reference to Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Rudolph "Rudy" Crew, who is African-American.  Evidently annoyed that his colleague had tattled, and alloyed with Dutch courage, Mr. Arza cussed out Mr. Barreiro -- who promptly turned over the messages to the police -- in language unbecoming anyone and unacceptable to Marco Rubio (R), House Speaker-Designate.

He issued a statement roundly condemning Mr. Arza in the form of a letter to the house members.  Mr. Arza had admitted to police that yes, he'd said "those things."  Rubio's letter said in part,

I have issued a statement in which I made clear that his actions have disqualified Representative Arza from serving in any leadership position in the House during my term as Speaker.

and in another part,

The tragedy of scandal is that it defines a person by their worst mistakes or lapses in judgment. I know, in my heart, that Ralph Arza is a better man than he has shown us this week. I hope that, as he struggles through his ordeal, he will, with God's guidance, listen once again to the better angels of his nature.

Yeah, if he can keep them in the bottle.

So where are the poor local citizens left at this point?  In Limbo as Mr. Arza refuses to budge from his district's seat.  And on tenterhooks waiting for further fireworks, perhaps when the legislative session begins and the Democrats boycott the chamber.

And that, folks, is just one of the tropically colorful local political scandals in my neck of the woods.  We've got a county commisioner going to the Big House for 4.5 months since she's pleading guilty to looting her campaign accounts of more than $100,000.

We've got two high-ranking water and sewer officials fired for gross mismanagment, allowing a $1M mailroom fraud ring perpetuated under their watch.

And last but certainly no less entertaining, this:

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent who worked in Miami has been indicted on charges of tipping off a former high school classmate who was a target in a drug trafficking investigation. Miami Herald

Originally posted to Limelite on Thu Oct 26, 2006 at 08:09 PM PDT.

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