By Jeffrey Bradley
Here’s a little sordid something to put away under the X-rated Files. According to an article in The Herald, Club Madonna owner Leroy Griffith claims that Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Gongora is up to political hijinx after failing to report substantial donations on his campaign finance record, and then trying to foist his campaign consultant Randy Hillard onto the suit-prone owner as his hired lobbyist. Oh, my!
The plot grows thicker. With this latest Club Madonna (no, Gertrude, not the Material Girl) foray of liquor-license-by-lawsuit we’re confronted with a sleaze industry mogul claiming that a city commissioner tried to extort him—and please don’t confuse the city commission with the sleaze industry!
Do you know Club Madonna? It’s that strip joint, er, lounge on the Beach that features girls from Booble Alley in a honky-tonk locale lacking only the panache of having squeegee men out front. But who doesn’t like the smell of stale urine in the morning? You’ll surely want to take Mom when she visits from Peoria.
Maybe its these endearing qualities that make most city commissioners look like they’re sucking limes when the tenacious Mr Griffith tub-thumps before them his desire of permitting sales of alcohol in his club. And why not? Who wants to sip club soda when the friction dances start heating up? Previous failed attempts are rumored to have caused the volatile Mr G to stamp on his hat in a rage before hurling it into a fire (actually, Robespierre did that, but we can imagine Griffith thinking it). In short, he was sent packing.
When not raising the tone of city morals by attempting to introduce liquor into the mix of naked, large-breasted dancers and feral young men, this purveyor of family fun seems to delight in blizzarding the city attorney with motions, complaints and ex parte filings. We hear that somewhere there’s a rat’s writ writ for a rat.
No wonder the commission banishes him to grumbling and plotting offensives.
Still, the last time he trolled for commissioners he apparently tossed a black japanned hook dripping with stink bait into the murk and got an immediately hit. This was no scrappy yaller perch snagged on the line either, but a fat blue trout. Ready the gaff, matey—turbot for dinner!
What actually broke surface was no weird fish from abyssal depths but Commissioner Michael Gongora. Seems Mikey—may we call you that ala the 2009 elections?—failed to list contributions worth $3000.00 on the requisite campaign finance reports. Oops!
The backstory is that Griffith’s problems with Gongora date back to October 2009 when the I-shan’t-be-denied Mr Griffith wrote four checks from his various companies to Mikey’s campaign. Before writing two more for the run-off election versus Gabrielle Redfern, who refused money from special interests to represent the people freed from entanglements. Altho’ the checks were cashed (it costs a lot to smear a more qualified opponent) by the no-holds-barred Gongora, none were listed on the treasurer reports. “How could it be a mistake twice and with the same checks?”, groused Griffith. “That’s too many coincidences for him to have just forgot.” Well!
See, this owner has badgered the City by court and complaint since 2004 and almost persuaded the commission to allow alcohol with pole-dancing, but failed. Now add to this rich and storied lore the complaints and allegations filed with the Florida Bar and the Florida Elections Commission against the embattled commissioner.
Not that Mikey didn’t try to deliver. In a classic case of give-me-the-money-and-I’ll-be-your-frontman (or is it “just politics”?) he attempted twice last year to persuade his colleagues to overturn an ordinance prohibiting liquor sales to strip clubs. Clearly, he earned his fee.
Hopefully, the Commissioner was circumspect and didn’t accept any checks until intermission. And not in paperbags under the table. Good Ford!
So then what caused the rift?
Drumroll, please. (A spritz of ode de brimstone, too.) The falling out occured over the commissioner’s allegedly trying to strong-arm the owner into hiring his campaign manager—“Prince of Darkness” himself, Randy Hillard—as a lobbyist for quid pro quo supporting the sale of alcohol. Quite a step up, that, from a campaign manager to lobbyist. He isn’t also a lawyer? Nevermind. Point is, horse-trading like this goes on all the time under the rubric Helping the People.
In vintage Mikey mode the commissioner maintained that “There’s no truth to this” because “Leroy has been threatening me for quite some time.” While not commenting specifically on the complaints (still in vintage model), having not even seen them, he denied anything purposeful. (When our 6-year-old offers these kind of excuses he’s made to stand in the corner.)
Griffith frets that Gongora demanded he hire Hilliard because “he needed to find out where other commissioners stood on the issue”, which alleged request was made at a “heated” meeting in the presence of Hilliard and the Club Madonna flack (we’re really hoping this stuff happened during a lull in the show), who claims Mikey allegedly made clear that the issue hinged on Griffith hiring Hilliard.
Then the PR guy went public with this accusation before the commission. Insisting that august body vote on the issue, the politically tone-deaf Mr Griffith watched as the commissioners remained stonily silent—including Commissioner Gongora. We bet you could hear a check drop!
The Prince, for his part, acknowledged they did indeed meet but that Mikey didn’t tell Griffith to hire him. The always-straightforward consultant instead suggested that sprucing the club’s façade should be helpful. Of course—potted hydrangeas!
Anything else allegedly said was, of course, “a complete lie.”
Now, if someone had only worn a wire we’d find these denials more plausible.
Suit, countersuit, he said, she said, yadda-yadda-yadda. Getting to the bottom of it might even tax the 17th sills of the Street Irregulars (our drunks, perverts and ‘adult entertainment afficionadoes who haunt the insides of strip joints), turning them into the people their mothers warned them against.
Worse, Commissioner Mikey held his mother accountable for the check snafu. “My mother does my finance reports and it’s possible we overlooked something,” he said, no doubt with downcast eyes. Someone should tell him throwing momma from the train isn’t nice. Well, and this from a politician who refuses to sign an ethics pledge requiring integrity. “That’s the part I find bizarre”, he mused. “You try to do something helpful and this is how he reacts.”
Discounting his lobbying conflicts of interest during a previous stint as commissioner, and barring the hardball tactics he regularly employs during election time, the commissioner could very well be right.
The author is an independent columnist. The opinions expressed in this column are his own and not those of the publication or it’s Editors and owners.