Stranger than Strange. An opinion piece by Howard Melamed.
By: Howard Melamed
There are many people that want to be Monday morning quarterbacks as to why I lost the election for Coral Springs city commissioner seat 4 last Tuesday by only 100 or votes. To cheer me up, several of them weighed in and told me that almost half the people voted for me, and that the other two candidates, Skip Campbell and Joy Carter won because I defined the issues for them to run and defeat the status quo.
People that know me understand that I would have liked to have won. I did enjoy campaigning and was able to lose 30 pounds as well as got a tan in the process.
To my amazement a few days after the election, I got a strange call from Commissioner Larry Vignola. It is important to understand the context of my surprise and puzzlement.
All during the past several months and while campaigning, I hammered away at the city commissioners, telling them that they need to bring the issue of the City Hall to a vote by the people, and that spending $28,000,000 on a Taj Mahal is not a smart career decision move.
Looks like I was right. Vignola opposed me every time during commission meetings. He called me a liar, and kept using the phrase that I have said “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story,” and told everyone that the city hall is not going to cost $28 million but rather $23 million plus a $5 million parking garage. He was rude, and in keeping with the style of three others on the commission: Daley, Powers and Mayor Boccard, tried to bully me and anyone else that has tried to speak the truth to them during the public comments portion of the meetings.
When he approached me after a commission meeting on the sidewalk outside of City Hall he tried to tell me that when I pointed out that we had a surplus of $6 million dollars in 2013, that this was not really a surplus. I asked him to explain and he said it was simply the money left over since they spent less money than they took in, which is by definition a surplus. I wrote about it on my Facebook site indicating what kind of stupid comment this was . Shortly after, at a Democratic Club meeting at the Coral Springs Country Club – why he was there no one knows since he is a Republican, he told me I was a liar, and that he never said what he said, and he had the tapes to prove it.
“Tapes?” I queried.
“Yes” he said. “The city has security cameras everywhere that are recording all of our conversations and I accessed the tapes and I can prove you are a liar,” he said.
I sent out a request for public records disclosure regarding the tapes to the city, and to the city attorney indicating if the city realizes that if Vignola was right, then they are violating Fourth Amendment rights of myself and everyone in the city. I also asked for a copy so I can hear for myself what I heard Vignola say. The city replied, “ The city does not have any such tapes; security procedures.”
Vignola also bragged to me and several other people that he has 65,000 email addresses and that he can blow me out of the election in a second. I lost the election, by 105 votes, certainly no blow out.
To be fair, Vignola was right in saying that I said “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story,” but this was sarcasm, something obviously Vignola does not get.
All during the campaign, when Vignola showed up to the early voting poll at the library, he kept telling me how I am going to win, and that Lou is no match for me and that he is only supporting him because they are friends. He said that all of this election stuff would have been unnecessary if I only hand not went against him as he would have made sure I would be the only candidate running for seat 4. Incidentally, Mayor Vince Boccard said the same thing to me, “If only I had come to them and stopped with this “Gang” label, they would have supported me.
…So he said he really really wanted me to become city commissioner since “I am the person he could probably party with when on those city trips to conventions.”
Larry went on to say that I will make a great commissioner. He did the same stuff on Election Day. Of course, he was wrong again at me winning, but that may be because we do not know if he passed the statistics course he took in college or failed it.
So low and behold, Commissioner Larry Vignola on the road to trying to be a ‘Mensch,’ calls me up a few days after the election.
“Hi Larry,” I answered. His name popped up on caller ID so it was easy to know who called me.
“Hi Howard. I want to tell you how bad I feel about you losing. I never thought Lou would win, and that you would have made a great commissioner.”
“Thank you Larry that is very kind of you.”
At this point a normal person would simply say something like hope you run again, or perhaps you will win again, or I just wanted you to know I’ll see you at the city commission meetings. I said normal person, but Vignola is strange, to say the least. Instead, for the next hour (if it was less, it seemed like an hour) Vignola proceeded to do what he does best. Bullshit you. I have also verified this with other people he regularly talks to. They listen, of course, since it is difficult to actually get him to pause while he is ranting so you can say ‘got to go now’ or ‘the chicken is in the oven,’ code words that anyone would know you wanted to end the conversation. Vignola does not know the code.
He continued to tell me how he looked at the precinct that had a missing ballot box found a day after the election from E027 precinct and that as a math expert he calculated that if the box was full of ballots, it would not deviate from the standard deviation from previous elections.
Huh? There he goes again BSing about being an expert mathematician. Interesting, since at McGill university in Montreal, the place where I obtained a Bachelors in Civil Engineering, I had to pass several math courses, including differential equations, applied differential equations, several levels of calculus, probability, statistics, etc. However, to be fair, Vignola must have taken a math course since his degree was in communications.
He then said that he really really really (not sure if he said it two or three times, since I was putting my finger down my throat at the time indicating my lack of enthusiasm) …so he said he really really …(at least twice I am sure) wanted me to become city commissioner since “I am the person he could probably party with when on those city trips to conventions.”
Now it is important to note that I wrote an article on wasteful spending by the city commissioners and even had a picture of a hamburger with money in it instead of meat. I pointed out in the article that one of the areas where the commissioners blow money is at the so-called information conventions where more than one of them would attend at great cost to the taxpayers.
Now I understand: they party on! I checked with the city and found that Vignola and Dan Daley signed up for all of the conventions this year and 2015. ….no doubt that Larry likes to party with Dan as well.
He continued with the BSing and told me that I was brilliant in coming up with the Taj Mahal name for the City Hall and that was one of the reasons why Skip Campbell and Joy Carter won the election. Interrupting Vignola, I mentioned that I was not the one that coined the phrase ‘ Taj Mahal’ for the city hall.
In life there are those golden moments where you pause for a few seconds for effect, and to smile just before you deliver the punch line. The pause for effect only adds to the emphasis on the point you are about to make. Vignola should have known this since he is a Communications Major.
“You were,” I said.
There was a long silent period where I actually thought that the call had dropped until I heard a ‘Wha?” sound. So I continued, finally having the opportunity to get a sentence in edgewise.
“In August or September of 2012, at a city commission meeting or workshop, Mayor Roy Gold was trying to get the city commissioners to move ahead on the city hall. You said “We Don’t Need a Taj Mahal City Hall” .
I am quite sure I hear something to the effect that “I voted against it before I was for it” or something like, I did the math when Roy left and Boccard came in and it made more sense a month later. I am sure Roy would like to know why when he was Mayor it was not a good thing, and when Boccard became Mayor all of sudden is was the best idea since sliced bread.
Having heard all I needed to hear from Vignola, I was able to end the conversation by telling him that my cell phone was running out of battery power, which all cell phones eventually do.
I have been told that I am not the only one that Vignola calls with messages and strange conversations. He has mentioned to several people he has 65,000 or 75,000 email addresses from residents in the city and he constantly calls people up ranting about something or another. I think the only difference between me and anyone else is that fact that I get to write about it and hope that this acts as a repellant.
I am quite sure that Vignola will deny all of this on his Facebook site and friends of his will no doubt hate me even more. There are those that put Commissioner Vignola on a pedestal, sucking up to him at all instances especially if you are with the “in crowd” or people that he parties with. After all, he is very well liked in our community, and some even think he is a good city commissioner because he helps the sports and the youth in our city. All very important functions I am sure.
I just think that it is time that he stops these strange conversations. He needs to get rid of the ego complex, humble himself a little more and over the next two years and be the best city commissioner he can be, especially if he wants to run for office again. There is no more gang to support him. The status quo ended when Skip and Joy were elected.
Now that party is over, it is time to get down to business.
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