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Sweetwater race results are a loss for Miami-Dade’s Pepe Diaz

  • SumoMe

Sweetwater voters elected four new commissioners on Tuesday, booting two incumbents — the mother of the former mayor and the brother-in-law of a county commissioner — out of office in the process. That’s a new majority on the 7-member board — although none of them is entirely new to the city and one of them is an old throwback.

But even though he wasn’t on the ballot, Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz lost Tuesday also. So did Mayor Orlando Lopez. All but one of the candidates he backed lost.

Commissioner Isolina Maroño, mother of former Mayor Manny Maroño — who was arrested in 2013 and convicted on federal bribery charges in an FBI bogus grant scheme — was ousted by former Commissioner Cecilia Holtz Alonso, who was in office from 1992 to 1999 and got 55 percent of the vote.

And Commission Chairman Jose Bergouignan, who is married to Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz‘s sister, lost to former Sweetwater Polict Lt. Marcos Villanueva, a onetime chief of staff to the previous mayor, Jose M. Diaz — whose son won another commission race — in a squeaky tight contest. Villanueva got 32 more votes than the 16-year incumbent and wins with only 46% of the vote. Sweetwater city charter gives the victory to the majority, without needing a 50% plus one threshhold. There are no runoffs.

Villanueva and Holtz Alonso, will join David Borrero — who works as the city’s grants administrator — and Yoniel Diaz, the former mayor’s son, for the swearing in ceremony Friday. Borrero and Yoniel Diaz ran in open seats, getting 65 and 54 percent of the vote, respectively.

Yes, that’s right, the son of the former mayor, ousted by the current mayor, is now a commissioner. Awkward.

“The residents of Sweetwater have decided that they want a change,” said Villanueva, who has been on again off again on the city’s police force since 1997 (with a spotty record) and first ran for office in 2007, when Maroño beat him for the mayor’s seat. “They want to be done with the old guard and the political infighting and they want to move on.”

Read related story: Sweetwater election ends today but war is just starting

But Sweetwater has always been a tiny little bastion of political infighting and intrigue and this election cycle, no exception, certainly didn’t portend happier times ahead.

First there was the concurrent recall effort against Mayor Lopez, which, let’s be honest, was masterminded by some council members most likely with the help of the county commissioner. The idea being that, as commission president, Bergouignan, Diaz’s brother in law, would become interim mayor, which would help him win subsequent elections as an incumbbent, and he would consequently hold the seat for Diaz when he is termed out at the county in 2022. Petition gatherers got almost twice as many signatures needed for the first round, showing apparent disregard for Lopez exists anyway. They needed 950 and got more than 1,800 in less than three weeks. Of those, 1,776 signatures were verified by the Miami-Dade Elections Department.

But that apparently wasn’t good enough for Lopez, who said that the political action committee behind the recall lied to voters, telling them that this was for lower taxes or to improve trolley services. He had copies made of every petition and ordered police officers in uniform to visit some homes to confirm the residents’ signatures. He got 47 or so affidavits from people who said that either they were lied to about the recall, or that they didn’t speak English and didn’t understand it or that a fired Sweetwater police officer who signed as a witness to the petitions was not there. But, I mean, the mayor’s personal police force was asking the questions. “Why’d you sign this petition?” Ladra might understand someone saying it was to free the whales. This seems like some strongman in a third world effort to intimidate voters and stop them from signing a second petition, as the charter required and which was already underway. Ladra has heard from a couple of sources that there is or will be some kind of follow up investigation from some independent law enforcement agency. I won’t hold my breath. In any case, the shakedown was apparently moot and stopped when the court threw the recall out. Lopez sued to stop it and a judge ruled that it was invalid because the reason used — that Lopez was absent from too many commission meetings — was not a justifiable reason per the city charter.

J.C. Planas, who represented the PAC, Providing Effective Government for All Residents — which was chaired by the live-in boyfriend of Commissioner Idania Llanio — said the mayor violated his duty. “I don’t think the court read the petition carefully. The petition said he also didn’t send staff.” It listed the last five meetings Lopez, a strong mayor, and his staff missed. “That’s the only way commissioners can talk about public policy, in a public setting,” Planas said, adding that private one-on-one chats with each commissioner bring “the possibility of him being a conduit to a Sunshine Law violation.”

Jose Bergouignan

Bergouignan, who would benefit the most from a recall as the commission president becomes interim mayor, then tried to get Villanueva, a Lopez ally, taken off the ballot. A week before the election Tuesday, Bergouignan had Planas — his attorney and, by the way, also County Commissioner Diaz’s attorney — file a lawsuit that claimed Villanueva intentionally omitted information on his required financial disclosure. A judge threw that complaint out.

On Monday, Villanueva had a press conference where he called Commissioner Pepe Diaz “el Chapo de  Sweetwater,” and named four “puppets” that included Bergouignan, Planas and the city’s former construction manager.

Read related story: Jose “Pepe” Diaz will bring up DUI arrest, then say nada

But he said he was not behind the young people who showed up to the Jorge Mas Canosa Youth Center on election day with t-shirts and signs identifying themselves as “FIU Students Against Drunk Driving” with mugshots of Diaz when he was arrested in 2015 in Key West for driving his motorcycle under the influence. Sweetwater is looking more and more each day like Hialeah.

Evidenced by the fact that campaign consultant and Absenee Ballot Queen Sasha Tirador, who represents both Lopez and Villanueva, heckled the county commissioner — who was there stumping for votes all day — on a megaphone.

“Ding, dong, the witch is dead,” Tirador told Ladra on Wednesday.

Diaz did not return mutliple voice and text messages left on his cellphone Wednesday and Thursday. Probably busy licking his wounds and plotting his next step.

10 Responses to Sweetwater race results are a loss for Miami-Dade’s Pepe Diaz

  1. Raul Macias Reply

    May 11, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    Well at least Isolina Marono’s days as the true queen of absentee ballots in Sweetwater is now over. Hopefully now that she is no longer in office our State Attorney Kathy Rundle will finally permit the authorities to pick her and Saul Diaz up for a quick ride to Dade County Jail. Now she can serve her probation along with her convicted corrupt ex mayor son.
    As far as Villanueva is concerned, here is a politician who in the past was forced to resign from Sweetwater and Miami Beach police departments as well as Miami Dade Parks and Recreation for conduct unbecoming. He was also disciplined for following and harassing a private investigator which resulted in a lawsuit and a substantial settlement by the city. This individual is not qualified to run a meat market least of all be involved in politics (apologies to the butcher).
    And last but not least the reign of attorney Jose “Pepe” Herrera comes to an end since at last there is no Maroño to protect in the city and his debarment hearing in June will eventually force him out of a profession too ethical for an underworld figure such as he. And then there is also the end of Sasha Tirador’s days as a “consultant”. So far this year, she has had her butt handed to her in City of Miami, Doral and now Sweetwater- to say nothing of Hialeah where she dares not go because Mayor Hernandez no longer cares for her or her “craft”. One win in the whole slate by only 32 votes against a guy with a heart condition is nothing to write home about or worth the cost of a day spewing chuzmeria out of a bullhorn. Just saying.

    • Ladra Reply

      May 12, 2017 at 10:41 am

      Mr. Macias, if that is indeed your real name, let me set the record straight because you got a few things wrong.

      Mr. Herrera has never worked for Manny Marono. Ladra made that mistake once and corrected it so I will correct it again now. He used to work for the city of Sweetwater in 1994 and he was also special counsel to former Mayor Gloria Bango after that but has not worked for the city since and never for Marono. In fact, he campaigned against Marono and then sued him for sexually harassing two secretaries, settling for a quarter of a million dollars in 2011.

      Furthermore, Herrera has not had one complaint in 31 years as an attorney until a recent and quite possibly politically-motivated accusation that should be resolved soon and likely not in disbarment but to his favor.

      Ladra understands your enthusiasm, but try to keep things in perspective — and honest. I know it’s hard. But it’s important.

      Love, Ladra

  2. Julio Reply

    May 11, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Shame that Borrero guy was elected. Met him at the polls. Seemed shallow. Lost on issues. Don’t think he finished high school. El Pobre. That’s sweet water for you.

  3. Sasha Reply

    May 11, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    Ok JC! a.k.a Raul Macias. Down boy! Sit! Roll over! Play dead! Your good at that. For the record, not that you can read, but perhaps you can have your minions read it to you, I never had a a race in the City of Miami, I had a limited role in Doral for the run-off (media buys), and my ONLY client for the Sweetwater elections was Marcos Villanueva. As for Hialeah, you know, the city where every present council member and Mayor owes me their seat, if I get bored enough I can take it from them! Lol! Now, Marcos Villanueva taking down, none other than Commissioner Pepe Diaz’s brother in law? I’d say that’s pretty darn good if you ask me. You are just trying to muddy up his name with complete lies. Let me educate you with reality as opposed to your theoretical foot fetish fantasies. Marcos Villanueva, wait a moment, let me just rub it in, COMMISSIONER Marcos Villanueva was a victim of corruption in the City of Sweetwater. Marcos resigned from the Sweetwater police department in 2003 and was hired by Miami Beach P.D. shortly there after. Sweetwater establishment went into his employment file, forged documents and called Miami Beach to say that they had just “mysteriously” come across documents that were omitted from his original background file. Marcos fought for his job in Miami Beach and former Chief of Police Carlos Noriega offered Marcos his job back with the Miami Beach Police Department. Marcos respectfully declined and ran for Mayor of Sweetwater instead on an anti-corruption platform. There you have it and therefore you can’t muddy up the waters anymore. It is pretty sad that you and “El Chapo de Sweetwater” Pepe Diaz have to use former Miami-Dade Police Public Corruption Bureau detectives who have now turned into Pepe Diaz’ s private political mercenaries, (or private dancers for all I know), to follow Marcos around during the entire campaign. I know, you’re just upset because your political rants don’t work in the courtroom. Try sticking to case law or better yet, try delivering your arguments using puppets and crayons because it would be a step up from what your currently doing. You missed a Supreme court deadline for Miami Lakes for crying out loud! What the hell were you doing on that day that you would forget a SUPREME COURT DEADLINE? Probably watching reruns of Laverne & Shirley. You were fired by County Commissioner Steve Bovo! How bad of an attorney do you have to be to get fired by a boletero? If you’re an attorney then I’m an astronaut you incompetent, poorly dressed, jackass! As for Jose “Pepe” Herrera? You’re just pouting because he kicked your butt in court, AGAIN!!! I guess Pepe Herrera actually attending the classes in law school and paying attention paid off. You should have tried it you moronic buffoon! Now got to bed, have a great night, sueña con los angelitos, and pray. Your going to need it. “WINTER IS COMING!” P.S. If I can ever be of service for your client, Pepe Diaz, in the case that he would need a shoulder to cry on to be able to come out of that dark world called alcoholism, please, do not hesitate to NEVER CALL ME! #MADD #incompetentlawyers #elchapodesweetwater #pepeisadrunk #winteriscoming #dingdongthewitchisdead

  4. Victor Reply

    May 12, 2017 at 3:58 am

    Sounds good to me

  5. Jackson Rip Holmes Reply

    May 12, 2017 at 7:12 am

    Truly extraordinary reporting!!!

    Thank you!!!

  6. julio Reply

    May 12, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Darn. If you add a hip hop beat to Sasha’s comment it would be an instant hit.

  7. SAMMY Reply

    May 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    My grandmother lives and Sweetwater and has lived for about 8 years maybe 9. And when i asked about electiosn and those running she never heard much of Com. Bergouignan. She did how ever speak highly of Dusso(Spell check) So maybe he wasn’t for Sweetwater if he wasn’t heard of by an 8 year resident that has voted in every election she possibly can. She love that stuff i joked and told her to run next election. So give The New elected Commissioners A chance. Jeez they haven’t even been sworn-in or had a commission meeting.

  8. Andy Reply

    May 12, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Macias or whatever his real name sounds like a frustrated and obsessed person, who suffers from depersonalization-derealization disorder and pathological jealousy. If Sasha or whatever her real name is referring to the JC who was a legislator and known a podophiliac clown in Tally and who then decided to wear a bow tie to appear intelligent it explains the Macias post perfectly. JC the legislator was a joke in Tally and is a joke in legal circles and catalogued as a Heidi Fleiss of local politics. Ladra you have accurate fact about Jose “Pepe” Herrera. As a member of law enforcement I have battled Pepe Herrera in cases. He is a royal pain in the * * *, in your face, hard nose and abrasive, but certainly not corrupt or dishonest. I was in an anti-corruption unit and was “around” when Pepe Herrera represented the secretaries who Marono had falsely accused and arrested by his Sweetwater police. Pepe Herrera exposed the corrupt motive and he then sued the City, Marono and several police officer in Federal court making them pay. So Ladra kudos are in order for your setting the record straight because too many cowards hide in pseudonym and anonymity.

  9. Jose Reply

    May 14, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    ONLY in zero political standards Miami could someone as self serving, shyster as Jose ‘Pepe’ Diaz get re-elected .

    ”We flee corruption and zero political standards only to recreate it ”
    Hispanic motto

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