Hollywood Tattler

A sinister tale of how the mayor of Broward's number two city displaced her number one critic

Otherwise Schneider expended ink writing about the numerous follies and foibles of political life in Hollywood.

One of his columns involved a deal between the Diplomat Hotel and the city. Commissioners gave the hotel $663,000 to put more sand on its own beach. He wrote: "Just picture our tax money flowing through their fingers, like grains of sand." Prior to the September 5 election, he noted that Giulianti had a war chest of more than $150,000 to win a $14,000 per year job and asked the rhetorical question, "Could anyone become the mayor of Hollywood, in the future, without raising that much?" He accused Giulianti of making tactless attacks on her critics at public meetings and of playing favorites when the time came to award a contract for bus-bench advertising.

Schneider was in high dudgeon before he got canned in October. Watching the commission meetings on TV one Wednesday night, as was his usual practice, he was shocked to hear Anderson verbally attack him from the dais. "... [H]e doesn't get anything right," she said that night, "but we're saving his columns, and after a year we know it's public harassment."

Ex-columnist Joe Schneider: Too good for his own 
Joshua Prezant
Ex-columnist Joe Schneider: Too good for his own good?

Of course any middle-school student who has studied the First Amendment understands the press is free to criticize public officials until the cows come home. Schneider couldn't believe what he was hearing. When he tried to double-check the comments by tuning in to a rebroadcast of the meeting, he found that nine minutes of the meeting were missing -- the time when Anderson spoke about him. Coincidence or Hollywoodgate?

A call to the city's director of TV and video production, Dennis Pellarin, provided evidence the gap was an accident. The cable company AT&T Broadband normally records the meetings for rebroadcast, Pellarin says, but a storm knocked out the company's power, and it couldn't make a tape. So AT&T staff borrowed a recording of the meeting made by the city clerk's office, which turned out to be the one with the missing minutes. Apparently someone in the city clerk's office forgot to put in a fresh tape when the old one ran out, and no one noticed for nine minutes.

Schneider had some fun with the situation, urging his readers "... not to send in any bail money at this time" on the public harassment charges. Nonetheless he cleared up the issue, declaring in print that he believed the gap was a mistake. He sent the column to The Digest, but it didn't run. Then he sent a toned-down version the next week with a note to his editors asking that he at least be allowed to defend himself against Anderson's comments and bid adieu to his readers. But that column never ran either.

When Giulianti's mug appeared in his old space, he knew he was just another victim of Hollywood politics. So he gave up. "I'm surprised it went as long as it did," he says. "The politics in Hollywood are so strong in favor of the people in power."

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