By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
"I hereby, now and forever, proclaim the Eleventh of December as Chaz Stevens Day," Chaz Stevens wrote on his blog that day. "And what does that mean to you exactly? Beer, lobster, shots and hookers are on your tab all day long."
"You wanted change in Deerfield Beach. I just handed it to you. Now what are you going to do with it? PS. Try not to fuck it up like you usually do."
It's classic Stevens — and no matter what you or Capellini ("Fucktard," as Stevens routinely calls him) or Gonot ("Shitbird") think of him, he has made a historic mark on the city.
It was Stevens, after all, who filed complaints with the State Attorney's Office that led to the arrests of the mayor and the commissioner. If he hadn't done that, Deerfield Beach wouldn't have made news across the state these past few weeks. He's stunning proof that a regular guy (though nobody would ever call Stevens "regular") can beat City Hall.
But we shouldn't get carried away. Stevens was simply the messenger, after all, not the source. He used a New Times investigation as a basis for his complaint against Capellini ("Mayor Al Engineers Another Deal," June 8, 2006). To bring down Gonot, he used information he'd received from another political activist, the pro-Capellini Chris Tauber.
And he never could have pulled it off if Deerfield weren't a horribly dysfunctional city, even by South Florida standards. Capellini and Gonot were arch enemies, and perhaps still are, considering both have no plans to let their criminal charges stop their political careers.
The barrel-chested Stevens played both sides against the middle and wound up turning the City Commission upside down.
"I'm like roshambo, you know, from South Park — I'm kicking everybody in the nuts," he told me after the indictments came down. "It doesn't matter who you are; I'm kicking them in the nuts."
Yes, but who, really, is this nuts-kicker? He published a photo of himself on his blog that reveals a bald man who looks like a cross between Uncle Fester and Bruce Willis on a bad day. But few have ever actually laid eyes on Stevens; he's more an enigma than an activist.
Yet, if you read his blog, myactsofsedition.com, he seems to be everywhere.
After the December 16 City Commission meeting, for instance, he wrote that he was sitting just three feet from one of his political adversaries and had eavesdropped on the conversation.
But that wasn't true. The 44-year-old Stevens was actually in Orlando, where he has been living in a hotel and working as a software consultant. It was just a bit of misinformation to keep Deerfield on its toes. Or at least to keep the 50 or so hardcore readers of his blog — "whack jobs," as he calls them — on their toes.
He figures he has some serious enemies and wants to confuse them.
If you read his blog, you get the idea that he is an arrogant, highly intelligent, profane, misanthropic, resourceful, and nihilistic fellow with a twisted sense of humor.
In reality, he's all of those things, in addition to being a born-again "flaming liberal," atheist, and gun enthusiast (he has a concealed-weapon permit and says he often walks around armed). But Stevens insists he shouldn't be taken too seriously.
"If you really take the time to study my writing, you would see that I have a particular bent of political satire of Saturday Night Live," he says. "I've always had this thing for politics, and I've always wanted to write."
Hence his blog, which actually seems more in-your-face than tongue-in-cheek, more Friday Night Fights than Saturday Night Live.
"I am arrogant, and that's because I'm usually right," he says. "It's hard not to be arrogant when you are measured against what is believed to be the intellectual elite of Deerfield Beach. People say I ruin lives. You know what I say? Don't break the fucking law."
For all his braggadocio, Stevens is a relative newcomer to local politics. The son of a former administrator at Holy Cross Hospital, he graduated from Deerfield High in 1982. He got a degree in applied mathematics at Florida Tech and has been working mostly in the software business ever since.
He says that in 2003, he and his longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend separated, and, approaching 40, he moved back into his parents' home in Deerfield.
It was there, in 2004, that he cooked up his first act of sedition.
While watching a City Commission meeting on cable TV, he saw that former commissioner Peggy Nolan voted on a pension plan for the city's firefighters. He knew her husband was a firefighter who would benefit from the vote.
"I thought, 'Fuck me, is that not nepotism right there?' " he recalls. "I got pissed off. So I got liquored up online, and I made these signs that said 'Anybody But Peggy' with what was like a Ghostbusters' symbol on it. Then I put my website address right on the sign. Why? I didn't want to do this anonymously."