Back in June, Cooper City Mayor Debby Eisinger came up with a bright idea: She decided the city ought to do mandatory criminal background checks on all candidates.
Eisinger claimed she wanted this done because after all the corruption arrests of late, it would be a good idea to screen potential officeholders. That reason that didn't seem to stand up to reason, though, since none of the public officials arrested had prior criminal records.
Commissioner John Sims railed against the idea saying it was in violation of federal privacy laws and any information would be used by Eisinger and her allies (or cronies, as he calls them) to smear candidates they don't like.
Despite Sims' protestations, Eisinger and the other commissioners -- Lisa Mallozzi, Neal DeJesus, and Jamie Curran -- all voted to pass the harebrained measure on August 17, just in time for the November election. [ADDED: Sims, after strongly protesting the move, also voted for it in the end after concessions were made not to include credit and employment histories and not to post results on the city website.]
Today it blew up in their faces, embarrassed the entire city, and smeared an innocent candidate in the process. Inside after the jump, read how bad policy and dirty politics led to a debacle and once again exposed Cooper City as one of the nastiest little governmental arenas you can find in America.
The city immediately violated its own ordinance and ran checks through a company called Intellicorp to get the criminal background information on the candidates. Why that was done isn't known at this time.
The Intellicorp check done on candidate David Nall, a financial controller who is running against Mallozzi (a staunch Eisinger ally), came back showing a 1987 arrest for credit card fraud.
Nobody from the city notified Nall -- a family man, Optimist Club member, and veteran little league coach -- about it. Instead he started hearing the alarming news from friends and supporters.
The first call came on Sunday night, when a friend of his from the Optimists told him he heard from campaign canvassers in the Embassy Lakes neighborhood that Nall had a criminal record. Nall then heard from others and it became clear: People were spreading word around town that he was a criminal.
Understand: Nall had never been arrested for credit card fraud or anything else. It was a mistake made by Intellicorp. Nall's FDLE report, for instance, came back clean and he points out that he had a background check done on him for the past ten years as a little league coach as well.
So Nall contacted the city and the City Clerk Susan Poling investigated and determined that it was, indeed, a mistake. She sent an email this morning to the handful of people who had requested the information on Nall. From her email:
Please be advised that David A. Nall, Candidate for District 2 Commission Seat, has reviewed the national criminal background search information provided to the City via a third-party firm and has categorically refuted the results of the search.
Upon review of the Florida criminal background search and additional research by the City, which was returned with no evidence of criminal history, it is the City's position at this time that Mr. Nall has no verifiable criminal history.
Therefore, it is required that you, as holders of public records that were provided by the City concerning the national criminal background search information for Mr. Nall and anyone that you may have shared this information with, disregard that public record and remove it from any information that you may plan to share with other individuals, organizations, etc., in the future. Failure to do so could result in legal action against you or others with whom you have shared this information.
It was absolutely never the intent of the City to discredit or embarrass Mr. Nall or any of the candidates by providing inaccurate background information and a public apology will be issued to Mr. Nall.
The first name on the list of those who had requested the bogus Nall background check was, wait for it ... Cooper City Mayor Debbie Eisinger.
The city immediately issued an official apology (full text below), but Sims, who had railed against the measure from the beginning, didn't think it was enough.
"I knew this was going to happen!" he wrote in an email to city officials. "This is why I objected so vehemently! This commission and staff again fell into the dirty political smear campaign induced by the Mayor and her cronies. David Nall deserves more than this apology! Disgraceful, unprofessional and a costly mistake!"
Sims knows a little something about this. Nearly 20 years ago, in 1991, he was going through a bitter divorce and was charged with domestic battery after an altercation with his wife in which he tried to pull off her wedding ring. His opponents, including Eisinger, have tried to use it against him during his campaigns, though it didn't stop him from winning office.
Nall says the mayor, Mallozzi and other commissioners should be ashamed of themselves.
"They were hell-bent on persecuting John Sims and it came back to bite them on the ass and it defamed my character," said Nall. "This has embarrassed me, it has embarrassed my family, embarrassed my kids, my in-laws. It's ridiculous. It's disgusting is what it is."
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-- Here's a copy of the public apology from the city:
CITY OF COOPER CITY
CORRECTION AND RETRACTION OF INACCURATE REPORT ON CANDIDATE BACKGROUND
Please be advised that pursuant City Commission Resolution 10-8-4, as adopted on August 17, 2010, the City attempted to access a criminal history record check for all City Commission candidates for the November 2, 2010 City election. However, because of a defect in a portion of the criminal history record search data base, inaccurate information was received by the City (and made available for public inspection) mistakenly suggesting that District 2 Commission candidate David A. Nall had a criminal record from a 1987 matter. As a result of a prompt objection from Candidate Nall, the City immediately examined the matter further and has determined that the criminal history report received by the City was inaccurate and that there is no verification that any criminal violation ever occurred. Accordingly, please be advised that based upon reliable FDLE data, Candidate Nall has a clean (no criminal record) criminal history background check under the terms of Resolution 10-8-4. The City respectfully apologizes for this incident.
CITY OF COOPER CITY
SUSAN POLING, CITY CLERK