Joe Angelo, the Wilton Manors mayoral candidate, has had a tough month.
Tomorrow, his campaign against popular Mayor Gary Resnick draws to a close. He has been outspent, and he has been outmaneuvered in the media.
If he loses in a landslide tomorrow, one man will be more responsible than any other. He is Steve Kelley, publisher of Wilton Manors' neighborhood publication Island City News (and many other neighborhood publications around South Florida). Kelly has mercilessly slagged Angelo's candidacy and written at least two stories endorsing Gary Resnick's incumbency. The newsletter is delivered to 4,700 of Wilton Manors' 6,000 households, and many of those not on the subscription list pick up Island City News from public drop points.
Resnick, meanwhile, is one of the paper's most frequent contributors.
"It's an open platform," says Kelley, insisting that any mayor -- indeed, any citizen -- of Wilton Manors is welcome to contribute to the publication. "[Local politicians] rarely ever do it -- most elected officials don't want people to know what they're doing. When Resnick writes, he's actually reporting on what he and the city government are doing." Kelley points out that other elected officials, when they contribute to his publications at all, tend to write "fluffy holiday messages."
"[Joe Angelo] has had the opportunity to contribute all along, but he refuses to do so, because he doesn't like my reporting," Kelley says. "His hatred is quite deep, by the way, for that itty-bitty newsletter."
Angelo doesn't sound especially hateful when reached by telephone, though he obviously dislikes Kelley. "Yeah -- I don't consider Steve Kelley a credible source," he says. "He's extremely biased. Resnick has been seen coming in and out of his home."
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Kelley's most frequently touted criticism of Angelo is that, when serving on the City Commission from 2004 to 2008, Angelo left office early. In a recent editorial in Island City News, Kelley wrote, of Angelo: "If I vote for you how do I know you won't walk out like you did last time?"
"That's misleading," says Angelo. "I was elected to a four-year term. The commission voted to extend the term for an additional six months -- from March to November -- and I voted against the extension. I served my full four years, plus a few months." Angelo says he couldn't remain on the commission because he had been accepted at Harvard's JFK School of Government -- a "lifelong dream," he said.
In the pages of Island City News, a very different reason is given for Angelo's departure: a looming criminal investigation into the financial management of Broward's Black Elected Officials Inc. -- Angelo served as treasurer of the organization. The office of State Attorney Mike Satz was attempting to retrieve the "closeout memo" on the investigation as of this writing. (No charges were ever filed.)
The City Clerk of Wilton Manors did not return phone calls inquiring about the sums of money spent by the Resnick campaign on advertising in Island City News, though previous New Times reports about another South Florida politician, Ken Keechl, show that Keechl spent $6,000 on ads in Kelley's various newsletters. Keechl, like Resnick, received Kelley's ringing endorsement.