Volsky on “Past Catches Up With Rosenblatt”

GEORGE VOLSKY

PAST CATCHES UP WITH ROSENBLATT

For the past 10 days I have been asking politically savvy, older Coral Gables residents if a candidate for the city’s commission has ever been publicly called “a thief.” The reply was unanimous: “Never.”

This had now happened. The “thief” charge, made  on television earlier this month, has dismayed many residents, already bemoaning the fact that  Coral Gables’ pre-election ambience has become unusually contentious, ugly even. The accusation, City Hall insiders report, has rattled the embattled re-election campaign of Mayor Don Slesnick, universally recognized as the principal supporter of the accused candidate.  “Slesnick,” one well informed insider said, “needed this evolving scandal like a hole in the head. He’s already deeply worried by the March 15, Miami-Dade’s 88 percent anti-incumbent vote.”

On March 9, Channel 10 TV broadcast an interview with Richard Olsen, former mayor of Bal Harbour, asked to comment on   Brad Rosenblatt, a candidate for Coral Gables commissioner in Group 4. Olsen’s, answered unambiguously: “As far as I am concerned, he is a thief and I don’t think he has changed his colors.”

(Slesnick and Rosenblatt reportedly attend each other’s fundraising parties and cross-pollinate supporters and propaganda. Rosenblatt is member of several “civic”  groups that Slesnick directly or indirectly controls. The smiling mayor was recently photographed at a party in the chichi abode of Rosenblatt’s close friend, dress designer Pablo Rene Ruiz. Both co-own a Coral Gables women’s apparel-accessory shoppe.)

Olsen is hardly a publicity seeking accuser.  The ex-mayor of a wealthy north Miami-Dade city, he is also a respected businessman. And, as an attorney, he knows that accusing publicly a person of felony could be, if untrue,  a serious offense itself.

In a recent telephone interview Olsen reiterated his TV Channel 10  charge: “I totally stand by  my  statement. Rosenblatt stole $88,000 from a business into which I invested $750,000.  He is a con artist with no morals whatsoever. Once I came across him on a Miami Beach street   and called him thief to his face; he didn’t reply; instead he cowardly turned away and left. If he wants to,  I can debate him in public at any time, anywhere. He is like a zebra, he hasn’t changed his stripes.”

Olsen explained that he was referring to the one-count felony charge of “Grand Theft Second Degree” issued by the State Attorney Miami office, pursuant to which Rosenblatt was arrested by the Miami-Dade police on September 29, 2000, and to the  Chapter 7 bankruptcy Rosenblatt filed in July 2002,  in which  51 creditors lost $880,000.    Olsen said was able to get from Rosenblatt $20,000 in partial restitution, one fifth of the embezzled total, but that none of the 51 creditors in Rosenblatt’s bankruptcy received reimbursement.

Reading Rosenblatt’s website, Coral Gables voters would never know the above had occurred. His “Linked In” says: “I grew up in South Florida, graduated from Ransom Everglades and then Taft University near Boston, and returned to Coral Gables in 2004.”  Taft’s records show that Rosenblatt graduated in 1998.

 

 

 

 

Speaking in the same TV report, Rosenblatt was anything but contrite. Denying Olsen’s “thief” charge, he said he was innocent because his arrest was “based on false accusations,” and that the judge in the ensuing case didn’t convict him and withheld the sentence’s adjudication. According to published reports, Rosenblatt had entered the “nolo contendere” plea – neither denying or admitting the accusation – and was put on probation. The full records of the court proceedings are unknown; at Rosenblatt’s request the judge sealed all documents in the case. (Several residents have reportedly demanded that for transparency sake the case be unsealed.)

Neither was Rosenblatt remorseful referring to his Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Repeating former defense secretary Ronald Rumsfeld’s  callous comment about widespread theft in the liberated Bagdad, Rosenblatt said: “Unfortunately, things happen.”  They “happened,” he explained, because in 2002 he was young and “inexperienced.” (He was 27 at the time.) He added that  “when you file for bankruptcy you don’t pay anybody back.”

Eleven years later, Rosenblatt’s self-touted, current business acumen continues shaky:  experts say that even in Chapter 7 bankruptcy certain payments are obligatory; and it is common knowledge that the Chapter 11 bankruptcy provides for reorganization and partial repayments from the remaining assets.

Significantly, barely a week later Rosenblatt abandoned his “business inexperience” excuse. On March 17, in a long exculpatory email to “dear neighbors,” he wrote: “I felt it was my duty to help my father with his troubled business. Unfortunately I was unable to cover my losses and was forced to file for bankruptcy…” Since Rosenblatt cites family needs as the only reason for reportedly writing over 100 bad checks, as a candidate for the city commission he should also inform voters of the endgame of his father’s “troubled business.”

Still, indirectly asking “dear neighbors’” forgiveness  for causing 51  creditors lose $880,000  only because his father was short on cash is, as  one resident commented, chutzpah galore. “It’s like a man who had killed his parents, asks the judge for clemency because he is an orphan.

Rosenblatt’s “youthful inexperience” exculpation has brought an angry response from Stan Kolbert, his former employee and, he says, one of many recipients of  bad checks. In an email, Kolbert said that he had the same age as Rosenblatt filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy,  but at the time had already served in two wars and  “spent almost a year in an army hospital from wounds and received the Purple Heart.” In another email to a prominent Coral Gables physician Kolbert wrote: “Please Al tell all your friends not to believe him (Rosenblatt). His past is suspect and as one of the individuals who was taken by this crook, I would advise each and every one of your friends not to vote for this individual for if he gets elected he may do to them what he did to me and many others.”

Brenda Roche, a wealthy Boston businesswoman, said that a decade ago her $25,000 loan to Rosenblatt, supposedly to pay his employees, went instead to his personal account. In a telephone interview, her recollection of Rosenblatt was descriptively florid: “Maybe I was naïve at the time. But Brad was a very slick piece of s…, a perfect con artist. He drove a brand new Porsche, dressed very well and, with the gift of gab  fooled me and many other people. I no longer live in Florida, but I feel sorry for Coral Gables when you have such a man running for office.”

So far Rosenblatt has not responded to several messages requesting comments about  Kolbert’s and Roche’s statements.

 

About Stephen E. McGaughey
International consultant in economic development programs and projects

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