The competition for a Miami Beach commission seat is turning into a bizarre new chapter for Miami Beach’s rough-and-tumble political history after one candidate, Mark Weithorn, aired his opponent Ricky Arriola’s Social Security number in a TV attack ad.
Publishing an opponent’s private information is nothing new to Beach elections — the same thing happened back in 2011 to former mayor Matti Herrera Bower. But this time things supposedly got extra bumpy when Arriola sued Weithorn over the violation of his privacy. The process server who delivered the notice of the suit told police Weithorn clipped him with his car.
Weithorn and Arriola have traded jabs through the race through attack ads and snippy comments at debates as they vie for the Group 5 commission seat. The mudslinging took a turn in recent weeks, though, when Arriola’s private information was disclosed in a TV spot, mailer and email blast citing Arriola’s 2009 arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge stemming from an encounter with a security guard. The ads came from both Weithorn’s campaign and an electioneering communications organization (ECO) called Miami Beach Advisory Council that is working with Weithorn.
Arriola was arrested in December 2009 and charged with hitting a security guard at his South Beach condo when the guard asked him to turn down his music. County records show Arriola was not prosecuted.
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Weithorn and the ECO show the full arrest form in their ads, with Arriola’s handwritten Social Security number in plain view.
Arriola is suing Weithorn and the ECO in Miami-Dade County civil court over the ads.
Circuit Judge Rodney Smith on Tuesday ordered Weithorn and the Miami Beach Advisory Council to redact Arriola’s Social Security number in any future ads.
“There was no need to disclose my Social Security number,” Arriola said Wednesday. “It wouldn’t have cost him anything to redact it.”
Reached by phone Tuesday, Weithorn would only say Arriola’s arrest is public record, and voters needed to see it.
“Ricky has a criminal record, and the voters need to be made aware,” he said. “It’s all I got to say.”
Mark Herron, a Tallahassee-based elections lawyer, is treasurer and chair of the Miami Beach Advisory Council. On Wednesday, he told the Miami Herald that it was assumed that information would be redacted by the agency providing it.
“It’s not our responsibility to redact the documents,” he said. “Had we seen it, we would’ve redacted it, but we weren’t focusing on that particular box on that form. We thought all the redactions had already been made.”
On the security incident, Arriola said he only cursed at the guard for pounding on the door.
“I cursed him out, but I never touched the guy,” he said.
The ads also cite a 1991 charge for selling alcohol to a minor. This was dismissed, according to court records. Arriola said he had his wallet stolen and someone used his ID without his knowledge.
Arriola’s attorney, elections lawyer J.C. Planas, said the threat of identity theft is serious because Arriola has publicly disclosed other personal information when he filed to run for office.
“The only thing an identity thief would need is his Social Security number,” he said. “We have to make sure that nothing’s been compromised.”
Planas said he also filed a complaint with Miami-Dade’s ethics commission.
Delivering notice of the lawsuit, according to the process server, was a bumpy process.
Ivan Hadfeg told police he was wearing his badge when he approached Weithorn at his North Beach home on Saturday. He held the court documents in his hand as he walked up to Weithorn, who was in his Lexus.
According to a report Hadfeg filed with police, Weithorn promptly drove off and hit Hadfeg’s right leg. Hadfeg went to the police station to accuse Weithorn of aggravated battery, although he refused medical treatment. Police are investigating.
On Wednesday, Weithorn called the accusations lies.
“You can see my car, it’s in perfect shape,” he said. “Ricky’s campaign is in trouble and this is dirty politics at its worst.”
Voters will decide between the two as elections wrap up Tuesday.