An electronic billboard with a “welcome to Doral” message — and the photos of three city commissioners seeking reelection plus two other commissioners — has drawn fire from candidates running against the politicians.
The smiling images of Mayor Luigi Boria and Commissioners Sandra Ruiz, Christi Fraga, Ana María Rodríguez and Pete Cabrera were displayed in one of Doral’s busiest areas, 25th Street Northwest and the Palmetto.
“Regardless of whether it is legal or not, it is immoral,” said David Hernández, who is running against Fraga for Seat 3. “How can council members, in an election period, get publicity from one of the companies that has benefited from a regulation that they themselves approved?”
The sign has since been taken down.
Boria said last week that no Doral municipal employee had authorized the use of the council members’ images on the billboard.
“We have nothing to do with that issue,” said Boria, whose reelection effort is being challenged by Ruiz and former mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez. “Really, I’ve been surprised by this.”
Bermudez said he did not want to comment because he did not know all the details of the case.
For Felipe Madrigal, a community activist who supports Bermudez, the use of the photos of the council members on the publicity signs was beyond inappropriate.
“This is typical abuse of power,” said Madrigal. “In this way, three candidates in the next Doral municipal elections get free publicity. This is a lack of ethics.”
The company that owns the billboard, View Point of South Florida, and a former partner, SDE Media, have been battling since 2014 over municipal regulations on locations for advertising billboards, a dispute that is currently before a Florida state court.
The municipality issued a statement saying it did not contract for the sign. It added that View Point representatives told municipal officials that the billboard had been equipped recently with LED equipment and the company was “simply testing it with a non-commercial image.”
The statement added that the municipality had asked the company to remove the images of the politicians from the billboard. It was removed the following day.
Enrique Flor: @kikeflor