Miami Beach

Miami Beach candidate uses commissioner’s charity in political ad

Miami Beach candidate Mark Samuelian’s email blast.
Miami Beach candidate Mark Samuelian’s email blast. Via email

Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco has no love for commission candidate Mark Samuelian after Samuelian sent an email blast using the logo for Grieco’s newly formed nonprofit, Miami Beach Kids First.

Grieco said his group raises money for need-based scholarships and grant programs for children in the city who don’t have access to Pre-K and supplemental support for kids with special needs.

On Monday, Samuelian emailed a political advertisement that depicts the nonprofit’s logo, states his support for the group and says he plans to go to the charity’s first fundraiser Sept. 17. He encouraged supporters to attend.

The ad also features an image of him playing chess with students. Samuelian coaches a chess team after schools at Miami Beach Senior High School.

“Education is critical to the health of our community, and as your commissioner I will work to bolster our students by promoting city-sponsored educational efforts including after school activities and programming that will engage our students in meaningful ways,” he wrote.

Grieco is not mentioned in the ad, and Samuelian did not contact him before it went out.

The commissioner was furious when he saw the message, and fired off an email blast denouncing Samuelian.

“This is not a political event,” he wrote. “However, a recent arrival to our city who has decided to run for the commission unilaterally chose to use this event and cause for political advertising and self-promotion purposes.”

I’m surprised. And frankly, I find it a bit confusing. There was no effort to politicize anything.

Mark Samuelian, City Commission candidate

In an interview Tuesday, Samuelian said he was confused by Grieco’s ire. He said he wanted to let his supporters know about the event, and he insists there was no effort to politicize the group’s first fundraiser.

He said he did not plan to campaign at the event.

“It was using my message and my platform to support a positive cause,” he said.

Samuelian tried to contribute to the charity, but Grieco refunded a $500 donation Monday. On Tuesday, Grieco told the MiamI Herald he will not accept donations from elected officials or candidates.

Grieco called the email misleading, saying Samuelian tried to appropriate the event as his own. When Samuelian pointed out that other candidates were sharing the event invitation on Facebook, including John Elizabeth Alemán and Michael DeFilippi, Grieco countered that they were simply sharing the official event page and attributing it to the group.

“I would never have given any political candidate permission to send out an email blast with the organization’s logo,” Grieco said. “Period.”

The event at SLS Hotel South Beach is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday (which is also Grieco’s birthday, which is mentioned in parentheses in the event’s title on Facebook). The commissioner said he welcomes all elected officials and candidates to attend, but he wants to insulate the charity from politics.

“I’m not a politician,” he said. “I’m an elected official.”

Elected in 2013, he said if were to run for reelection, he would likely transfer the group’s directorship to someone else. He also vowed to never mention the nonprofit in any of his political literature in the future.

Samuelian insisted he just wanted to draw attention to the cause.

“What we were trying to do is support an organization,” he said.