Palmetto Bay

Palmetto Bay campaigns get uglier

With Tuesday’s election just days away, two races in Palmetto Bay have gotten ugly.

A recent mailer has been sent around that attacks Village Council candidate Karyn Cunningham for her work with the United Teachers of Dade, the county teachers’ union, and for her choice of campaign manager.

The mailer was not paid for by her opponent, David Zisman, but by a new political committee established in October in the village under the name Concerned Citizens for Ethics in Government. According to the village clerk’s office, the committee was created by Louis Medina, and its sole donor so far has been Jim Araiza, a twice-unsuccessful candidate for the council.

The mailer alleges Cunningham has been hiding her lobbying work with the UTD, and misrepresenting herself as a teacher. It also attacks her for her hiring lobbyist and political consultant Jose Luis Castillo, who raised eyebrows in Cutler Bay for managing council campaigns when he had business coming before the council.

Although Zisman’s campaign did not pay for the mailer, he has made the same accusations about Cunningham publicly, including in interviews with the Miami Herald.

Cunningham insists she has been candid about her work with UTD. All but one of her fliers explicitly cite her work with UTD — as well as her 18 years of actively teaching.

Her website notes her work with the union, saying she “provides year-round government relations and public affairs advocacy, both locally and in Tallahassee.” That is essentially the job description of a lobbyist.

Castillo has never registered as a lobbyist with Palmetto Bay, and the clerk’s office and building department said he does not have any current or scheduled business before the Village Council.

Zisman has also hired a campaign manager — his campaign reports indicate he has retained the services of Strategic Politics, a company owned by Frank May. May was a political consultant for, and friend of, former Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman, convicted recently on a felony count of illegal compensation. May himself was not charged with a crime.

Zisman did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, in the mayoral race, another anonymous flier has appeared against incumbent Shelley Stanczyk. This one features Stanczyk’s face placed onto a picture of a dominatrix.

The flier says, “Shelley Stanczyk, Mayor of Palmetto Bay promises Y’all residents lots of change figuratively speaking, OR ELSE!?”

Village police commander Gregory Truitt said the flier has been referred to the U.S. Postal Service because of its false return address.

All of Stanczyk’s challengers — Peter England, Patrick Fiore and Eugene Flinn — have publicly disavowed the fliers.