This morning, Ron Gunzburger, a respected attorney and Democratic activist, posted on the Facebook Page of the Dolphin Democratic club that Sheriff Al Lamberti, 21 years ago, orchestrated, planned, and authorized the ill conceived raids on gay bars in Broward County, the renowned Copa on Federal Highway in Dania Beach, and Club 21 in Hallandale.
Gunzburger claimed that Sheriff Lamberti did this in his capacity as the head of the Organized Crime Division of the Broward Sheriff’s office. Gunzburger’s posts refer to the episode as “Lamberti’s homophobic bar raids.” It’s a transparently political attempt to lay the blame of what happened then on Sheriff Lamberti today.
Sometimes a lie gets around the world before the truth catches up with it. Not this time. What did President Obama say in the debate to Mitt Romney the other day? "It's simply not true."
Well, Ron, what you are saying is simply not true.
First, I speak with some authority. Go read the 1991 article by Steve Rothaus, where it explains in detail those raids. I was not only the attorney for the Club 21, but was later retained by both the Copa and the entire class of gay men who sued after that deplorable raid. While Lamberti did work for the BSO at the time, he was not the sheriff, nor was he in charge of the operation. In fact, Lamberti was District Chief of Deerfield Beach.
The target of our anger back then was never Al Lamberti, but the grandstanding of then-Sheriff Nick Navarro, showing up at a shameful law enforcement operation accompanied by his wife and a Russian ambassador, helicopters and Channel 7. It was a disgraceful use of police power, which Nick Navarro later came to regret. It antagonized the gay community and alienated us from BSO for years.
Here in 2012, 21 years later, let us all do fact-checking 101!
Al Lamberti was never named as a defendant in our cause of action, which was settled by the subsequent sheriff, the late Ron Cochran. The settlement provided for a generous donation to be made to an AIDS agency, and a new sheriff then set a bold new course for reaching out to the gay and lesbian community.
Today, Al Lamberti is a Republican sheriff in a Democratic town running for re-election. Regardless of whether you choose to vote the party line and support his opponent, Sheriff Lamberti’s track record, history, and demonstrative outreach to the gay community during his first term in office is commendable and laudatory. It should not be dishonored by unsubstantiated allegations authored in order to gain a political advantage in this year’s election.