Jan 10, 2023 - News

Parody email impersonating Surfside mayor under investigation

Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danzinger

Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danzinger. Photo: Martin Vassolo/Axios

Apparently imitation isn't always a form of flattery.

Driving the news: Surfside police are investigating a parody email sent to town residents that impersonates Mayor Shlomo Danzinger, referring to him as "King-Mayor" and applauding the resignations of three top-level officials last month as a "coup."

  • The email, which was sent by an activist group under Danzinger's name Monday morning, imitates the letterhead and template of the mayor's periodic emails to his constituents.

Reality check: If the name or letterhead fooled residents, the first line of the email probably gave away the gag.

  • "Dear Loyal Subjects," the email begins. "This new year is truly glorious. After months of silencing both outspoken residents and staff while pushing forward my divisive, distasteful, and environment-polluting personal agenda, I have finally rid Town Hall of any professional pushback that might hamper my personal political ambitions."

Of note: The email also contains a disclaimer at the bottom, saying it's a satirical parody not affiliated with Danzinger or the town.

The response: The town said in a statement Monday that police were "investigating the matter and will be taking appropriate action once more information is obtained."

  • The town said the sender obtained Danzinger's email distribution list through a public records request.

What they're saying: Danzinger emailed residents apologizing for the "invasion of privacy."

  • "The email was composed as if written first-hand, and the intent was to slander and defame," he wrote.
  • Danzinger told Axios in a statement that police initiated the investigation "understanding the seriousness" of impersonating an elected official.

The email was sent by local activist group Surfside Concerned Citizens, according to member and former town commissioner Eliana Salzhauer.

  • Salzhauer, who is a fierce critic of Danzinger, told Axios the email was "clearly satire and parody" and not worthy of a police investigation.
  • "A bruised ego is not assault," said Salzhauer, a former prosecutor.

Between the lines: Tom Julin, an attorney who specializes in First Amendment rights at Florida law firm Gunster, tells Axios the email is "classic parody" that would be protected by the First Amendment because a reasonable person would realize Danzinger did not publish it himself.

  • "The First Amendment would protect the poster against criminal charges or any civil claims such as libel or intentional infliction of emotional distress," he wrote in an email.

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