A former Boca Raton City Council candidate is suing the opponent who defeated him, claiming a March campaign mail piece “defamed, smeared and denigrated” him and cost him the election.
Armand Grossman, a retired educator, filed a defamation suit against Councilwoman Monica Mayotte centered on a mail piece sent to Boca Raton voters two days before the March election.
The piece opens with the statement: “Armand Grossman was found guilty of defrauding over 4,000 individuals in a get-rich-quick scam he created.” It goes on to say Grossman set up a “phony real estate program” and, “The last thing Boca Raton needs is a scam artist on the city council.”
The piece cited a Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation case against Grossman in 1999.
Grossman’s lawsuit claims he was never “found guilty” of any crimes, and didn’t set up a phony program.
“That obviously was a hugely derogatory flier, in which she stated I was found guilty of defrauding 4,000 people,” Grossman told The Post. “There were no criminal charges, no indictment. No such thing ever existed.”
Mayotte — an environmental sustainability consultant who received 67 percent of the vote in defeating Grossman in March — declined to comment on the details of the defamation suit, but said she is focused on carrying out her council duties.
“My former opponent’s record speaks for itself. My focus remains on the city of Boca Raton, and the job the overwhelming majority of voters elected me to do,” Mayotte wrote in a statement.
Richard Giorgio, Mayotte’s campaign consultant who created the mail piece approved by Mayotte, said the piece directly quoted the 1999 case against Grossman.
“Everything in the mail piece is accurate. In fact, the actual circumstances of what happened are far worse than what was in the mail piece,” Giorgio said. “I’m surprised that he would even want to bring this subject up.”
The 1999 case, filed by the Florida Real Estate Commission, accused Grossman and his business of fraud, operating under a trade name without notifying the state, employing unlicensed real estate salespeople and fraudulently advertising services. Grossman settled the case a year later. He neither admitted nor denied the allegations, and was told to pay a $500 fine and take a 30-hour real estate broker management course, and was placed on six-month probation.
The state’s administrative complaint described a seminar Grossman set up in which members paid $1,000 to participate. The members would then identify a real estate property to sell, and Grossman’s “counselors” would find investors or buyers for the property, according to state records.
As of April 1997, more than 4,000 people were paid members of the program. None of the members had closed transactions , however, state investigators wrote in the complaint.
One count in the 1999 complaint says Grossman “is guilty of fraud, misrepresentation, concealment, false pretenses, dishonest dealing by trick, scheme or device, culpable negligence, or breach of trust.” The settlement a year later makes no mention of guilt or liability, however.
The 1999 complaint was the document quoted in Mayotte’s campaign mailer saying Grossman was “found guilty,” Giorgio said.
“They found him guilty,” he said. “That’s where the words come from. It’s in the state’s findings.”
Grossman, who received a copy of the mail piece at his home two days before the election, said he was shocked to see the “misleading” mailer.
“I wasn’t sure how to react,” he said.
He said it cost him the election.
“I had people call me to say voters thought I had served time in federal prison,” he said.
Grossman, who is represented by Boca Raton attorney David Shiner, is suing for damages in excess of $15,000. While the lawsuit makes no mention of the validity of Mayotte’s March victory, Grossman called it into question without specifically saying whether or not he aims to see her removed from office.
“That’s up to the public, but what if we had sent out a mailer and defamed her with totally false allegations?” he said. “Such a campaign is derogatory and besmirches the leadership of a world-class city.”
Giorgio said Mayotte earned her seat without question.
“Monica ran a very hard and positive campaign,” Giorgio said. “She was as resident-friendly candidate. Voters appreciated that about her and that’s why she won.”
The March election wasn’t the first time Grossman’s 1999 case haunted his political ambitions. Grossman briefly ran for council in 2015 against now-Councilman Jeremy Rodgers and attorney Frank Chapman.
Before the city’s qualifying period even ended, a website and mail piece attacking Grossman based on the same Florida Real Estate Commission case were released. Grossman withdrew from the race shortly afterward.
The website, www.armandgrossman.com, called Grossman a “slick-talker” and described the fraud charges. The site was created by political committee Floridians for Integrity in Government, founded by consultant Todd Richardson, according to state records.
Shortly before the March election, the website was converted from an attack piece — documented in website screenshots and media reports in 2015 — to Grossman’s campaign website, still active today. Grossman hired Richardson to run his 2018 campaign.