By Agrippina Fadel
Commissioner Marlon Bolton apologized for calling mayor Michelle Gomez a “monster,” and city leaders – all but vice mayor Mike Gelin – agreed to uphold civility on the dais.
Bolton made the fateful comment at the commission meeting on March 23, during the discussion of the new high-end restaurant and retail plaza project in the city and its developer Michel Bittan’s promise to donate $500K to the city’s charities and homeless initiatives.
Mayor Gomez thought the donation was promised “under duress” and said she had some reservations about how significant contributions like these can affect future relationships between the city and developers. Bolton took her comments as a jab against charities fighting homelessness, reached out over the dais, and repeatedly called the mayor a monster.
During the commission meeting on April 13, the incident came up again when commissioner Elvin Villalobos played a video of the exchange for his colleagues, saying a resident brought it to his attention.
He said it was hard to hear Bolton’s comment at the time, but it was clear that none of the commissioners – including himself – stopped the incident from happening.
“My point is if we are going to keep to civility code, let’s stick to it. We keep going over the same stuff over and over again. Calling a woman or a colleague a monster is [an] unacceptable behavior,” said Villalobos. “We are public servants, and the public should not be hearing such things.”
This is not the first time Villalobos has pleaded with his colleagues to take measures to ensure civility on the dais.
“Let’s stick to the items on hand and focus on the residents, stay professional and not attack each other,” he concluded.
Bolton said he is “deeply sorry” his comment to the mayor hurt Villalobos and that he should not have called Gomez a monster.
“It was not a nice thing to say, and I ask your forgiveness. This is not the type of person that I am and not who I want my community to see me as, so I would like to apologize to my colleagues and members of the community,” said Bolton, adding that the consistent narrative of him being a “bad guy” is not necessarily true.
“Civility needs to be all around us, and not just on the dais,” he said, recounting how he recently emailed Villalobos about city business, to which the latter answered, asking Bolton not to email him again directly.
“That’s not civility. You can have your personal feelings about me, but we must carry on the city’s business,” Bolton said, adding that he and Villalobos used to be friends and often “prayed together” in the past, and he is not sure how they lost that connection.
Villalobos explained that he did not want to receive emails about city staff from Bolton to avoid breaking the Sunshine Law, which protects the public’s access to governmental proceedings.
“I look forward to seeing this video on “Tamarac Talk” and somewhere else online,” Bolton said, referring to the “monster incident.” Tamarac Talk had published the snippet of that exchange on March 29.
Gomez accepted Bolton’s apology and reminded the commissioners they all signed an oath the day they “showed up to become elected officers,” saying they would abide constitution, city ordinances, and ethical standards.
“I will ask for consensus regarding civility, but we should not be needing these things; we should just be professional,” she added. All commissioners agreed, except for Vice Mayor Mike Gelin, who said, “I am already doing that, so I do not need to agree to some kind of consensus.”
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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