By Sharon Aron Baron
With no notice to the public, a city commissioner added an agenda item at Wednesday’s meeting to remove the word interim — or temporary — from the city attorney’s title.
On March 10, the commission held another marathon city commission meeting, where they spent over 40 minutes discussing the semantics of the city attorney’s title, which had the word “interim” in it.
Long used in government, the word interim before an official’s name establishes they lead on a temporary assignment, which Interim City Attorney Hans Ottinot was hired to do.
However, on Wednesday night, Commissioner Marlon Bolton, seconded by Commissioner Mike Gelin, made it clear that they didn’t like that the city attorney was called interim — even though former Tamarac City Attorney Sam Goren was once interim.
Last December, the commission voted to temporarily hire Hans Ottinot’s law firm after Sam’s Goren’s untimely departure. Despite feeling remorse three months ago for his actions, Bolton made a statement claiming on Wednesday that he never berated Goren, even though he is on record of calling Goren untrustworthy, even saying, “You, Sam Goren, are full of Holy Bible.”
After Goren left, Bolton and the rest of the commission agreed that Ottinot would be an interim city attorney and would not be considered a permanent replacement.
During commission reports, Bolton moved to suspend a six-day rule and Roberts Rules of Order, to add an item to the agenda. While this is allowed under Tamarac’s city charter, this does not give residents the opportunity to view or comment on the process.
“So while we’re going through the process of finding a permanent attorney. I think that we should assume the role of a permanent city attorney,” said Bolton.
Commissioner Debra Placko was confused. “We’re going to make someone a permanent attorney until we hire a permanent attorney? That doesn’t seem logical to me.”
Commissioner Gelin, who seconded the motion, agreed with Bolton, saying he didn’t like the word “interim.”
“We’re all having this conversation in the middle of reports because we’re concerned about semantics and a title?” Asked Mayor Michelle Gomez. “The role is what it is. We don’t put permanent because it’s subject to change. It’s just a transitory title — it’s terminology — he’s still an attorney for our city.”
Later Gomez said to the commission, “Let’s move on.”
“Who decides I have the last comment?” Asked Bolton.
“Myself,” said the mayor.
“No, you don’t. I have one last comment, but you do not have the right to tell me I have one last comment,” said Bolton. “And I do not have to put my hand up because we suspended Roberts Rules for this discussion, so tread lightly. I know the law. You may have the law degree. It’s dusty. It’s not tit-for-tat. I have the floor.”
Bolton said he liked Hans Ottinot and that he was doing great work and deserved to be called the city attorney.
He told Gomez, “If this passes, you will call him city attorney, not interim city attorney. Call the Black man city attorney. Please, I would love to hear that.”
The commission voted 4-1 to change the city attorney’s title, with the mayor voting no. The commission will still go through the process of interviewing law firms for the permanent position. However, it’s hard to tell how many will apply now they are up against a permanent law firm.
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