By Kevin Deutsch
Former Tamarac City Manager Michael Cernech wants the judge in his racketeering case to take him off of house arrest so that the longtime public official can begin two new jobs, according to court records.
In a Sept. 17 motion filed in Broward Circuit Court, attorney Larry Davis asked Judge Edward H. Merrigan, Jr. to modify the conditions of Cernech’s pretrial release, which require him to wear a GPS monitor and only permits him to leave home to take his kids to and from school.
“Mr. Cernech has secured possible employment at both a manufacturing company and a staffing agency,” Davis wrote. “At these companies, he would serve as a consultant assisting in operations and recruitment, respectively.”
Both opportunities would require “tri-county travel for day-to-day work purposes such as meetings, and depending on the businesses’ needs, possible out-of-state travel if permitted by the Court,” the motion states.
Cernech, 52, was fired by the Tamarac City Commission during an emergency meeting on Sept. 2, days after his arrest, for allegedly helping extort more than $3 million from a local developer.
The Commission voted 4-1 to terminate Cernech with cause. Multiple members stated they wanted to make a clean break with him after prosecutors with the Florida Attorney General’s Office said he conspired to commit racketeering with several others, including father-and-son developer duo Bruce and Shawn Chait.
Cernech is currently free on a $200,000 bond, for which his house was used as collateral, courts records show.
In his motion, Davis said Cernech’s wife, Rosemary, is a middle school math teacher in Broward County.
“Given the overworked and underpaid nature of her profession, Mr. Cernech will need to take the lead as it relates to taking care of his parents, re-entering the workforce following his recent termination, and transporting his two children…to school and extracurricular activities,” Davis wrote.
Deputy Statewide Prosecutor Julie Hogan, with the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, “is not objecting” to the requested changes to Cernech’s release conditions and “will defer to the Court,” Davis wrote.
Cernech, Tamarac’s city manager since 2011, was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering under the RICO statutes, which resulted from the Chaits and Cernech attempting to pressure Arnaud Karsenti, the Managing Principal of 13th Floor Investments, into coughing up $3.4 million in extortion money, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In exchange for the payoff, the Chaits’ vowed to cease a years-long harassment and intimidation campaign they and their allies waged against Karsenti, prosecutors said. Their campaign involved publicizing false evidence—including lawsuits— claiming the Sabal Palm and Monterrey golf courses on which 13th Floor built the Manor Parc and Central Parc developments were environmentally tainted, records show.
Other co-conspirators in the case include John Colonel and Harris Shapiro, records show.
The Chaits have a history of criminal corruption in Tamarac and Broward County, partaking in an earlier bribery scandal. Multiple Tamarac officials were implicated and arrested, and a county commissioner was sent to prison.
Cernech is due in court on Sept. 21.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.