By Agrippina Fadel
Not every city commission meeting has exciting topics to cover.
Much of the decision-making is somewhat dull, however, a necessary obligation that elected leaders must make to keep their city government running successfully.
Yet, at the April 27th meeting, it seemed that no item on the agenda, no matter how easy and free of controversy could be passed all due to a strange game of “pass the gavel” initiated by vice mayor Mike Gelin and commissioner Marlon Bolton.
Commissioner Debra Placko did not attend the meeting, which left only four commissioners on the dais.
When an item comes up for a vote, a commissioner must make a motion and then get a second. If no one seconds the item, it cannot be discussed and considered for a vote. The mayor cannot make a motion.
On Wednesday, the meeting chair, Mayor Michelle Gomez, could not move or second an item unless she “passed the gavel” — or temporarily gave up her position, allowing another commissioner to preside over the meeting.
The problems at the meeting started early on when Gomez asked for a motion and a second on the consent agenda.
After a pause, commissioner Elvin Villalobos offered a motion, but both Gelin and Bolton kept looking down at their paperwork, ignoring Gomez.
She asked her colleagues if they were pulling any items from the consent agenda. After not receiving a response, said, “Fine, I am passing the gavel to the vice mayor,” and seconded the motion.
Visibly irritated, the mayor reached through the privacy wall separating her from Gelin and gave him the gavel, saying, “Please proceed with calling the roll. It is all you get.”
Gelin paused before saying, “City Clerk, please call the roll.” All four members voted yes on the consent agenda, and Gelin returned the gavel.
Gomez then expressed hope that the commission could get through the rest of the agenda. Yet the situation repeated with the next item, a resolution approving a piggy-back agreement with Trane for HVAC improvements at the Tamarac Community Center.
After city attorney John Herin had read the resolution, Gomez once again asked for a motion and a second, only to hear silence back.
“Ladies and gentlemen, are we here to do the business of the city?” she asked, to which Villalobos answered: “Apparently not, mayor.”
“If we did not prepare for today, why are we here?” Said Gomez. “And if this is the way to just get the gavel, vice mayor, have fun because we are going to do the work of the city.”
She then passed the gavel across the wall again, with Gelin continuing to ignore her. Only after she looked at him and said, “are you kidding me?” did he finally take it.
Villalobos then asked for a recess, seemingly in hopes of negating the situation. After the break, he asked Gomez to move the whole agenda to the next meeting and adjourn the current one, “considering that commissioner Bolton and vice mayor Gelin do not wish to fulfill their fiduciary duties to the city and the residents.”
Gomez answered that the motion would not get approved as much as she would like to do that.
“It is just going to be you and I, and we will be stuck in the same situation. But I will pass the gavel and second it,” she said to Villalobos.
Gelin then called the roll, and as the mayor predicted, the motion failed, with both him and Bolton voting against it.
“So, we will start again,” said Gomez, adding to Gelin while passing the gavel, “and this is not how you get my position, just so you know.” Gelin recently announced he is running for the mayoral seat.
When Gomez could not get a second for the motion on the next item, the resolution amending the benefit plan for certain employees, she passed the gavel again, saying, “this is absolutely ridiculous,” and asked the record to reflect the non-participation of the commission.
Villalobos then asked the city attorney if the lack of responses from the dais was breaking any municipal laws, to which Herin answered that it wasn’t, as no commission members are obligated by law to move a certain motion or second it.
Gelin answered the “accusations of the lack of participation” by saying, “the full commission is participating and has the right to choose to motion and second, or not.”
Gomez reminded her colleagues that the commission has important items on the agenda. Both employees of the city and developers who hope to do business in Tamarac are watching how commissioners are “handling things” and asked everyone to “proceed professionally.”
Only two items on the agenda went through the standard procedure, where both Gelin and Bolton participated, and Gomez did not have to pass the gavel.
It is unclear what the vice mayor and commissioner Bolton were trying to accomplish besides stalling the commission meeting and aggravating their colleagues and city staff, and if they organized it before the meeting.
- 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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