By Sherry Nabbie-Singh
There were no winners at the June 23 city commission meeting, where a discussion on civility turned out to be anything but.
After months of chaos, disrespect, and interrupting one another on the dais, Vice Mayor Elvin Villalobos requested a civility and decorum item on the commission agenda. One of his suggestions was to hold a retreat to improve communication between members.
The agenda item started with Villalobos addressing the commission and asking Commissioner Mike Gelin to pay attention instead of watching basketball on his phone.
“What I have witnessed since being elected is a boatload of failures,” he said. “I have experienced disunity, a continuing disregard and breaking of ethics rules we have all sworn we would stand by. It has brought shame to ourselves, to our city’s name, to our staff, and most significantly to our residents.”
He wanted a professional facilitator to cover topics like communication, working together, and moving the city forward,
He asked to get a “concession” from city staff for the retreat. Which later prompted an exclamation of “Oh my God.” from Gelin, who told Villalobos that he doesn’t know what “concession” meant.
Mayor Michelle Gomez intervened and implored both men to stop speaking so the meeting could continue.
Villalobos stressed family importance and support and that personal attacks on someone’s family are shameful, continuing to direct his attention towards Gelin.
“For you, Commissioner Gelin, to call me weak, a puppet, and to say that I am so weak that my wife does not support me…”
Gelin interrupted, causing Villalobos to reiterate that this was his item, and he was speaking. Both men spoke over each other, rendering them inaudible.
When calls for both men to stop went ignored, Gelin’s mic was muted; however, he leaned over to continue talking to Villalobos, who also continued to speak into his unmuted mic.
After Gomez called for both men to stop talking, Gelin stood up and packed his belonging while still addressing Villalobos.
“Commissioner Gelin, if you’re leaving, please leave. Comments are not needed. The vice mayor has the floor,” said Gomez.
Villalobos directed his comments toward Gelin as he walked out, saying, “You might miss former Commissioner [Julie] Fishman, but I am pretty sure that your constituents won’t miss you next year.”
“Gentleman, come on. That’s enough,” said Commissioner Debra Placko.
Gomez reminded Villalobos while he was allowed to have feelings, this was not the time or place to argue and that they are all held to a higher standard and should act as such.
The meeting continued without Gelin, and Villalobos asked the city attorney to confirm a commissioner can be removed from any given meeting if they are out of line.
Villalobos stated that the next time any commissioner is out of line, himself included, there would be a motion to remove that person, saying that he felt threatened when Gelin stood behind him as he left.
City attorney Herin explained the necessary steps to take should a member feel threatened just as the meeting came to a close.
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- A self-published author and professional makeup artist who has resided in Tamarac since 2011. Originally from Trinidad, Sherry graduated from the University of the West Indies with a bachelor of arts in literature in English.