By Agrippina Fadel
After another meeting full of jabs and mutual insults, Commissioner Marlon Bolton convinced his colleagues to temporarily suspend all discussions on the dais relating to campaign contributions, political action committees, social media policy, and media outlets.
The city commission approved the item 3-2 at the June 8 meeting, with Commissioner Elvin Villalobos and Mayor Michelle Gomez voting no, and the latter saying Bolton’s proposal is “not enforceable” and has “no teeth.”
Bolton initially did not want to explain the item, asking the commission for consensus without a discussion. When Gomez asked him to elaborate, Bolton read a series of residents’ Facebook posts.
He said the commission spent a “considerate amount of time” hearing about items on social media etiquette and campaign contributions.
“It is almost like a circus, and the residents are over it, and they are over the commissioners fighting with each other on the dais and online,” said Bolton. “It needs to stop. We need to go back to the business of this city and not think about personalities.” Meanwhile, at the April 27 meeting, Bolton and Gelin stopped the commission from doing the city business when they refused to second any items on the agenda and forced Gomez to pass the gavel for the majority of the meeting.
Bolton said he knows he cannot tell another commissioner they can’t go on social media and discuss an item but thinks that the commission as a body should not discuss the members’ conduct online.
“If someone has a problem with Sen-Sentinel, Tamarac Post, Tamarac Talk, with all of the blogs, they should use their own personal resources to do that, not the resources of this commission,” said Bolton, who had complained about a Sun-Sentinel reporter writing about him at the April 2021 meeting.
Yet, Bolton said he is not afraid of blogs and welcomes all publicity, good and bad. “You want to put me in a clown costume or make me look like I’m in ancient Greece? I am now known because of that,” he added.
When Villalobos spoke, Bolton immediately interrupted him, saying he was being attacked, but got scolded by Gomez.
“You have already attacked him,” she said to Bolton, “And if you don’t like it, too bad, you shouldn’t have thrown the first punch.”
Gomez said she is “getting a little tired” of the discussion, and “everybody knows what’s going on.” She suggested Bolton “suck it up and deal with” the comments he did not like since he had brought the item to the agenda.
“It’s a circus because… I’m going to say it. You have made it a circus. That is my opinion, and that is exactly why we are not friends,” said Villalobos to Bolton, calling him a bully and accusing him of attacking everyone but vice mayor Mike Gelin through Tamarac Post while publishing “fluff” about himself.
“Putting the social media discussion on hold does not hold us accountable. This is an open season of attacks for 180 days, right before the election. What a coincidence,” added Villalobos.
He said he doesn’t care if the publications attack him but is against commissioners sending out “evil misinformation” to the residents.
“I have a problem when Bolton sends my residents information, and it is not factual Villalobos said. That’s why I brought up an item about it twice, but I held back a presentation that would have nailed commissioner Bolton about Tamarac Post. I have the facts, but I refused to play in the mud with him,” added Villalobos.
Gelin then reminded the commission that no one could regulate Tamarac Talk, Tamarac Post, and Red Broward. “This is America. We have freedom of speech. That should be explained to the commissioner, who may still believe that Latin American rules apply in America. And it doesn’t,” seemingly insulting Villalobos, who was born in Nicaragua.
Gelin then added he wants to see more proactive advice and counsel from the city manager and attorney when “advising a new commissioner who hasn’t studied the rules or may not understand how this country is governed.” Later in the meeting, Gelin tried to say he did not mean to offend anyone, and his comments come from the fact that he himself is a “son of immigrants who came from a non-democratic nation.”
Gomez reminded her colleagues that the city staff had brought a social media policy to the commission months ago, but the members did not want to move forward with it.
“Have we had such policy, much of this stuff would not be up for discussion this evening,” she said. “So, people, take responsibility for your actions, be mindful of them, and stop complaining about it.”
Gomez called the item a “non-starter,” even after it was voted on. It is unclear how the commissioners can stop each other from talking about the “forbidden” topics on the dais for the next 180 days.
- 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.