By Selene Raj
The December 9 city commission meeting resulted in the resignation of long-time City Attorney Samuel S. Goren after Commissioner Marlon Bolton accused him of being untrustworthy.
The controversial remarks and motions made by Commissioner Marlon Bolton have come with heavy criticism, with residents on Facebook accusing him of grandstanding, being rude to other public officials and colleagues, and disregarding the public process.
Another resident defended him, saying he was standing up for his constituents.
The central driving issue was an empty piece of land on Rock Island Rd and Commercial Blvd that was a controversial topic to residents. Due to the ongoing litigation, the city commission approved a court-ordered contractual agreement to build a proposed storage facility in June of 2018—though some residents felt they had little say in that decision.
At the meeting, the bad blood was rehashed—but this time, City Attorney Sam Goren was the subject of Commissioner Bolton’s disdain regarding the storage facility.
At the end of his attorney report, Goren gave the commission a quick update, which didn’t require action or a vote.
Goren informed them that the city was moving towards compliance with the court-ordered settlement, and the land development contract was to close imminently, as soon as the next ten business days.
What was intended to be a quick update resulted in a 45-minute discussion where Commissioner Bolton stated his continued opposition to the storage facility being built in his district. He urged his colleagues to revisit this issue and asked them not to execute the current agreement.
There were several contentious moments as this discussion went on, as Goren reiterated that the legal matter was essentially settled. Failure to sign the closing documents would put the city in breach and violate a court order.
Commissioner Bolton, however, persisted in his pursuit of halting the signing of the closing documents.
“To undo that transaction would create significant legal implications for the City of Tamarac,” said Goren.
Commissioner Bolton repeatedly asked if the commission could take action. Goren eventually replied that action could be taken to discuss the issue, but not to undo the agreement or act contrary to the court order.
Goren, a founding partner of Goren, Cherof, Doody & Ezrol, PA, has over 40 years of municipal law experience and represents cities such as Tamarac, North Lauderdale, and Pembroke Pines. He serves as General Counsel for the South Florida Regional Planning Council, the North Lauderdale Water Control District, the Housing Authority of the City of North Lauderdale. His service resulted in the Broward League of Cities naming a Presidential Award after him.
However, despite Goren’s extensive legal experience, Commissioner Bolton still did not believe he was acting in the city’s best interest—though he could not specify any reason for this belief.
The attorney went back and forth with him until Commissioner Bolton accused the Goren of being untrustworthy.
“I cannot say I trust the advice given by the city attorney tonight. I believe that it is somewhat skewed,” said Commissioner Bolton. He did not cite any specific evidence that Goren was biased but followed it by introducing a motion to disregard his advice.
“I would like to make a motion to compel the city not to sign the agreement at hand, and in the interim, hire outside counsel to look at all the documents that are associated with this lawsuit and come back to a meeting at a time certain before the agreement is signed to advise the city commission on its independent analysis,” said Commissioner Bolton.
As part of the motion, Commissioner Bolton said he would be the one to choose the outside counsel — meaning he alone would hire an attorney, giving the reason that it was his district at the center of the issue.
Both Mayor Gomez and Goren pointed out this was irregular, for an individual commissioner to hire outside legal counsel of their choosing at the city’s expense.
Commissioner Bolton responded by asking if this was the advice Goren gave Mayor Gomez when he alleged she hired outside counsel to investigate her colleague [Bolton].
Mayor Gomez told him he was “out of line,” but Commissioner Bolton continued.
“You, Sam Goren, are full of Holy Bible.”
Commissioner Bolton’s original motion failed 3-2, with Commissioners Mike Gelin and Bolton voting in favor, and Mayor Gomez, Vice Mayor Elvin Villalobos, and Commissioner Debra Placko voting in opposition.
Then, Vice Mayor Villalobos expressed that he misinterpreted what they were voting on and subsequently requested a motion to reconsider. When that passed, they opted to vote on the motion to hire outside legal counsel once again.
The motion then passed, 4-1, with only Mayor Gomez voting against it, and both Vice Mayor Villalobos and Commissioner Placko switching their votes to “Yes” to join Commissioners Bolton and Gelin.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master's in Mass Communications in 2020, and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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