By: Sharon Aron Baron
The old saying “When in doubt do the right thing” didn’t seem to apply to Commissioner Debra Placko at Wednesday night’s commission meeting.
Placko knew it wasn’t her turn to serve as the ceremonial position of vice mayor for the second time in two years, but just couldn’t help but vote “yes” for herself.
After all, the future of the city rested on her shoulders.
The position should have gone to two commissioners next in line: Marlon Bolton or Julie Fishman.
Before Mayor Gomez announced her diagnosis of breast cancer on Monday, she handpicked Placko to be vice mayor over Julie Fishman, even though it was Fishman’s turn. No, Fishman couldn’t take the job yet to help out her pal. She needed that title when it was politically advantageous for her – when she was up for reelection in 2020. After all, the title of vice mayor looks good when you’re a candidate.
So Bolton would be next up for the position. Right?
According to Bolton at the city commission meeting on Wednesday, City Manager Michael Cernech approached him on Monday and told him that based on what he heard about his behavior during the last election, Gomez, Fishman and Placko “were not inclined to appoint him vice mayor”.
Bolton reminded the commission about his support for a fellow neighbor and friend Elvin Villalobos during the mayoral election. He denied any malicious campaigning and said that once the election was over, and he immediately congratulated Gomez and told his district they would work together.
But soon the story changed from his behavior to Gomez wanting someone “more qualified” with “seniority” for the position.
Suddenly, Bolton was not qualified to be vice mayor.
It would be three votes to two unless someone else voted for Bolton. Placko would be the swing vote.
Commissioner Mike Gelin believed Placko should do the right thing and let Bolton be the next one up for the vice mayor position.
“The reason why he won [as commissioner] was one: he’s hardworking and two: he connects with voters and three: the people in his district believe in him…so this is his opportunity to serve as vice mayor,” said Gelin.
Gelin said that this commission seemed to want to take this opportunity away from him for an unjust reason and felt it was Bolton’s turn – as he even won his own election with a super majority without the support of fire, police or realtors and was an underdog that no one believed would ever win.
He said Fishman stated that the role should go to someone with seniority, but that wasn’t correct. Back in 2010, Gomez was appointed vice mayor after serving for less than a year as an appointed commissioner. There were other examples that he received from the city clerk that showed the position did not go to the most senior person.
He said Gomez served as vice mayor four times as well as held the position of vice mayor going into her last election.
“How many times does someone get to serve before Commissioner Bolton gets an opportunity?”
He said Gomez has demonstrated she had a personal agenda or vendetta against Bolton and this was a way to pay him back.
Gelin said, “I think it’s up to you, Commissioner Placko to reject this nomination and give him an opportunity, and I wish someone would explain to me why he doesn’t deserve this opportunity.”
Bolton told Placko that he had stood with her since day one. “I have spoken highly of you, I supported you when people in your community told me you weren’t a nice person. I told them how dare they speak so poorly of one of my colleagues. I supported you to the end…you’re exceptional and you supported me for months here so I’m flabbergasted that you would be a part of this covert plan to not support me because of politics.”
Bolton said that for the very first time, an African-American would be chosen as vice mayor in Tamarac and he could think of no other reason other than politics why he would not be selected that night.
Placko said that when she was approached, she stepped back to think about it.
“I never in a million years want to hurt my colleague,” said Placko. “We have had a good working relationship and I would not want to do anything to jeopardize this. But as I reflected on this, I decided it would be in the best interest of the city to accept it at this time because of the continuity. I have been here the longest I know what projects we are working on.”
She said that it was not based on ego or politics or was personal. “It’s a decision I struggled with…I am sorry that anyone is hurt by it. I’m sorry if anyone is disappointed by it. But it was a difficult decision.”
With that, along with Gomez and Fishman, she voted yes to anoint herself the new vice mayor of Tamarac.