By Agrippina Fadel
The Tamarac City Commission is keeping its $700 monthly car allowance — for now.
The commission will discuss the perk during future workshops after the staff has time to prepare information on how the other cities in Broward County compensate their elected officials for travel.
Commissioner Elvin Villalobos requested the discussion at the April 12 commission meeting and suggested that the car allowance should be reduced, eliminated, or replaced with city-issued vehicles. He also offered to use the IRS reimbursement code for mileage instead of the current rates.
Villalobos asked his colleagues to give a consensus on which course of action they preferred, and it seemed that the commission was ready to vote to reduce or remove the perk immediately.
In a rare show of support, Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton said Villalobos had “valid concerns” and is ready to discuss and vote to remove the car allowance.
Commissioner Kicia Daniel said she would support any of the options Villalobos suggested. She said a fifth option could be added if he wished: an opt-out choice for car allowances.
Mayor Michelle Gomez said she would rather discuss the car allowance and other benefits in a workshop after the staff gathers more information; Villalobos pulled the item from the discussion and agreed to add it to a future workshop.
Gomez said the staff would prepare the information promptly. “We are going to get it done, people,” she added.
Resident Rob Alfonso, who regularly expresses his disdain for the perk, said during the public comments that Tamarac, a 12-square mile city, is “not that big” and “it is not credible to say that any of the commissioners drive $700 worth in any given month.”
He added the commission gets the perk “no questions asked,” with no expense reports or receipts. He suggested they use an app to track their driving, submit an expense report each month showing their travel, and be reimbursed 58.5 cents per mile for work trips, not a “flat unaccountable $700 rate.”
Alfonso urged commissioners not to use any excuses during the car allowance discussion, such as that they work hard, would use the money for charity, or that such perks are not a big deal.
“None of you are above accountability to your constituents,” he said and played an audio file of Commissioner Morey Wright stating he would get rid of the allowance, seemingly encouraging the latter to keep his word when the time to vote comes.
After the meeting, Villalobos emailed the city staff asking to opt him out of the car allowance, effective immediately.
- 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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