By Agrippina Fadel
Did Tamarac city commissioners break the Sunshine Law when they replaced the city attorney last December?
Residents seem to think so, with several speaking out during the public participation portion of the Jan. 11 meeting to voice their concerns, even making a public records request.
Sunshine Law dictates that all government dealings stay entirely transparent to the public, and commissioners are not allowed to discuss agenda items and form alliances before the meetings.
According to residents, after watching Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton and newly elected commissioners Kicia Daniel and Morey Wright vote to rehire Hans Ottinot as the city attorney and push for interim city manager Levent Sucuoglu to take over as city manager after Kathleen Gunn resigns, the three are accused of discussing the matter before the vote.
Elizabeth Walter, a resident of Sunflower-Heathgate, told the commissioners she wanted to see what they based their decision on and requested “any and all documentation that commissioners received” before the first meeting of the year, including emails, text messages, and phone recordings.
“As a government employee for another agency for the last 28 years, I believe I’m very well-versed in the process of contracts, procurements, and budgets. I know decisions to change vendors and go into new contracts are not taken lightly. And it seems that in this situation, [decision] to change out this attorney was just on a whim,” she said.
Tamarac resident Patti Lynn doesn’t understand where the commissioners “got the knowledge” on who the new city attorney and manager were and whether they knew anything about the city’s history before voting on such important measures.
“I hope somebody will make that clear because it sounds like a Sunshine Law violation,” she added.
Another outspoken resident, Darcy Schiller, called Hans Ottinot a “questionably competent attorney” and said that when he last worked for the city, he only kept in mind the interests of two commission members: Bolton and former Commissioner Mike Gelin.
Schiller said she was “disgusted beyond words” that two new commissioners, who had no professional knowledge of Ottinot as city attorney, went ahead and voted for him without any background information.
“This is how the commission is going to start the year off. Do you expect the people to welcome you with open arms? Do you expect people to trust you?”
Mainlands resident Kate Johnson said she was “appalled” as she watched Bolton nominate himself as the vice mayor and called the move a “powerplay to set up the rest of the meeting.”
She added that commissioners Daniel and Wright were “in lockstep with [Bolton] and seemed well informed of the issues ahead of time, unlike others on the dais.”
Johnson called it “playing politics at the expense of Tamarac residents” and said Bolton wanted to appoint people without going through the necessary procedures.
“The vice mayor and his allies voted to fire our attorney and rehire a previous law firm while saying the current attorney is an excellent attorney; how did that happen if manipulation and planning behind the scenes did not occur? It reeks of political payback,” she added.
Johnson said that the new hire would “cost the city double.”
“Anyone who understands the legal system knows [the city has] legal matters pending. We will have to pay this new attorney for work already done on behalf of the city as they catch up on cases,” she explained, adding that it is unprofessional and unwise to appoint people to such vital positions without opening them up for solicitation when there may be better candidates who would serve the city well.
“What you have done goes against any sense of fairness or equity. I would encourage the new commissioners to uphold their campaign promises to be impartial and fair,” Johnson said.
- 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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