By Kevin Deutsch
A special meeting of the Tamarac City Commission has been scheduled for Tuesday to deal with the arrest of City Manager Michael Cernech, who allegedly conspired with corrupt real estate developers to commit racketeering, officials said.
On Sunday, Mayor Michelle Gomez used her authority under the city charter to call the meeting. The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, August 31.
The proposed agenda items for the meeting: discussion of the city manager position and the commission’s ratification of Kathleen Gunn as Acting City Manager.
Gunn, currently Tamarac’s Assistant City Manager, previously held that position in both Miramar and Fort Lauderdale, according to her resume.
Elvin Villalobos, Tamarac Vice Mayor and District 3 Commissioner said Gunn is ready for the job.
“We have a strong executive team and competent assistant city manager that is willing and capable of handling our day-to-day operations,” said Villalobos. “Ms. Kathleen Gunn has the experience to get us through this challenging time and beyond.
“I also expect unity by the entire Commission during this transition period by keeping in mind who matters first; our residents and staff.”
Tamarac Commissioner Mike Gelin said Gomez was “pressured” to call Tuesday’s special meeting after he and Commissioner Marlon Bolton publicly called for one.
“She finally relented,” said Gelin. “The city needs to root out all of the corruption in the leadership of the City of Tamarac.”
Cernech has been Tamarac City Manager since January 2011, city records show. His base annual salary is $272,142.
He is accused of helping a corrupt father-son developer team, convicted felons Bruce and Shawn Chait, carry out a conspiracy to extort Arnaud Karsenti—the founder of 13th Floor Investments—threatening to thwart Karsenti’s efforts to win City Commission approval for a development project, according to court records.
Cernech, 52, who lives in Parkland, was arrested Friday and charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering under the RICO statutes, which was the result of the Chaits and Cernech attempting to pressure Karsenti, the Managing Principal of 13th Floor Investments, into coughing up $3.4 million in extortion money, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In exchange for the payoff, the Chaits’ vowed to cease a years-long harassment and intimidation campaign they and their allies waged against Karsenti by publicizing false evidence—including lawsuits— claiming the Sabal Palm and Monterrey golf courses on which 13th Floor built the Manor Parc, and Central Parc developments were environmentally tainted, records show.
Other co-conspirators in the case include John Colonel and Harris Shapiro.
Cernech is currently free on a $2oo,ooo bond and being monitored with a GPS device, court records show.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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