By Saraana Jamraj
Last week, Tamarac Talk published an article detailing how several city commissioners and Mayor Gomez spent over $45,000 on new office furniture. All but one, Commissioner Bolton, spent thousands of dollars.
At Wednesday’s city commission meeting, one resident was upset enough to sit through over three hours of city business to speak during public comments.
Tamarac resident Robert Alfonso began speaking at close to 11 p.m., and continued well after his three minutes were up berating the commission on their spending, or what he believed was their abuse of power. Another resident offered their three minutes to him, so he continued.
“I’m here because there was an article on September 3rd in the Tamarac Talk from Sharon Aron Baron. And it talks about how you guys wasted money. I wanna talk about that for a minute,” he said.
He called out the commissioners for their excessive spending on furniture, accused Mayor Gomez and former Mayor Harry Dressler of spending over $64,000 on travel, and said his Commissioner, Julie Fishman, no longer responded to his emails about these complaints.
“Silence is your only defense, and that’s pathetic,” he said.
Throughout his comments, several commissioners appeared uncomfortable, especially as he refused to give up the microphone and threatened to “memorialize” their names.
Alfonso thanked Commissioner Bolton for not participating in the furniture expenditures, but went on to accuse him of corruption and aired personal grievances against him.
“You all disgust me,” he finished.
Alfonso walked out of the meeting immediately after his speech, but a couple of commissioner members responded to give the public clarity.
Commissioner Gelin stated that Alfonso made several inaccurate statements. Although he did not disclose it in his initial interview, Commissioner Gelin noted that he had offered to purchase office furniture on his own, with his own money, but the city manager turned him down, citing the reason that they were due for a change anyway. He also stated that his particular office had furniture over 31 years old, and his new furniture was designed to last for several decades.
“I’m not spending taxpayer dollars for my personal gain, and I don’t think any of us are,” he said.
Commissioner Gelin also said that the furniture did not belong to them nor was it for personal use. He added that commissioners do not make the purchases or administrative decisions — the city manager and staff do that.
Although the city provided all the data on the furniture expenditures, Commissioner Gelin accused the editor of Tamarac Talk of being a fraud.
“We cannot allow non-professional, fake journalists like Sharon Baron to make these statements,” he said.
Commissioner Bolton also responded to Alfonso’s comments.
“I’m very disturbed,” Commissioner Bolton said. “The resident came in here and totally disrespected our commission and disrespected our mayor. It’s not the first time somebody has come here to disrespect us,” he said.
He went on to clarify that his reasoning for not purchasing new furniture was that he didn’t know how much it would cost. He also addressed the various personal grievances Alfonso spoke about and the accusations of corruption.
Commissioner Bolton said that he had previous encounters with the resident, such as being accused of corruption for endorsing a mayoral candidate and correctly reporting an oversized sign in the resident’s yard, both of which were in the realm of appropriate conduct.
When asked to comment today, Alfonso stated that none of the commissioners deserve his respect.
Commissioner Bolton said he and the other commissioners would be met with hatred at times, but that it cannot stop them from doing their work.
“People are entitled to their opinion, but we have a city to run,” said Commissioner Bolton.
He knows that residents will be upset and have every right to come out and participate in their local government, but urged them to be aware of how to do so appropriately.
He emphasized that when residents can be mindful and respectful, they can have a powerful impact.
“Really and truly, we love when residents come and speak their minds. We adore that. Residents should come out to the meetings, and should make their voices heard,” he said.
But he disagreed with how Alfonso did it. He said if the commission is going to have policies, and if speakers are going to disrespect them, then they need to make sure ramifications are brought forward.
“The police did nothing, and he disrespected us in these chambers, and we need to do something about that. So I hope when he’s editing his video, he puts me speaking my response, as a tag at the end.
Video by Tamarac resident Robert Alfonso.
- Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.