By: Sharon Aron Baron
An investigation initiated by Tamarac Mayor Michelle Gomez is targeting Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton with allegations including creating a hostile work environment and campaign violations.
Instead of turning allegations over to the Office of Inspector General or the Florida Election Commission, Gomez allegedly initiated an investigation by special counsel Levi G Williams, Jr., costing taxpayers $42,435. This agreement was signed by city attorney Sam Gorin on November 6, 2018.
Some of the purported allegations include campaign violations against Vice Mayor Bolton from former candidate Larry Goehrig who stated in 2018 that Vice Mayor Bolton was intimidating and bullying at the polls, allegedly videotaping him and cursing at him. He said he heard Vice Mayor Bolton, tell a voter that “we don’t need another white cracker on the board.” Goehrig’s name was on a palm card used for the November 6, 2018 election, which also had the names of Mayor Gomez and Commissioner Placko on it.
City employee, Elise Boston who works as the Public Information and Media Specialist, claims that Vice Mayor Bolton had “bullied” her. In one instance, she had contracted with a professional photographer to take photos, and he sent them back and asked, “Is this a joke? I look like a dead monkey in a casket. It’s offensive, and I don’t like it.”
Vice Mayor Bolton showed us the photos, one the photographer took, and one that Boston sent him. The photo Boston produced was darkened in photoshop, he stated, and the original photographer did not darken the picture.
Ana Fusco, President of the Broward Teacher’s Union and Tamarac resident, stated that while campaigning for the union’s endorsed candidates, Vice Mayor Bolton would walk up to voters and tell them, “that’s not the palm cards to use….the teacher’s union did not vet everybody.” Fusco claims that Bolton took her palm cards out of voter’s hands, an allegation which Vice Mayor Bolton vehemently denies.
Vice Mayor Bolton alleged that Fusco made allegations about everyone that BTU did not endorse and said her statement was unfounded and without merit.
In total, there were ten complaints against Vice Mayor Bolton. However, no statements were taken under oath, and no interviews were taped.
Commissioner Mike Gelin asked Williams at Monday’s workshop, “There are a lot of statements from the report you generated, some that seemed like rumor and innuendo. Were any of the statements sworn-in?”
“No,” there were no sworn statements,” said Williams.
Did anyone provide a written statement where they provided an affidavit, or was it notarized?”
“All statements were pursuant to your policies, sir.”
“Were the statements recorded?”
“These were not sworn statements. This happens to be an HR investigation that involves a commissioner.”
However, Vice Mayor Bolton is an elected official and isn’t under the authority of the city’s human resources department, nor is he an employee subject to the disciplinary policies of the city.
Some of the commission’s options would be either to set up a special commission meeting to address the matter, formally address the investigator’s final report to provide Vice Mayor Bolton an opportunity to respond to any findings at a special meeting, possibly the public censure of him or adopting a civility policy reaffirming certain sections of the city code and providing a structure for the commission and the employees to move forward with confidence of no further violations.
Vice Mayor Bolton said Monday’s meeting was a surprise; however, he became aware that Gomez was going to investigate him because she was upset during the 2018 elections. One thing that stands out about this investigation is that this decision was made on the date Mayor Gomez was elected but before she was even sworn in as mayor.
According to Vice Mayor Bolton, Mayor Gomez was angry about his strong support for mayoral candidate Elvin Villalobos and how things were unfolding in the 2018 elections.
“She was so upset, she said, ‘watch me investigate you, I will make your life a living hell.’ She got in her car and went to city hall. On her return, she said she went to make a police report and engaged the city attorney in a certain discussion.”
At the time, he believed Mayor Gomez was bluffing. “She sure put the taxpayers’ money where her mouth is,” he said.
So for two years, Vice Mayor Bolton was unaware he was being investigated, or that more than $42,000 was spent on this investigation. It wasn’t until August 2019, when Williams asked Vice Mayor Bolton for responses to the claims made against him that he realized what was going on.
The workshop left off with Mayor Gomez asking for a special meeting; however, it was never scheduled.
This article has been updated.