By Agrippina Fadel
The Tamarac city commission discussed censure and removal of members for misbehavior and disrespect towards each other at its October 13 meeting.
Vice Mayor Elvin Villalobos proposed the agenda item, recommending censuring other commissioners and removing them from the meetings when they behave inappropriately.
Currently, the commission needs a simple majority (three votes out of five) to remove a member and a supermajority (four votes out of five) for the censure.
Villalobos asked the commission to consider changing the censure decision to a simple majority.
“We are not giving the residents true justice when we don’t hold each other accountable for misbehaving during meetings,” said Villalobos. “We have gone through a lot this year, but none of us has censored the others, and we just let things happen.”
Commission meetings have seen a lot of hostility and name-calling. On August 23, Commissioner Marlon Bolton told Mayor Michelle Gomez, “Thank you for trying” while discussing whether or not Easter falls on a Sunday.
On May 26, Bolton called Villalobos “money-hungry,” while at the same meeting, Commissioner Mike Gelin called him “clueless” and said, “I don’t talk to puppets,” prompting gasps from the audience and Villalobos snapping back, “I’m glad I’m not one.”
This is not the first time Villalobos addressed hostility on the dais. At the June 23 commission meeting, he proposed holding a retreat to improve communication between members.
That meeting ended with Gelin storming out after his microphone was muted.
Censure in government is a formal public condemnation of the politician acting against the commissions’ rules and standards of behavior. John Herin, Tamarac City Attorney, explained that political censure is an equivalent of a public reprimand.
Gomez reminded commissioners that the residents are watching the meetings, so public reprimand is a serious matter.
Members are not holding each other accountable nor displaying leadership skills the residents expect from them, said Villalobos. He said the issue comes down to respecting each other’s opinions; however, the commission should have a written rule to fall back on.
“We should be able to censure each other for misbehaving during the meetings,” said Villalobos.
“It is unbelievable that the commission needs rules to tell the members how to behave,” said Gomez, adding, “It is disgusting that it had come to this point. I understand where you are going with this; I also think that sometimes all the rules in the world will not make a difference if the people don’t know how to behave properly. It doesn’t matter if it’s in writing if people don’t follow,” she added.
Gomez explained that censure of a commission member is a two-step process that needs a supermajority to finalize it.
“My concern with moving from super to a simple majority [are] the times when the commission members who may use the power for political reasons and gains versus true rational to have a censure,” added Gomez.
Gelin agreed with Gomez, saying that supermajority on the matter is important because people can abuse power. He added that having someone censured or removed regularly ruins the reputation of the city.
“Supermajority of four votes sets the bar high, so someone has to do something egregious to have them censured,” he said.
Gelin said it is normal for people to disagree sometimes.
“Tensions flare-up; people say things that they regret. But they also apologize and communicate to make up without going to this level of punishment and discipline,” said Gelin.
The commission agreed to keep the supermajority rule for the censure votes, with G0mez expressing hope that commissioners would communicate and exchange opinions with dignity and respect for each other.
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- 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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