By: Anne Geggis
Two of the three new community engagement liaisons, or assistants, for Tamarac city commissioners, were people the hiring commissioners already knew, moving ahead of hundreds of applicants.
Commissioner Debra Placko did not respond to questions about how many interviews she conducted among the 438 people in the pool of applicants to fill the role of the person helping her. However, she did not have to go far to find who she ended up with. Her assistant, Barbara Tarnove, is not much more than a stone’s throw away from the District 4 representative’s Woodmont home.
Tarnove is one of three community engagement liaisons, hired Nov. 12 for the newly created positions after a majority of Tamarac’s commission members said that their part-time workload for the city was becoming too taxing to handle alone. Mayor Michelle Gomez stood apart on the commission in outright opposition to adding paid commission assistants to the city payroll and cautioned that the cost of the positions could detract from worthy projects. However, the mayor had her own executive assistant.
In the end, each commissioner was able to hire one part-time person who could be paid up to $20 an hour for a maximum of 20 hours each week — potentially $20,800 a year — to better respond to their constituents.
Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton said he’s concerned that it is no coincidence two people who were selected for the $20 an hour positions knew the commissioners before the advertisement for their jobs, especially since so many people applied for the positions.
Tarnove is Commissioner Placko’s friend and neighbor, and Nancy Metayer, whom Commissioner Mike Gelin hired, is running for a seat on the Coral Springs Commission. The election is in November.
“People are losing hope,” that the city’s hiring process is fair, Bolton said. “Should I hire a liaison in the future, the individual will not be a friend, must be a Tamarac resident, and one capable of helping me champion transparency and accountability to our residents. “
Placko did not respond to several inquiries from Tamarac Talk — in spite of her assistant. And her assistant didn’t return email or phone messages either. Gelin said that he did know Metayer before the position was open, but he doesn’t see a conflict with her interest in Coral Springs politics. She will quit her Tamarac job if she gets elected in Coral Springs.
“I think it gives her great insight into what it’s going to be like to be a commissioner,” Gelin said.
Bolton says he is not comfortable with a potential Coral Springs commissioner having access to information that Tamarac commissioners might be privy too. But Gelin said that’s not a problem — her duties are limited to dealing with constituents.
Metayer’s resume shows she has a master’s degree in environmental health studies from Johns Hopkins University and had been working as a climate justice programmer for The New Florida Majority when she applied.
Gelin said he interviewed other candidates he didn’t know previously. A lot of candidates were not interested once they heard it was part-time with no benefits, Gelin said. However, city records show that the advertisement makes the part-time status clear.
“The schedule is so variable; you can’t reliably have a second job,” Gelin said.
Fishman, whose assistant, Gabriella DaSilva, is a master’s degree candidate at Florida International University, said it’s clear that Gelin and Placko knew who they wanted to hire before they reviewed applicants. And she doesn’t think that’s a problem. She said she did not know DaSilva before the interview.
The assistant for Placko, Tarnove, is an active volunteer at the Tamarac Historical Society. She last worked for Macy’s in 2008 as a vice president for planning, cosmetics, replenishing, and fragrances, earning $9,000 a month, according to her resume.
Bolton is concerned that it’s going to affect Tamarac’s ability to hire and attract a quality workforce.
“Whether the [community engagement liaison] position was a friend hook-up or not, it is not a coincidence that those who were hired undoubtedly have a prior relationship,” he said.
- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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