By Sharon Aron Baron
At Wednesday night’s City Commissioner meeting, recently appointed Vice Mayor Harry Dressler read a statement he prepared asking newly reinstated Commissioner Patte Atkins-Grad to step down.
Atkins-Grad who was attending her first commission meeting after being acquitted on corruption charges also attended a public workshop on Monday where she was met with a cold reception by fellow commissioners.
The packed chamber, mostly full of parents and children representing the Tamarac Cougars, clapped at the end.
Here is the statement in its entirety:
From Vice Mayor Harry Dressler
“I have a statement which is directed through the chair. I believe this to be procedurally correct. I do not seek argument and I derive no pleasure in this. Quite to the contrary, I am emotionally discomforted but my comments tonight are sadly and simply necessary.
Now that the criminal phase of the Chait political corruption case in Commissioner Atkins-Grad’s case is concluded, the ethical issues raised must be addressed.
Now is my first opportunity to do so.
It is unfortunate that I am compelled to speak out on an issue that in an ideal world would have been resolved discretely through private conversations between appropriate city staff and commissioner Atkins-grad.
Such a resolution would have saved all involved the embarrassment and unpleasantness of having to do so in a public forum. This is no reflection upon city staff who I hold in the highest esteem.
Regarding Commissioner Atkins-grad, accepting monies from a party involved in city business prior to a commission vote requires a full disclosure of such in accordance with Chapter 112, F.S., the State ethics Cod. This ethics code requires such disclosures in order to avoid conflicts of interest and/or the appearance of such conflicts.
In the recent criminal case of now reinstated Commissioner Atkins-Grad, the defense stipulated to the acceptance of monies by Commissioner Atkins-grad from the Chaits.
In my opinion, that Commissioner Atkins-Grad did no disclose such self-enriching pecuniary benefits constitutes a material breach of Chapter 112, F.S. as noted, as well as accepted professional standards of fiduciary duty.
In this case, the duty is owed to the residents of the city of Tamarac who place their trust in those they elect.
The issue tonight is not the money received per se, but the failure to publicly disclose material facts that would have or should have disqualified commissioner Atkins-Grad from voting on any issues pertaining to the Chaits and any development application related directly to them.
The personal relationship between the commissioner and the Chaits should also have been disclosed and would have or should have acted another disqualification from her voting.
These are significant ethical issues that can neither be overlooked nor go unchallenged.
As disturbing as this analysis is, for Commissioner Atkins-Grad to remain on this city commission represents, in my opinion, a continuing moral hazard. I, and like-minded people, will continue to question the integrity of her actions.
Commissioner Atkins-Grad may have escaped criminal conviction. She should not escape the consequences of her clearly unethical and negligent behavior. I refer to negligence regarding her failure of fiduciary duty to this city.
I, therefore, am officially asking Commissioner Atkins-Grad to do the right thing and resign her municipal office for the sake of all Tamarac residents, as well as for the sake of the employees of this city who are unjustly painted with the same brush.
Incompetence is no defense against unethical actions.
The resignation should be immediate or within a reasonable time frame in which the Commissioner can consult with city or other counsel, as well as finalize any monies legally due her by the city under state law. Specifically Chapter 112, F.S., the State of Florida Ethics Code, given her acquittal in the criminal phase of this issue.