The appointment of Commissioner Tommy Ruzzano to a second year as Margate Mayor and newly-elected Commissioner, Arlene Schwartz, as Margate Vice Mayor met with sour grapes from two commissioners who expected the political appointments themselves last week. ___________
Sour grapes hit Social Media Friday with an expletive post by Commissioner Lesa Peerman on her Facebook Page. She frequently posts derogatory remarks about fellow commissioners and residents and is suspected of using screen name “Charlie Tango” to respond to her own posts and/or enabling Charlie Tango to echo back condescending remarks in similar fashion. Ruzzano, Schwartz and Caggiano have all been attacked by Peerman and/or by Charlie Tango on Peerman’s Facebook page.
Peerman’s anger toward fellow commissioners continued shortly after commissioners-elect Anthony Caggiano and Arlene Schwartz were sworn into office last Tuesday and the city commission appointed a Mayor and Vice Mayor to serve through Fiscal Year 2017. The Margate Mayor is recognized as head of City government for ceremonial purposes, according to the Margate City Charter, and by the Florida Governor in cases of Marshal Law and civil disaster. The Mayor executes contracts and deeds and represents the City in agreements with other governmental entities. In the absence or disability of the Mayor, the Vice Mayor takes over. The Charter allows each to serve two consecutive years.
Elected to Seat 1 by 43% of voters on November 8th, Anthony Caggiano made a motion for Ruzzano to serve another term as Margate Mayor. Ruzzano ran unopposed for Seat 4 in November, a signal from voters he was doing a good job. The motioned was seconded by Schwartz in Seat 2, who served as Margate city commissioner over a decade ago and was the first woman in Margate history to be elected to the Mayor’s Seat.
Commissioner Lesa Peerman questioned the motion.
“I would just like to know why you want to go off the rotation and the protocol?” she asked Caggiano.
While the City Charter provides no such rotation or protocol for Mayor or Vice Mayor seats, city commissions in the past have relied on rotation to allow all elected officials to sit either as Mayor or Vice Mayor during their four-year term in office. Some elected bodies have honored the practice over the years; others not so much.
“Now that you’re up here people out there would like answers,” Peerman said. “They want to know your reasons. It doesn’t matter to me. You’re up here now.”
“As I shared with you a moment ago; Mayor - past Mayor, Tommy Ruzzano, was unopposed and he deserves another year. I’ll leave it at that.”
Commissioner, Joanne Simone, favored rotation as well, irrespective of positions elected officials uphold on matters brought before the City’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). Commissioners also sit as the Board of Directors of the CRA and have opposing views on the redevelopment of downtown Margate.
“It will be a very sad day in Margate to deny any person from the rotation and the title because they have a differing view or opinion on issues including the downtown,” Simone said.
Schwartz explained her motion for Ruzzano as Mayor.
Through normal rotation Commissioner [Vice Mayor] Bryan would have been the next person to have been the mayor because rotation would have moved her up. With that in mind, I seconded [the] nomination because she isn’t here quite frankly to do that. I also feel that having run unopposed the city has given you [Ruzzano] a great deal of confidence. It has nothing to do with the downtown area which is what we’re not here for and is a discussion for another time. But I think we should not make this the contentious vote this is about to turn in to,” Schwartz said.
Simone referred to motions by Caggiano and Schwartz as unfair and nominated Peerman for Mayor.
“Personality and how somebody thinks different from you should not be a factor. A critical, strategic error is being made not to honor the rotation,” Simone said. “This simply is not fair play. She [ Peerman] is next in line; good, bad or indifferent. Mayor and Vice Mayor should continue to be rotating positions.”
(Left: School Board Vice Chair, Nora Rupert, congratulates commissioners on mayoral appointments)
Longtime Margate resident, Rich Popovic, said he’s been coming to meetings for a long time and the position of Mayor wasn’t always rotated.
"You two [Peerman; Simone] have already been the mayor once before and really weren’t very nice to the public - Absolutely weren’t. Let him be the Mayor, he deserves it, the public wants it. That’s it in a nutshell.”
When it came time to appointing a Mayor, Simone retracted her motion and joined a unanimous vote for Ruzzano 5-0.
“Even though I disagree with the actions being taken in the spirit of unity and cooperation, I will not oppose the majority of the decision of the city commission, so yes,” she said to Ruzzano for another year.
Peerman then nominated Simone as Vice Mayor. Simone seconded the motion.
Ruzzano amended their motions and nominated Schwartz for Vice Mayor. The motion was seconded by Caggiano.
“Again, you’re going off rotation,” said Peerman. “And with all due respect Arlene I know she can do the job, however, she has not been here for 12 years and in 2004 they kind of took back the rotation. Commissioner Simone would be the next to be Vice Mayor, and I just don’t understand the going off the rotation.”
Ruzzano reminded Peerman and Simone that they voted against him in a 3-2 vote to make him Vice Mayor in 2014, which was outside the rotation they both spoke to.
“You guys [sic] should practice what you preach and as far as downtown development that is not tonight’s subject,” Ruzzano said.
Peerman then took back her motion to make Simone Vice Mayor.
“I will withdraw my second...of the amendment,” she said. “Commissioner Simone, I do apologize for voting against you for vice mayor, but this is how this is going to be for two years, so...,” Peerman said.
Schwartz was then appointed Vice Mayor in a 4-1 vote, Simone in dissent.
Attending the meeting, Coral Springs Commissioner Dan Daley (right), shed political perspective on the situation.
“I just wanted to say congratulations to the new commission as a body. I know it may seem a little contentious right now, but that is the beauty of this process. The beauty of the process being that you can disagree and still move forward for the betterment of the city,” he said.