MARGATE FLORIDA - The tension in the room was so thick it could be felt in cyberspace. After insisting on following a mayoral selection rule that does not exist in the City Charter, Commissioner Lesa Peerman publicly threatened to investigate the city’s newly appointed Mayor, Arlene Schwartz. Residents perceived Peerman's actions as a pre-meditated act of sabotage.
“I would have nominated you for Mayor, what you just did just now, my vote is no,” Peerman said to Schwartz, adding that she [Peerman] is calling for an investigation into an incident alleged recently by a Margate Police officer. ______________
The roll was 3-2 all the way for Schwartz as the City’s New Mayor in the coming year and Commissioner, Anthony Caggiano as the City’s new Vice Mayor.
Commissioners Peerman and Joanne Simone dissented on both appointments. While Simone did little talking, Peerman pushed to have Simone in at least one of two seats.
“Tonight you have the opportunity to put this commission back the way it should be,” said Peerman. “Commission Simone should have been vice mayor last year but she was bypassed.”
Peerman took issue with the nomination of Caggiano for Vice Mayor because he had only been Commissioner for a year. Schwartz, however, elected at the same time, had served three terms in the 1990s and early millennium, which Peerman said qualifies the veteran politician for mayoral seats. Peerman pushed too for the return of the rotation process, a tradition created by commissioners gone by and which does not appear as law or policy in municipal code. The tradition implies that each commissioner move down one seat and eventually become Mayor or Vice Mayor at least once during a four-year term in office.
“You pound on procedures that are not even written down and call them the law. That’s ridiculous,” Margate Resident Charlie Artner, told Peerman. Find a Mayor and Vice Mayor and move on.”
In attempts to sabotage Schwartz’ nomination, Peerman asked to have the longtime Margate resident investigated for an incident recently alleged by a Margate Police Officer. An incident when Schwartz was alleged to use the term "Mow down cops." (Click for Background)
Some attending the meeting took offense to Peerman's suggestion.
Margate resident, Manuel Lugo, said allegations against Schwartz were made public days prior to mayoral appointments and were all too coincidental in nature.
“There’s a big question here about the appropriateness of this question of the police officer’s concerns, specifically Officer George Woolley’s concern. It’s entirely inappropriate. We support our police officers and we need them. But if they’re going off in the wrong direction, making unsubstantiated charges against a democratically elected official, then we have a big problem here and it needs to be corrected by Chief [Dana] Watson,” Lugo said.
A member of the City's Board of Adjustment, Artner called allegations against Schwartz a “fabrication” and “lie.”
“I am somewhat disappointed in this commission and in the leadership of the Margate Police Department. Knowing Commissioner Schwartz for several years now, she has not missed one opportunity to back up our police department when necessary. I’m even more disappointed in this commission and the Margate Chief of Police that you just sit back and watch this politically motivated character assassination from far and safe distance,” said Artner.
Artner further expressed disappointment with the officer who made allegations.
“Only a coward accuses a well-respected politician of such a horrible misconduct and goes on a two-week cruise so he doesn’t have to answer any question. Yes, I’m talking about [Officer George] Woolley and I refuse to show him the respect by calling him by his title because he does not deserve it. Wooley has a history of smearing people for his own gain or the gain of other people, as in this incident,” Artner said.
After saying that he will never support the Fraternal Order of Police as long as Woolley is a part of the organization, Artner proceeded to throw Margate's law enforcement leadership under the figurative “bus.”
“I want to express my deep disappointment in Chief Dana Watson. His failure to stand by a commissioner who always had his back is even more disappointing because until now I only had good experiences with the Chief. But maybe it is time for new leadership, maybe it is time to drain the swamp,” proffered Artner. “I have the highest respect for every police officer out there. They are risking their lives every day to provide the safety for us. But the leadership, I think we have a rotten head here.”
Margate resident, Elsa Sanchez, said Schwartz should not be moved into the Mayor’s seat until an investigation clears her for the seat.
“I find it upsetting and disappointing,” Sanchez said. “As long as things going on are not clear, then it shouldn’t be done. I am also disappointed that Commissioner, Joanne Simone, was not considered.
For Margate resident, Julie Jones, allegations against Schwartz were atrocious.
“I saw her honesty and integrity in the year and half that I’ve known her. After learning how educated she was I volunteered to work on her campaign," Jones said. "She has the highest of integrity." _______________
Related Content: Margate’s Next Mayor. The Doctor Is In