City Commissioners are firing back at the second meeting in a row, and asking candidates to desist from spreading lies, false information and half-truths for political gain.
The exchange started two weeks ago after the Forum published an article where Candidate for City Commissioner Howard Melamed said Vince Boccard, Tom Powers, Larry Vignola and Dan Daley were a “gang of four,” and that they did not have the skill sets required to move the city forward in the right direction.
“They are trying, but their best is not good enough,” Melamed said to the Forum. “They lack experience, especially business experience. They are not fiscally responsible. You got to be independent; these people are not.” He said that he is a civil engineer and a successful entrepreneur with 30 employees. “I have what it takes; I am the best bang for the buck in Coral Springs.”
In a follow-up article published in the Forum August 31, City Commission Larry Vignola accused Melamed of being a liar because of several things: one of them was that Melamed said that the city had $34 million dollars in reserves.
“They gave me the document that said the money in the general fund was $34 million dollars,” said Melamed.
Melamed said that he made a public records request in February 2014, where he received the general fund balance sheet from Melissa Heller, Director of Financial Services that showed the unspent reserve funds. In 2013, the City had $33 million in reserves. Of that, $17 million is allocated by law, he said.
At the August 20 Commission meeting, Deputy City Manager Susan Grant said there were only $17 million in reserves and that additional reserves may be in some fund like the charter school fund, but isn’t available to spend on other projects.
“I did not make it up. They gave me the figures,” said Melamed. “The only thing that I may be guilty of is not knowing the City government lingo that says unused money at the end of fiscal year is not a surplus and that what you have available in reserves is not reserves.”
Vice Mayor Larry Vignola also accused Melamed of lying about the true cost of the new City Hall which has a $28 million price tag. Melamed says that all the City needs is a building to house city staff; one that is affordable, and wouldn’t put the city in debt.
Vignola also said that the $28 million figure was incorrect and said it would cost $23 million….plus a $5 million parking garage.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Melamed asked the commission, “Can we say that it’s $28 million dollars finally, rather than $22 million plus a parking garage? The city manager says it’s $28 million, so did your finance people. You’re going after a $28 million dollar bond. Certainly we can agree on that number without taking it to an uncivil type of conversation.”
“No one, except Larry Vignola, disputes this figure indicating his lack of appreciation for city finances,” Melamed said to Coral Springs Talk.
Melamed insists said that he did not call the commission any personal names, “I wouldn’t stoop so low. There was nothing personal in my attacks. The current gang simply lack the skill set it takes to run a business, let alone the business of a city with a $100 million dollar budget. That is why they are attacking me since they cannot handle the truth.”
At the meeting Melamed said that being called a liar was way out of line for a city commissioner to say and said that the discussions should be brought to a level of civility. After his three minutes were up, Commissioner Tom Powers asked him a question that turned into a debate between the two.
Powers: Can you tell me where it was in the minutes where we voted ourselves a raise?
Melamed: It was passed 64 percent for a raise. Three to two.
Powers: Can you tell me the date?
Melamed: You tell me, you’re running for mayor, you let these three gentleman do your bidding so you tell me the date.
Powers: We’re going to get the facts out….we’re going to be truthful here. We don’t have the authority to give ourselves a raise.
Melamed: That’s correct.
Powers: So how did we give ourselves a raise?
Melamed: You put it on the agenda
Powers: So putting it on the agenda is giving ourselves a raise.
Melamed: Let’s put it this way, if you vote here with 65 percent wanting a raise, is that not true?
Mayor Vince Boccard: I can tell you this, there was a committee put together – a Charter Review Committee. These recommendations come out of the committee, not from this commission.
Melamed: Nepotism and cronyism, come on…you put the people in place on the Charter Review Committee.
Boccard: Howard really, I’m not going to sit here and debate with you.
Melamed: You obviously want to, I had my three minutes, you have an hour and a half to say whatever you’d like.
The Charter Review Committee is appointed by the city commission and one of its members, George Rahael, CEO of the Amera Corporation has donated $3,500 to Tom Power’s reelection campaign.
Melamed said that the public has the last word on November 4, to vote against salary increases to the commission by voting against the referendum.
“This nepotistic practice of putting their friends and supporter in various influential committees and then claiming no control over the decisions is an illusion to deceive the public.”
Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Coral Springs Talk. CST was created in 2012 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Coral Springs, Parkland and the rest of South Florida.