Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Report Clears Delray City Manager of Former Fire Chief’s Accusations

An outside investigation has cleared Delray Beach City Manager Terrence Moore of accusations that he harassed and retaliated against Fire Chief Keith Tomey, who was fired Wednesday by Moore.

The report, which labor lawyer Brooke Ehrlich presented to the city commission during a brief special meeting on Tuesday, concludes a bizarre period that came into public view during a similarly brief special meeting on March 21.

The agenda stated only that the purpose was “appointment of a special investigator.” But then-Mayor Shelly Petrolia said the issue concerned “one of our direct reports.” The commission’s only direct reports are Moore and City Attorney Lynn Gelin. Since Gelin was to appoint the investigator, the probe obviously centered on Moore.

It arose from an email the city received before the March 9 election from Tomey’s attorney, Sid Garcia. He’s the labor lawyer who represented former City Manager Mark Lauzier, who unsuccessfully sued the city after his firing in 2019.

In the email, Tomey—through Garcia—accused Moore of making an unwanted sexual advance that “triggered memories” of sexual abuse that Tomey says he suffered as a child. Tomey also accused Moore of retaliation for policy moves Moore opposed. Moore, Tomey said, had a “vendetta” against him.

The Palm Beach Post ran a story outlining the accusations. I knew the content of Garcia’s letter but chose not to report on it, given the nature of the allegations and the fact that there was no independent corroboration.

Ehrlich told the commission that she reviewed all relevant documents and interviewed nine witnesses. After her appearance, the city issued a news release saying that the allegations were “unsubstantiated.”

Delray Beach City Manager Terrence Moore, photo courtesy of the City of Delray Beach

On Wednesday, Moore said that he would “let the report speak for itself.” He also fired Tomey Wednesday, and the termination letter suggests to me that the email from Garcia amounted to a last-ditch attempt by Tomey to keep his job.

In the termination letter, Moore cited an issue that I wrote about previously. Tomey allowed three on-duty firefighters to participate in the annual fire-police charity softball game called Guns and Hoses. That action took an engine out of service, potentially slowing response times across the city. A separate outside investigation confirmed that criticism.

Moore also cited Tomey’s action that “disclosed the medical condition of one of your employees.” A letter to the city alleged that Tomey had “defamed and invaded the privacy” of the employee, resulting in a $25,000 settlement.

Finally, Moore noted an October 2022 accident in which Tomey was driving a city vehicle. Moore learned of it three days later, after receiving a request to use the vehicle. Tomey violated city policy, Moore said, by refusing to take a blood test immediately after the accident, drawing a five-day suspension.

Tomey, Moore wrote, has displayed “a pattern of willful, insubordinate behavior coupled with poor decision-making that despite repeated counseling” and the suspension “has worsened.” Moore noted concerns in Tomey’s last evaluation “with little to no progress throughout this year.”

Moore did not need commission approval to fire Tomey. Members of the firefighters’ union who support the chief might not get much support if they complain to the new commission, since the majority won without union support.

Tomey almost certainly will sue. Moore’s letter, though, laid out what he considers ample reasons for the firing. The next move will be hiring a new chief. And the drama of the last few weeks seems to be over.

Goal-setting in Delray Beach

delray

Speaking of Delray Beach, the commission will hold its annual goal-setting meeting at 8 a.m. Friday at the city golf course clubhouse on Highland Avenue.

Though members of the new commission majority have been in office for barely a month, they already listed two priorities for the meeting. One is discussion of the police and fire pension funds. Another is how to spend money from the $20 million parks bond that voters approved last year.

I’ll have more after the meeting.

Littering at Boca Bash makes waves

boca bash
Photo from Boca Bash Facebook

The annual griping about Boca Bash is louder this year.

That’s because a video shows a boat dumping trash into the ocean just after leaving the event on Lake Boca and passing through the Boca Inlet. The video is notable for the arrogance and irresponsibility of those on board. It’s a wonder that the boat didn’t capsize in the high chop.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said in a statement to Boca:  “This investigation is ongoing and several subjects have been identified. FWC Investigators are working closely with the State Attorney’s Office to identify appropriate charges for this incident. If you were involved in this incident and would like to come forward, please contact the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.”

According to one news report, the FWC made 16 arrests. An agency spokeswoman could not confirm that number by deadline for this post. A year ago, there were 18 arrests for drunken boating and possession of illegal substances.

But there have been more serious problems. In 2018, a man drowned in five feet of water. Two years ago, a man was accused of trying to strangle his girlfriend. That case remains open. The woman also has filed a civil suit.

Though the event takes place on Lake Boca, the city has nothing to do with it. Because it happens on the Intracoastal Waterway, the commission has jurisdiction, although city police monitor what’s happening.

Mayor Scott Singer, who has been on the city council since 2014, said he has attended “multiple sessions” of the Legislature seeking city authority to oversee “boats at anchorage.” Singer told me this week, “I will raise this issue again” in Tallahassee.

Vice Mayor Fran Nachlas said, “I don’t like to be pre-empted” from doing anything. She wants to know what Police Chief Michelle Muccio thinks of the city taking over authority for the event that began in 2007.

“It’s frustrating,” Nachlas said. “People see Lake Boca, the Boca Inlet and think that it is Boca Raton.” As for a response by the city, “We’re definitely going to have that conversion.”

Fundraising reports for Frankel and Moskowitz

Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D)
Rep. Lois Frankel (D)

Democrats Lois Frankel and Jared Moskowitz, who are seeking to retain their seats in Congress, both have raised slightly more than $1 million. Another similarity is the identity of their largest donor.

It’s the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), long one of the most influential lobby groups in Washington. AIPAC long has advocated on behalf of the Israeli government, and that role has drawn even more attention since Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas.

Frankel, who represents Delray Beach and West Delray, had received about $165,000 in direct contributions from AIPAC through March 31. Moskowitz, who represents Boca Raton and West Boca, had received roughly $111,000.

Frankel and Moskowitz are Jewish and have been strong supporters of Israel. They have highlighted examples of anti-Semitism during college protests of Israel’s actions in Gaza. I could not find contributions from AIPAC to Republican candidates running to challenge Frankel and Moskowitz.

Boca High alum becomes a Packer

Former Boca Raton High School quarterback Michael Pratt went to the Green Bay Packers last week in the seventh and final round of the National Football League draft.

Pratt was a four-year starter at Tulane University, throwing for 90 touchdowns against just 26 interceptions. Based on analytics, Pratt has just a 10 to 15 percent chance of making the team as a seventh rounder. Of course, Tom Brady, considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history, went in the sixth round.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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