Palm Beach Post (Florida)
BYLINE: By ELIOT KLEINBERG
Weeks ago, the agenda package for today’s city commission meeting was a fat one, with managers warning things could go well into the night.
But staff has been yanking items and pushing them to future meetings because a new matter is expected to take time.
It’s about the person who’s not there: the mayor.
Jose Rodriguez was arrested Jan. 26, charged with using his position to try to kill an abuse investigation into his treatment of his estranged wife and her daughter, allegedly by bullying Police Chief Matt Immler and offering interim Manager Lori LaVerriere a full-time gig.
Rodriguez has said he’ll fight the charges and won’t resign.
Commissioner Steven Holzman decried an atmosphere at city hall that he said needs to change. “We cannot have certain divisions or individuals putting their priorities ahead of the city.”
Asked whether he meant any individual, he said, “I’m talking about everybody. This is a continuation of what happened in the past in the city. It seems as though we have a very hard time putting the citizens first. I don’t know why we keep grabbing headlines for the wrong reasons.”
But Commissioner Marlene Ross said, “Just like any other city, we have discord. Yet, if you look at our history, it’s fair to say that you see a city where the commission and the staff do strive to put the citizens first. We need to do an even better job of communicating.”
Vice Mayor Bill Orlove, acting mayor, said only, “We have to move forward.”
Commissioner Woodrow Hay said, “It’s unfortunate that this has happened with all the challenges that we have. We are a resilient bunch and I’m sure we’ll get through this like we have in the past.”
As a condition of his bond, Rodriguez was ordered to have no contact with LaVerriere, city insurance claims specialist Farah Persaud, who allegedly heard Rodriguez’s offer to LaVerriere, or city police officers.
The arrest report was forwarded to the Florida Commission on Ethics, according to court documents. The state’s division of retirement said Monday that Rodriguez potentially could lose his pension.
Gov. Rick Scott suspended Rodriguez without pay on Jan. 27. The mayor is paid $20,000 a year.
An interim mayor would serve until Rodriguez’s term ends in March 2013; if charges are dropped or he’s cleared, he could be reinstated.
The city attorney has suggested the panel call for applicants tonight and then pick one at the next meeting on Feb. 20.
But commissioners have said there are plenty of good candidates and they might decide as early as tonight.
And the interim might be selected from among commissioners.
Interim mayor candidates
Three people who lost to Mayor Jose Rodriguez in 2010 have applied to serve as interim mayor:
Brian Edwards, 55, an ex-Marine and neighborhood activist who recently served on the city’s charter review committee;ran second to Rodriguez in 2010 election by about 200 votes.
Carl McKoy, 49, co-founder of the Juvenile Transition Center in Boynton Beach and a city commissioner from 2002 to 2007, as well as a former president of the Palm Beach County League of Cities; he came in fourth of seven candidates.
Cliff Montross, 85, who came in sixth, was an undersheriff in Somerset County, N.J., before moving to Boynton Beach about 16 years ago. He ran unsuccessfully for Palm Beach County sheriff in 2004 and county commissioner in 2008.
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