An amateurish attempt to score political points over sewage issues backfired on Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis. At last week’s city commission conference meeting, Commissioner Trantalis thought he was dropping a bombshell. For nearly a year, Fort Lauderdale residents have complained about serious issues with the city’s aging sewer system. Then, after heavy rains in October, a mysterious “green algae” was spotted in some Fort Lauderdale waterways. During the December 5th meeting, Trantalis, a candidate in the upcoming mayoral elections, told Mayor Jack Seiler and his fellow commissioners that Broward County determined the mysterious green algae was caused by the city’s sewage problems.
Trantalis said, “The County came back with its report and it’s not what we were told!” Trantalis referenced a November 30th email from City Manager Lee Feldman which claimed the algae was likely a result from “unprecedented rain events” washing nutrients into the canal system. Trantalis claimed the County report proved Feldman wrong.
“This past week, and I’m sure Lee you got this, the County…results were disclosed to us. In fact, their information is that the green algae came not from nutrients but from fecal chloroform, E. coli and tetracoccus bacteria.” Trantalis said.
“It’s coming from all the sewage that’s coming from our system that has been poured into our canals,” he said. “It’s more intense and dangerous for our community.”
Pretty explosive stuff right? Just one problem, none of it is true.
Mayor Jack Seiler asked Trantalis who provided this explosive information.
“The County,” Trantalis said.
“It’s the County’s opinion?” Seiler asked.
Trantalis said, “Yeah, I have it right here.”
Then, Trantalis asked his assistant, Scott Wyman, to bring copies to pass out to Commissioners.
Seiler asked City Manager Lee Feldman if he received this letter from Broward County. “You have not gotten it yet,” Trantalis said.
Seiler wondered why Broward County would send a letter to one commissioner but not city staff. “That’s not the point,” Trantalis.
When asked who authored the report, Trantalis claimed it was written by Dr. Jennifer Jurado, Broward County Director Of Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division. Mayor Seiler did not believe Dr. Jurado would author a report that stated Lee Feldman gave “half truths” and inaccurate information.
Even though the memo attacked the City Manager by name, Trantalis said, “I’m not here to attribute blame.”
TRANTALIS AIDE WROTE REPORT “SUMMARY”
Finally, Trantalis admitted the memo passed out to his fellow commissioners was not authored by Dr. Jurado. He stated it was a summary written by his assistant Scott Wyman. Before working for Trantalis, Scott Wyman was a local newspaper reporter. “Scott, You wrote this didn’t you,” Trantalis said.
Commissioner Trantalis stated he did not want to suggest Dr. Jurado wrote the memo, only that she supplied the data. At this point, Dr. Nancy Gassman, City Of Fort Lauderdale Assistant Public Works Director, joined the meeting. Dr. Gassman stated she works closely with closely with Dr. Jurado. She stated she once ran the County lab that tested Fort Lauderdale waterways.
Gassman said the report Trantalis submitted tested water quality only and the presence of fecal bacteria was unrelated to the green algae.
“Wow, Wow. Let’s just dismiss it,” Trantalis shrieked.
Romney Rogers challenged Trantalis. He asked if they were supposed to take the word of Scott Wyman over Dr. Gassman, a scientist. Trantalis was eager to deflect attention from his assistant. He said, “Let’s stop with [Wyman authoring summary]. I’m trying to explain to you the County has come forward with test samples taken from the green algae that show high levels of…bacteria.”
Gassman stated the report did not back up Trantalis’ claims. She stated previous tests on the algae showed it was not harmful to humans. Gassman stated only the State of Florida conducts tests on algae.
When asked by Mayor Seiler to provide name of person who provided the data, Scott Wyman deferred to Trantalis. Seiler said, “You’re a city employee. You can’t have a secret meeting with the County to get test results.” Wyman stated the report, “came originally from Dr. Jurado.”
Political Stunt Gone Wrong?
Recall, this is a city commission conference meeting, not a regular city commission. This meeting is held in a large conference room with very few members of the public in attendance. So why did Dean Trantalis choose this meeting to drop a political bombshell?
Trantalis is locked into a tight race with Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts and Charlotte Rodstrom. As REDBROWARD revealed last week, Roberts appears to have support of companies performing the sewage cleanup work in Fort Lauderdale. Was Trantalis trying to lay groundwork to blame Roberts for the green algae?
Was Trantalis’ assistant or anyone from his campaign recording this meeting for use in a campaign advertisement?
Why all the secrecy regarding the source of information? Is Trantalis trying to protect a source who fed him the information?
Was Trantalis so invested in the theory that sewage is causing the green algae that he misread scientific data? Did he embellish the data because it would allow him to score political points?
This is reminiscent of the media mistakes made last week regarding President Trump.
If someone at the County is pushing a false narrative in the hopes of blaming the City Of Fort Lauderdale, then Commissioner Trantalis owes residents an explanation and the name of this person.
If Trantalis or his campaign was willing to push a false narrative to score political points then its reckless and disqualifying. Someone so eager to twist facts to win does not deserve to be the next Mayor Of Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale residents deserve answers.