An email obtained by REDBROWARD claims City Of Pembroke Pines employees were made to feel “uncomfortable” under repeated questioning by Commissioner Jay Schwartz and his wife Stacey Schwartz. In her December 6, 2017 email to City Manager Charlie Dodge, Christina Sorensen, the Pines Director Of Recreation and Cultural Affairs, details conservations with two city employees. The day before, Lana Tropeano, an assistant special events coordinator, asked to meet with Sorensen to discuss a performance evaluation.
According to Sorensen, during this meeting Tropeano revealed that Commissioner Schwartz and his wife “frequently call” Special Events Coordinator Francine Novo. According to Tropeano, Novo said Stacey Schwartz wanted her opinion on the current Director of Recreation as well as previous directors. Sorensen scheduled a meeting with Novo.
Francine Novo confirmed Tropeano’s account. Novo told Sorensen that she gave an opinion on previous directors but said nothing about the current director or the current Recreation Department administration. Novo said Stacey Schwartz approached her at events “all the time” which makes her feel “uncomfortable.”
Novo said she does not like Schwartz’s “questions or frequency of the contact.”
Sorensen told Dodge she instructed her employees to answer any pertinent questions from Schwartz, but anything else should be directed to her.
On Monday, REDBROWARD reported City manager Charlie Dodge stunned his bosses at last week’s City Commission retreat with accusations that one Commissioner was violating the city charter by conducting an “inquisition” of employees. Dodge laid out evidence that a fellow commissioner “intimidated” city employees to the point they “feared retaliation” if they did not cooperate. Dodge said, “It is really unfortunate today that I feel compelled to bring your attention…to an ongoing problem…I believe is an ongoing violation of our city charter by a member of the city commission.”
Dodge said, “There’s no other way to address this issue in a private way because that could be a violation of sunshine laws.” Dodge said the Commissioner’s questioning “intimidated” employees and they “feared retaliation” if they did not answer the questions. Dodge said the questioning amounted to “interference with administration” which is a clear violation of the city charter.
Dodge’s report shocked Pembroke Pines Commissioners. Mayor Frank Ortis said the alleged actions “undermined” city staff. Vice Mayor Angelo Castillo called the news was “embarrassing,” He said there needs to be an investigation to see if a crime was committed.
Commissioner Iris Siple called the alleged behavior “bullying” of city employees. She said the behavior is “very serious stuff that [not only] crossed the line, it erased the line.” Commissioner Ismael Monroig said he would never treat staffers so poorly.
City Commissioner Jay Schwartz did not take the opportunity to address the matter and the meeting was adjourned.
Although Dodge never revealed the identity of the Commissioner, many Pembroke Pines political insiders believed Schwartz was the target of his remarks.
CONTROVERSY SWIRLS AROUND SCHWARTZ
Jay Schwartz is no stranger to controversy in Pembroke Pines.
In March 2016, REDBROWARD revealed Jay Schwartz’s pandering to local Muslim groups. Schwartz attended several EMERGE USA PAC events in 2015 including a Ramadan dinner celebration. According to one published report, Schwartz spoke about “changing” America EMERGE USA at a February 2016 event. Schwartz said, “[T]here’s a group of people, in this room, who are changing America as we know it, and that’s a great thing… If there’s anything I can do to help the cause, I’m a phone call away.”
Six months later, days before the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, Pembroke Pines Commissioner Jay Schwartz wanted to discuss the creation of a “Muslim Heritage Month.” The tone deaf Schwartz wanted to change Jewish American month to Muslim American month!
While Jay Schwartz was worrying about Muslim Heritage Month, Pembroke Pines Police discovered numerous sex toys, an air mattress and bodily fluids in a city athletic field press box located in his district. According to the November 22, 2016 report, the tower had been unused since 2014. Police repsonded to a call from Pines Supervisor of Parks Glenn Reid. He told police he last visited the tower in June 2016. Reid said the tower was “undisturbed” at that time.
Five months later, Reid discovered the second floor air conditioning unit was running. Reid told police he found a “deflated air mattress, empty Styrofoam containers that had contained food, as well as a box containing various sex toys.” Reid stated he unplugged the ac unit and left the tower. The following day, Reid returned to the tower. This time, Reid discovered a fully inflated air mattress, “indicating that someone had entered the tower sometime overnight.”
Police said there were no signs of forced entry. The police officers did not observe any damage or signs of vandalism.
REDBROWARD reported about Commissioner Jay Schwartz’s interest in the matter. Even though the case was not officially closed until February 1, 2017, Schwartz appeared to have firsthand knowledge about the investigation.
On January 13, 2017, Commissioner Jay Schwartz directly referenced the Pembroke Pines Police Case #PPD16OFF073656 in an email copied to the City Manager and City Attorney.
Schwartz wrote, “Our police department performed a professional evaluation and deliberate review of the incident resulting in a closure of the matter.”
How did Schwartz know the matter was closed when it would not be considered “inactive” for another month?
The City contracted with the Pasadena Lakes Walnut Creek Optimist Club (PWCO) to host events at the park. According to Pembroke Pines Police report, members of city staff and the leaders of the PWCO had keys to the press box. The police report does not include any interviews with leaders of the PWCO.
According to State of Florida records, Sandy Arias is the president of the Pasadena Lakes Walnut Creek Optimist. Her sister Erika Arias was the club treasurer. In March 2015, City Commissioner Jay Schwartz presented Sandy and Erika Arias with a certificate of recognition during a commission meeting. Schwartz told the audience that his family plays baseball in the PWCO league.
Jay Schwartz’s campaign Facebook page has numerous photographs of Sandy and Erika Arias supporting his elections. One picture shows Schwartz and Sandy Arias working the polls during the March 2016 election.
REDBROWARD asked Sandy Arias, Erika Arias and other PWCO leaders about the investigation. REDBROWARD asked if they had been interviewed by police, whether they had a suspect in mind and if they spoke with any elected official about the matter.
REDBROWARD asked why Erika Arias suddenly left her position with PWCO in January 2017.
Arias never responded.
Last year, REDBROWARD exposed Schwartz’s role in a Pembroke Pines Commission race.
State and local records show Pembroke Pines Commissioner Jay Schwartz is very involved in Dave Tringo’s campaign against Pembroke Pines Vice-Mayor Angelo Castillo. But the same records show the Commissioner is not the only member of the Schwartz household involved in the Tringo campaign.
On March 16, 2017 Dave Tringo filed campaign paperwork for the Pembroke Pines District 4 seat currently held by Angelo Castillo. In a highly unusual move, Commissioner Jay Schwartz was listed as Tringo’s campaign treasurer. While politicians are often involved behind the scenes, they rarely put their names on campaign paperwork. Schwartz listed his home address on NW 16th street as well as his campaign email, “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Five days later, the wife of Commissioner Jay Schwartz filed paperwork with the State of Florida creating a new business entity–Blue Skies Management Group, Inc. Stacey Schwartz is listed as the president of this new corporation located at the Schwartz home on NW 16th Street in Pembroke Pines.
According to Pembroke Pines election reports, the Tringo campaign has repeatedly paid Blue Skies Management Group for consulting work. As of January 2018, Tringo has paid $12,498 to Stacey Schwartz’s company.
In response to our Tringo story, Vice Mayor Castillo said Schwartz has been on a “two year tirade of lies and childish political behavior.”
Why is Stacey Schwartz so interested in city personnel and issues? Is she protecting her husband? Or, is she acting as a political consultant by seeking information useful to Dave Tringo’s race against Castillo?
Is Jay Schwartz aware of his wife contacting city employees?
We have asked the Jay and Stacey Schwartz for comment. We will update story if they respond.