“So think about what’s best for our city in the long haul, not whether you like or dislike the existing leaders.” — Nick Sortal
Even though Plantation voters overwhelmingly rejected a “city manager” form of government in 2014, City Councilman Nick Sortal continues to push for another vote in November 2022. Even thought he lacks public support, Sortal began his push to replace the City’s strong mayor form of government in February 2021. In April 2021 Sortal, a former reporter, wrote an opinion piece in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
“My thinking is that city managers are professionals who are trained to run the city’s operations and manage employees who the city’s services,” Sortal wrote. “They also can focus on professional management of the city rather than having political concerns interfering with being the city’s chief executive.”
Hoping to deflect complaints he was unfairly targeting Plantation’s popular strong mayor Lynn Stoner, Sortal warned residents not to “merely attach current names to existing positions.”
“So think about what’s best for our city in the long haul, not whether you like or dislike the existing leaders,” Sortal wrote.
Nick Sortal covered the gambling/casino beat for the Sun-Sentinel so his knowledge of local forms of government, especially the city manager form of government, may be limited.
In April 2021, Sortal brought an expert to discuss the greatness of city managers with Plantation residents. His expert witness was Dan Kleman of something called “Florida City/County Managers Association.”
Sortal touted Kleman’s lengthy resume as a very well paid government bureaucrat. Twenty years as Tallahassee city manager. Nine years as Hillsborough County manager. Chief Operating Officer of Jacksonville. Three years as special assistant to the Port Saint Lucie city manager. But Dan Kleman is hardly an impartial advisor for Plantation residents on this very important matter.
Sortal failed to mention that Kleman, as a senior advisor for the Florida City And County Management Association(FCCMA), conducts searches for municipalities seeking to hire city managers. Will Kleman conduct the search if Plantation voters pick a new form of government?
While Sortal claims that city managers are “professionals” who act above politics, very recent history shows South Florida has major issues with these “professional” city managers.
PLANTATION’S LEAST MOST WANTED
Nick Sortal thinks a “professional” city manager would do a better job running the City of Plantation than strong mayors like Frank Veltri, Rae Carole Armstrong, Diane Veltri Bendekovic or current Mayor Lynn Stoner. Here are a few “professional” city managers that Sortal could hire if voters approve his ballot measure.
In August 2021, longtime Tamarac City Manager Michael Cernech was arrested on racketeering charges following an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Cernech is accused of working with two shady developers in a scheme to defraud a local landowner. Cernech plead not guilty and was fired by the Tamarac city commission. Perhaps a speedy trial will allow Cernech to apply to Nick Sortal?
Last August, the City of Pahokee finally fired City Manager Chandler Williamson, a Fort Lauderdale native. Williamson served six years as Pahokee’s “professional” executive. During those six years, the Palm Beach Inspector General investigated Williamson three times for misuse of city funds. In 2020, The Palm Beach Post reported Williamson “improperly used his city credit card for about $5,800 worth of personal flights, car rentals and hotel stays over four years….also identified another $16,000 that Williamson spent on his city credit card without proper documentation. The report recommends he repay the $5,800 and refers the case to the State Attorney’s Office to consider criminal charges.” Williamson was previously investigated for closing city hall without approval, paying city workers for holidays without approval and approving a $150,000 payment for marina work which was never performed.
Even though Williamson was fired, he still received tens of thousands of dollars in a severance package. Is this “professional” behavior Nick Sortal wants for Plantation?
In April 2019, Burgess Hanson “resigned under scrutiny” after spending ten years as Deerfield Beach city manager. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Mayor Bill Ganz wanted Hanson out for providing information that was “incomplete, misleading or downright not accurate.” In addition to questions about payments to coaches and athletic groups, Hanson allegedly was overpaid nearly $16,000 on top of his salary of close to $185,000 per year. Is this a problem for Nick Sortal?
The New Times summed up the scandal surrounding Davie Town Administrator Chris Kovanes. After landing the job, Konvanes “sets up a sham corporation and begins to issue town contracts to his bogus company. He collects nearly $500,000. The town finance director discovers the scheme and asks a few questions. The town’s assistant city attorney tips off [Kovanes].” When the FDLE started investigating the matter Kovanes went on the lam. “Crooked bureaucrat” Kovanes was eventually arrested in October 2006. Three years later, Kovanes plead guilty to fraud and money laundering charges. He received a twelve year prison sentence. Kovanes was released in December 2019 which means Kovanes is available to be hired!
In September 2016, Opa Locka City Manager David Chiverton plead guilty to federal bribery charges. “In open court today, a former Opa Locka City Manager admitted under oath that he sold away his commitment to fairly administer the city’s services – for a personal profit,” stated U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. “It is imperative that public officials abide by the rules, policies and legal practices that are in place to prohibit any abuse of the public’s trust. Otherwise, corrupt officials will continue to find themselves the target of law enforcement prosecutions that seek federal penalties for their misconduct.” Chiverton, a “professional,” received a three year prison sentence.
Robert “Bob” Levy is no stranger at Plantation City Hall. As an alleged city resident, Levy served several terms as a Plantation City Councilman. While serving as an elected official in Plantation, Robert “Bob” Levy also served as the Pembroke Park manager. In 2017, the Broward Inspector General (OIG) determined Levy and two other City Of Pembroke Park employees, “engaged in gross mismanagement, misconduct, or both in the procurement of professional engineering services from Craig A. Smith and Associates, Inc. (CAS), the town’s interim town engineer, consultant engineering firm, and (for twelve years of that time) its lobbyist or grant specialist.” Until his retirement last month, Robert Levy was the longtime Pembroke Park town manager. The OIG found the City Of Pembroke Park violated Federal, State, County and City rules regarding the awarding of contracts. A review of contracts showed 66 of 67 engineering projects were never put up for bid. According to the OIG report, “The town paid CAS approximately $3,323,245 in public funds for those 22 projects between 1999 and 2015.”
Since some of the money used for the projects came from a Federal source, the Broward OIG referred the matter to US Department of Housing And Urban Development (HUD) Inspector General for further action.
In his interview with Broward OIG investigators, Robert Levy claimed he had no idea that rules were not being followed. He claimed to be powerless in his position as town manager. He stated he did not have final say in any matter.
Robert Levy lost his seat Plantation City Council in November 2016.
Levy claimed to be “powerless” as chief executive of a city. I thought Nick Sortal said this a powerful position worthy of our best professionals?
Will Robert “Bob” Levy get an interview with Nick Sortal?
In May 2021, the City of North Miami Beach hired Arthur “Duke” Sorey as its city manager. City leaders ignored the warnings of journalist Stephanie Kienzle of VotersOpinion.com who raised red flags about Sorey since his days as interim city manager of North Miami. Flags like his arrest on grand theft auto charges, exorbitant spending of city funds on a lavish Super Bowl party and his dislike of conducting business in the sunshine because people have said mean things about him. Would Nick Sortal hire Duke Sorey?
Can Plantation residents gamble on Nick Sortal’s ability to hire a competent executive?
Why is Nick Sortal so gung-ho over a city manager?
Plantation residents should ask Nick Sortal about these issues tomorrow night when his city manager idea is discussed at the council meeting at city hall.