A bombshell report commissioned by the City of Tamarac Human Resources Department revealed a pattern of “bullying” of City employees by Tamarac Commissioner Marlon Bolton. The report documents several instances of Bolton attacking political opponents by using their race, ethnicity and religion. City leaders hired noted attorney Levi Williams to investigate six complaints by City employees and 2 complaints by City residents against Marlon Bolton.
The report was released in early 2020. But you likely never heard about its bombshell findings.
In January 2020, The Sun-Sentinel wrote about the report but the Bolton-friendly headline stated he considered the investigation to be a “witch hunt.” Reporter Lisa Huriash wrote:
“The accusations against Bolton were substantiated by an investigation commissioned by Tamarac, which says it won’t tolerate a hostile work environment. “Each of the complaints filed by the city complainants are found to have merit and support Commissioner Bolton’s violation of city codes,” attorney and investigator Levi Williams wrote in his 99-page report. “Although Commissioner Bolton proffered explanations for the allegations levied against him, this investigator found them to be wanting and self-serving and without merit.”
Yet the story provided few details about the accusations and the report. Instead, it gave coverage of the seemingly coordinated attacks against the accusers and the investigation.
During a public meeting, Bolton lashed out at his perceived enemies. He called Williams’ investigation a “witch hunt.” Bolton claimed the City Manager did not hire enough black employees.
Bolton said, “it was ‘patent public corruption and misuse of taxpayer funds for Mayor [Michelle] Gomez to have instigated this bogus investigation for the sole purpose of advancing her own political agenda.'”
Gomez and City officials said the seriousness of the allegations by numerous employees forced the HR department to call for an outside investigation.
“SHE IS A WHITE JEW”
Testimony from two longtime city firefighters described Marlon Bolton’s behavior while campaigning for Elvin Villalobos in 2018. As REDBROWARD revealed last week, Marlon Bolton served as Villalobos’ campaign treasurer. Also, Bolton personally collected nearly $5,000 in campaign contributions for Villalobos’ bid for Mayor. Villalobos ran against Michelle Gomez.
Captain William Duesler told investigators about Bolton’s behavior during early voting at the Tamarac library. Duesler said Bolton told a voter Gomez was a “White Jew–Don’t vote for her.” Another complaint heard Marlon Bolton tell a voter, “Gomez can’t even speak Spanish…and that she is a White Jew.”
In her interview for the investigation, Mayor Michelle Gomez described her encounter with Marlon Bolton at early voting. Gomez heard Bolton tell voters, “You can’t vote for her; She is a Jewish White woman who can’t speak a lick of Spanish.” Gomez told Bolton, “Yes I am Jewish.”
Marlon Bolton told investigators he was simply trying to provide information to voters.
“[Bolton] advised resident “our beloved Mayor is a White Jewish individual and only claims to be Hispanic because she spent two years in a Hispanic household,” the report states.
Bolton told investigators he “viewed his actions as a mediator versus an agitator insisting that Ms. Gomez tell people that she is a White Jewish female.”
Bolton said he “allowed” Elvin Villalobos to use his Hispanic heritage as means to get Gomez to tell the truth about her ethnicity. Bolton stated Gomez was not Hispanic simply because “she was adopted for a couple years by an adoptive father who was from Spain.”
Larry Goehrig ran against Marlon Bolton in 2016. He heard Bolton tell voters not vote for Goehrig because “we don’t need another white cracker on the board.” Goehrig complained that Bolton passed out an illegal palm card produced by individuals close to Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. After REDBROWARD revealed the origin of the phony card, a Broward Judge prohibited its dissemination at polling places.
Bolton told investigators he was unaware of the Judge’s order. Bolton said he did not want to discuss Goehrig out of fear of being sued by him.
“BULLYING” “LOUD SHOUTING”
The complaints by City employees against Marlon Bolton show a disturbing pattern of threatening behavior.
In July 2017, administrative assistant Millie Velasquez worked on finalizing a travel budget report. She was being trained by her supervisor Robyn Thalenfeld. Velasquez told investigators an angry Marlon Bolton confronted her on July 10, 2017. She said Bolton was upset because he had the highest travel budget request. Velasquez felt Bolton was angry because Sun-Sentinel reporter Lisa Huriash was asking questions about the travel budget.
Bolton asked Velasquez to change the numbers in his report. Velasquez refused his “inappropriate” request.
Velasquez said Bolton became “threatening and loud.” In the presence of other employees, Velasquez stated Bolton yelled “you work for the Commissioners…I need you to do it right away!”
As Velasquez left to discuss the situation with Thalenfeld. She stated Bolton “followed her upstairs screaming… menacing, he made her feel uncomfortable and she was about to cry.”
Velasquez felt Bolton “was going to cause her physical harm.”
Velasquez lodged a formal complaint against Marlon Bolton within 24 hours.
Robyn Thalenfeld confirmed Velasquez’ story. She said Bolton “screamed” as he followed Velasquez upstairs. Thalenfeld said Bolton was “loud and demanding.” She described his behavior as “bullying.”
City Clerk Pat Teufel told investigators she heard Commissioner Bolton “having a loud conversation with Ms. Velasquez about travel. He had a very angry tone. He was derogatory and nasty.” She said “The City is weary from Commissioner Bolton….”
BOLTON ENRAGED OVER PARKING SPACE
City employee Zach Steiner described his encounter outside Marlon Bolton’s home. Steiner, a public works department employee was turning on water service at a neighbor’s home. “Mr. Steiner said after he had parked Commissioner Bolton came out and asked him to move his vehicle and he did so. After leaving his vehicle to return to the task, Commissioner Bolton again asked him to move his vehicle to a different spot.” Steiner admitted he was argumentative with Commissioner Bolton but “he felt that the Commissioner was messing with him.” Steiner said “Bolton advised him as to who he was and started taking pictures of him doing his job.”
The report shows Bolton told Steiner’s supervisor about the encounter. Bolton said he was upset that Steiner initially blocked his vehicle and then blocked the parking spot he intended to use. Bolton told investigators he though the employee was “on drugs.”
THREATENED EMPLOYEES AND CITY WITH LAWSUIT
In 2018, Tamarac City employees prevented candidates from bringing campaign literature into an event at the City aquatic center. The City prohibited distribution of campaign materials inside City owned facilities. Most candidates had no issue complying with the rules.
Except Elvin Villalobos and Marlon Bolton.
A witness stated he told Elvin Villalobos about the prohibition on campaign material on City property. Villalobos was carrying signs and flyers into the voter registration drive. Villalobos said he spoke to the City Attorney who advised he could “do as he pleased.” Villalobos said he would call the City Attorney.
Fifteen minutes later, Marlon Bolton arrived on the scene. According to the witness statement, Bolton stated the employee “must not have gotten the memo” allowing campaign materials on City property. After employees made several calls to supervisors, City Manager Mike Cernech confirmed the prohibition still stands.
Bolton took out his camera to record the City employees. Bolton asked “are you stating to me that you are refusing to allow us to enter and hand out our materials?” The employee stated she would not answer questions while being recorded and walked away. Bolton followed her.
Later on, that employee said Bolton pulled her aside and stated, “I used to like you but, now I don’t. And you and your employee and the City can expect to be named in a lawsuit on Monday.” The employee stated Bolton was attempting to “bully and threatened me.” As a result she called in sick on Monday.
According to witness statements, Bolton stated he was there to record the event for a local website. However, Bolton acted more like a campaign operative, than a journalist or even a city leader.
Despite this pattern of behavior, none of these allegations were explored in any detail during the 2020 campaign.