This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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On April 9th, 2015 resident Jim Wood raised a legal question of whether P&Z board member Glenn Gromann should be recused from participating on the agenda item that evening for the rezoning of the Wildflower property.
The basis for Mr. Wood’s challenge was a social media statement made by Mr. Gromman in March, 2015 (see insert below). This statement was presented into the official record as evidence reflecting Mr. Gromann’s bias on the subject matter and his predetermination as to the agenda item’s ultimate outcome.
In response to this legal question, the Assistant City Attorney provided no answer and requested time to research the matter to provide a formal response on the legal question raised. However, the Assistant City Attorney erred in ruling that the agenda item could go forward that evening and a vote taken; a vote resulting in a 4 – 3 split with Mr. Gromann’s vote being the deciding vote.
P&Z member Janice Rustin questioned what would be the impact on the board’s vote if the Assistant City Attorney’s research results in a finding that Mr. Gromann’s statements disqualify him from participating. Frankly, the Assistant City Attorney’s answer was an embarrassment, stating that this was a matter never before raised and she had no answer.
A better determination would have been to table the item and have the attorney formulate an official response to Mr. Wood’ challenge before tainting the process by having the body take evidence and make a recommendation to the City Council for their consideration at an upcoming council meeting in May.
Mr. Gromann, in his usual style tried to bully the meeting by claiming that the challenge was ‘frivolous’ and that his “first amendment right of free speech is worth just as much as anyone else’s.” (See You Tube below).
In that statement BocaWatch completely agrees. What is not agreed to is that there is a limit to his free speech rights as a resident and citizen versus his duty as a member of a quasi-judicial board where he has an obligation to refrain from bloviating his opinion until all evidence is presented on the subject.
What clearer statement is there than “….This is a done deal….”? What more bias need be presented against a voting member of this quasi-judicial board demonstrating the futility of allowing his participation in any further proceeding and tainting the process for future appellate court review?
In a recent public records request seeking guidance on this question, this author can find no direction from the City Attorney providing guidance in a matter of this sort. The City Attorney’s opinion ought to be provided prior to the City Council taking up this matter with the P&Z Board’s recommendation.
BocaWatch eagerly awaits this legal analysis which the Assistant City Attorney stated she would be conducting.
BocaWatch intends to retain outside counsel to review any ruling when prepared and before the Wildflower vote is presented to the City Council for further action.
As to his claim of First Amendment rights….yes, Mr. Gromann has them but it is suggested that if he wants to step down from the P&Z Board and become a commentator from the audience, he is very welcomed. His opinion is worth as much as anyone else’s including mine….but so long as he is a voting member on a board that sets policy and acts as fact finder for future appellate court review; he is under a duty to follow a different set of rules. The question needing to be answered is what rules apply here in the City of Boca Raton….
A Request to Action:
Madam City Attorney…we, the residents, eagerly await your opining on what the rules are for a member of the Planning and Zoning Board under the facts outlined in Mr. Wood’s legal challenge….
Madam Mayor, we, the residents, for the reasons raised here and for other reasons raised separately request a postponement of any further action by the City Council on the rezoning of the Wildflower property.
Final comment…..Residents are fed up with elected and appointed officials ‘gone wild.’ One need only have attended the two town hall meetings conducted by Councilmembers Rodgers and Singer to know this sentiment.
Please take this seriously and address these concerns immediately….and… Govern the actions of the City Council accordingly.
The following is a quote taken directly from Facebook made by Mr. Gromann and presented at the above referenced Planning and Zoning Board Board…
You Tube of Mr. Gromann’s response
I believe that Mr. Gromann indeed has first amendment rights, just like the rest of us. No problem there. But – What goes along with first amendment free speech is the responsibility for what one says. So the first amendment assertion, while true, did nothing to address the irresponsibility of the statement that he made, “The Houston’s project is a done deal….”