Sunrise Commission Still Screwing The Public



I could say democracy died Tuesday in Sunrise, but I would be wrong.

I watched it die a long time ago under former Mayor “Big John Lomelo, if democracy means including citizens in decisions and conducting government in the sunshine.

The ghost of Lomelo walked through Sunrise City Hall Tuesday.  He was back at his old haunt, the dais of the Sunrise City Commission.

I saw the ghost.  So did activist Bill Colon, who has been around politics almost as long as me.

Tuesday was vintage Lomelo.

Commissioners called off the March election for mayor.  Instead, they agreed to anoint Roger Wishner, who will be mayor until 2010 without facing the voters.

No messy campaigning necessary for Wishner.
They acted because City Attorney Stuart Michelson suddenly discovered a convenient city law that made the election illegal.

Or so he said.

(For those interested in the details, an explanation of Michelson’s ruling is at the bottom of this post.)

Bottom line:

A campaign for mayor between Wishner and Commissioner Joey Scuotto is off.

Wishner is the leader of the commission majority.  Scuotto is the outsider, the lone voice against the city hall steamroller lead by Wishner.

Get the picture?

I’m not the only one reminded of Lomelo last night.

Lomelo, who used to juggle election dates and handpick candidates.  Lomelo, who crushed any commissioner who defied him. 

Big John’s rules were law in Sunrise and the public be damned.  Until he ended up in prison, busted for extortion.

“I closed my eyes and I swore I saw the ghost of Mayor Lomelodenying the people their rights,  Colon told commissioners on Tuesday.

He’s right.  I saw the ghost of Big John, too.

There were the same arrogant smirks on the dais.   The same nasty sniping at the public and media.

The same lengthy, twisted explanations to justify shafting the public.  

The only thing missing were the 12-ounce McDonald cup full of whisky that Lomelo guzzled during commission meetings.  And Lomelo’s boozy reditions of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” late in the evening.

I could almost see Lomelo Tuesday smiling down from heaven.  Or up from hell. 

Sunrise was still doing it his way.



Here is what Michelson decided:

Wishner is deputy mayor and Steve Feren is mayor.  Feren is leaving his job to become a judge.

It was originally thought Deputy Mayor Wishner would become mayor from January to March, when he would have to run again.

But Michelson decided that because Feren is not quitting until January 5 — although he was elected judge on November 4 — city law states no election can be held.

Michelson’s believes that a mayor’s election can not be held if the deputy takes office within 120 days of the next election.  The March election, already scheduled for two other commissioners, is only about 60 days after Feren quits.

So Wishner gets to serve without facing voters until the next city election in 2010.

5 Responses to “Sunrise Commission Still Screwing The Public”

  1. Richard J Kaplan says:

    I believe there is appears to be a conflict between two different provisions of the Charter:

    Sec. 6.05. Regular and Special Elections.
    1. (1) Regular Elections. Regular city elections for the purpose of electing members of the City Commission and the Mayor shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of any even numbered calendar year. (I think that they are in transition so the older provision is March for this situation)


    Sec. 3.05 (f) Succession by Deputy Mayor. A vacancy in the office of Mayor shall also be deemed a vacancy in the City Commission. If a vacancy occurs in the office of Mayor for any reason whatsoever, the Deputy Mayor shall succeed to the office of Mayor until the Mayor’s return if the vacancy is of a temporary nature or until a new Mayor is elected at the next city-wide election that is more than one hundred twenty (120) days in the future.

    Normally, when a direct conflict occurs, the later one controls. However, if the two can be read together in a way that eliminates this conflict then they both can be upheld.

    In this case, I believe the conflict can be resolved. I believe that you can interpret Sec. 3.05 to occur only when a regular Mayor election is NOT in play, which is not this situation. It would make sense that if the city had an election, not involving the Mayor, that they would not add it to the ballot unless it was more than 120 days. But when it already on the ballot, Sec. 3.05 does not apply.

    If someone takes it to court, lets see how they interpret it. Logically, I don’t understand why else that provision would be in the Charter.

    By the way, Stuart is just doing his job, and he has a valid opinion that he had nothing in creating this language. He could very well be correct.

    FROM BUDDY: Thanks for this very intelligent discussion of the law.
    You are right. Indeed, Stuart Michelson may be correct. But as of now, his is just one lawyer’s opinion. That’s why they have courts.

  2. Marty Rubinstein says:

    I agree with Richard.

    I would like to have seen the election take place in March as well, but agree or disagree, the law is the law.

    Should it be changed? Yes, and even Commissioner Roger Wishner, by his own words, agrees with that. But last time I looked, this is still the USA a Constitutional government and there IS a process.

    The very same process that got us into this situation to begin with.

    Like it or not, what happened last night was execution of the will of the voters of 1992. And because of that, the Commissioners had no legal choice in the matter.

    A perfect example was this:

    In 1993, the Condo residents of Sunrise Lakes Phase 2 were adamant that the now existing Home Depot at Sunrise Lakes Blvd and University Drive not be built.

    Property rights be damned, according to the Condo leaders the night of the Commission meeting. Commissioner Dan Pearl, stood up and spoke:

    “We understand what you want and if we vote with you, we will violate the law. Home Depot will sue the city and win, and then we’ll have no choice.”


    The Commission voted with the demands of the audience. Home Depot sued and won, and with that, all the gains and concessions made went out the window.

    Commissioner Joey Scuotto does not agree with last night’s decision and states that he intends to sue for a “Declaratory Judgment.” It’s his right to do so. Will he win? There are so many options that I can’t predict.

    Meanwhile, that provision in the charter needs to be changed. Again, by the will of the people, not by the complaints of a vocal few.

    Somebody sitting near me shouted “this is a Democracy!” Damned right it is, and voting against the law is not and never should be part of that Democracy.

    Use the process and change the law.

    With so many issues related and unrelated last night, I am openly calling for a SUNRISE CHARTER REVIEW COMMITTEE to be formed immediately so it can explore the issues raised last night.

    On a related note, what I heard near the beginning of the discussion was Steve Feren’s acknowledgement that he was part of the process in drafting the very rule that nullified the Mayoral election. As one of two lawyers sitting on the Commission at that time he should have known better. They both should have.

    Malpractice? No, but way too close.

    And now Feren is going to be a Judge. I sure as hell hope he has a better command of the law now than he did in 1992.

  3. solly says:

    I remember Lomelo who was a real thug and a crook. I don’t think the current commissioners qualify since no one has been arrested for taking money. What you are writing about it just politics as usual in Sunrise. Its not good. Its not illegal.

  4. democracy now says:

    I think that all of the current comminsioners should be voted out next election. NOt ONE of them has the nerve to stand up for what is right. THat is the people having a VOICE!! this is trully a sad day for democracy in Sunrise. I hope that the people remember these clowns next time up and vote for their oponents

  5. Integrity says:

    No nation wide City Attorney search?

    Wishner’s vote for City Attorney (Michelson)?

    Feren’s campaign manager (Michelson) is now the City Attorney?

    Michelson is paid $400,000/year plus to be Sunrise City Attorney?

    City Attorney (Michelson) rules there can not be a City of Sunrise resident’s election for Mayor, and Wishner gets the Mayors spot, for almost 2 years by appointment?


    And Lomelo was corrupt?

    Wake up City of Sunrise residents and vote them out starting this March and again in November of 2010!