The City of Tamarac is once again in the news for Corruption. Prosecutors say Michael Cernech, the City’s Manager, was arrested on Friday for allegedly extorting more than 3 million dollars from a Florida Developer.
Cernech will now have to face charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering and is charged with being a co-conspirator to the father and son duo Bruce and Shawn Chait in the extortion scheme against 13th Floor Investments, whose plans will come before the Tamarac City Commission later this year on October 27th.
“The defendant conspired with convicted felons, using his position of authority to relay false information to the highest levels of city government to further this multimillion-dollar extortion scheme—disgraceful. My Statewide Prosecutors, working with FDLE investigators, have exposed the corruption and now the defendant and his co-conspirators will have to answer for their crimes,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said.
“The victim, in this case, was constantly harassed and his business and livelihood threatened by the Chaits and their accomplice Michael Cernech. Their actions were both frightening and appalling. I appreciate the dedication of our FDLE agents in Miami and the Office of Statewide Prosecution in unraveling this brazen fraud,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.
Tamarac Post reached out to Commissioner Marlon Bolton, a Tamarac City Commissioner, for comment. Bolton said he is not shocked about the allegations. “I warned Mayor Michelle Gomez and my colleagues from the dais several times that Cernech is dangerous and needed to be removed, the Mayor instead, lambasted me.”
“Michael Cernech threatened me several times, that if I ever go after him, that he would leak misleading information about me in the media, and he did,” Bolton said, “Day after day, I dealt with negative press, none of which were true, but how could I defend myself against such a wealthy guy? But the Lord has vindicated me” he added.
Bolton was the first to question the City’s dealing involving the Chait brothers and Michael Cernech. Bolton called the City Attorney “untrustworthy.” He said the deal to sell the Rock Island and Commercial Blvd parcel was riddled with absurd language, that the deal was bad and that it was not in the best interest of the residents, but Mayor Gomez pushed the deal through. The City Attorney resigned the next day. The deal called for a split of proceeds between the City of Tamarac and the Chait Brothers. Bolton asked the City Commission not to enter into the deal and questioned why the Chait Brothers were getting so much money from the sale. Bolton hired an outside City Attorney to look into the deal and vowed to report its findings. 2 weeks later, Mayor Gomez signed the agreement in her office.
Bolton says he was elected to uproot corruption at City Hall. Bolton accused Harry Dressler, the former Mayor, of corruption too. The next day, the former Mayor resigned abruptly. “More staff will be arrested, you can count on it,” Bolton said, urging prosecutors to probe the City Manager’s office and the Community Development departments.
Commissioner Mike Gelin, another City Commissioner, also questioned Michael Cernech on several occasions and called for his firing. The next day, major media outlets lambasted Gelin and painted the Mayor as thoughtful and smart. Both Bolton and Gelin urged Mayor Gomez to revisit the Manager’s contract and evaluate his performance but the Mayor, joined by Vice Mayor Elvin Villalobos praised him as an “honest and respected” manager.
Villalobos was elected by the people of Tamarac to question staff and challenge them. Instead, he praised the City Manager despite the open warnings from Commissioner Bolton and Gelin.
Prosecutors said Cernech helped the Chaits in pressuring the victim into paying $3.4 million by leaking false information to both the Tamarac Mayor and attorneys representing 13th Floor Investments. Information only two Tamarac Commissioners did not believe, Bolton and Gelin, based on the outcome of their vote against the Woodlands Development project. If the Manager fed Mayor Gomez with misinformation, could she now be removed from office based on incompetence and neglect of duty since she has a fiduciary duty to vet information before a vote and protect the residents’ best interest?
Click here for the full news release from Moody’s office.