Marina Madness

Like many an activist, Mike Horan challenged the City of Pompano Beach. And like many, he was pummeled.

"I understand you made another call too," Horan recalls Hargett telling him.

The city manager knew Horan had phoned Countryman. Horan was furious. To him, it was like the FBI telling John Gotti they were planning to bug his house. "I hit the roof," he recalls.

He called Countryman to complain and learned that the prosecutor had leaked Horan's complaint to Pompano Assistant City Attorney Mark Berman. "Countryman told Berman about my complaint 30 minutes after I made the call to the State Attorney's Office," Horan says. "Thirty minutes. Countryman was upset that I had found out, but he also seemed like he wanted to slough it off like it wasn't really important."

A crowded marina is just a few steps from Mike Horan's home
Michael McElroy
A crowded marina is just a few steps from Mike Horan's home

Countryman says he remembers the incident, particularly Horan's anger, but wouldn't discuss it in detail. He points out that it wasn't as if he'd tipped off an investigation into an actual criminal, like a bombing suspect. "There was no evidence in this case that anyone was taking bribes or had been induced to perjure themselves," Countryman says.

Ultimately, Horan found out that the cliché is true: You can't fight city hall. But he kept throwing punches. Last year, he appeared before the City Commission and complained about the city's hitting him up for legal fees. Finally, he won a battle. The commission voted unanimously on the spot to withdraw the court request. He also struck a deal with Johnston regarding Hidden Harbour. The marina would agree to a 50-foot setback from his condo building. Horan says the marina has since reneged on the deal.

And the issue over attorney's fees wasn't finished; Ruden, McClosky still wanted Horan to pay. During a court hearing this past October 8, Assistant City Attorney Bill Bosch volunteered his time to testify for the law firm against Horan. "That was a slap in the face by the city," Horan says. "Here I am trying to protect my front door and they do this to me?"

Judge Brescher denied the law firm $19,000 in legal fees but ordered Horan to pay Ruden, McClosky $776 in costs. Horan paid the bill last month.

For some, the financial hit might have been the final insult, but Horan hasn't quit fighting, and construction of the giant storage building is still on hold. A developer of townhouses in the area, Jean-Louis Lacerte, sued the city. Lacerte's case is pending.

On Election Day March 12, Horan went to the polls and gathered signatures on a petition that has been circulating for several weeks to recall Mayor Griffin and Vice Mayor Herb Skolnick. The petition mentions Hidden Harbour among the grievances against the two politicians. Horan still hopes to make a difference. "I wouldn't be gathering signatures if I didn't think we had a chance," he says.

So maybe the cliché is wrong after all. You can fight city hall in Pompano. Unfortunately, the city will make you pay for it.

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