It was a momentous occasion for Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Carlton Moore: his last commission meeting after two decades of service. Moore, whose district includes Sistrunk Boulevard and other economically depressed portions of the city's northwest corner, is known for championing affordable housing and commercial development for his constituents. The sometimes-abrasive commissioner has also made headlines for driving on a suspended license, being accused of harassing a code director, and falling behind on his taxes.
But after 20 years in the crucible of Fort Lauderdale municipal government, the spirit of collegiality with his fellow commissioners was hard to find on November 4, when the commission met to select Moore's replacement. Moore announced his resignation earlier this year to run for an opening on the County Commission, and he was defeated in the county primary.
The big question at last week's meeting: Would Moore be allowed to vote on his successor? Yes, said City Attorney Harry Stewart, despite confusing language in the city charter, leaving it up to the "remaining members" to select a replacement when a seat becomes vacant. Stewart agreed with some of Moore's constituents that they should have a voice in the selection rather than leaving it solely in the hands of the remaining four commissioners.
That result was a disagreement whose politeness only underlined the simmering rancor beneath it.
After a pained Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom complained that she was concerned that by voting alongside Moore she would violate the charter, Moore's response was brittle. "I would certainly find it honorable for you to abstain and to not give your opinion [on the appointment of the new commissioner]."
"I appreciate that you respect and honor me as a colleague," Rodstrom shot back, "but that's not how I'm feeling right now."
Mayor Jim Naugle wondered whether commissioners were even allowed, as Moore had suggested, to abstain from a vote.
"No," Stewart answered flatly. "Not unless there's a conflict of interest."
Moore glowered at his two nemeses. "I understand that you have succeeded in your desires to make my last meeting with this commission controversial," he snarked, "and I tip my hat to you."
Naugle, who also will soon be leaving the commission, shook his head. "Commissioner, this has nothing to do with putting a cloud over your last meeting. But some of us feel like laws have meaning and you don't choose what laws you follow and which ones you don't." Oh, the troubles he has known.
Moore had a remedy for Naugle's embattled scruples: "The city attorney has suggested that you are obligated to vote on the item, but that is only if you are on the dais," he said, his words tinged with poison. "If you should get an emergency phone call or if you should need to talk to [a constituent] about how to write a future letter, you do that."
Not so fast, Moore. Naugle wasn't going to let his longtime colleague have the last word. "I know that during your 20-year career, you have walked [out] on different items that you didn't want to vote on, but that is something I have never done in my 24 years in office."
Take that, varlet.
Ultimately, Moore remained on the dais and, for all the discord, joined the other commissioners in the unanimous selection of Dr. Magdalene Lewis to fill his post in the interim.
With all due respect, it's unlikely Lewis, a retired schoolteacher who's been active in Fort Lauderdale politics in her capacity as president of the Golden Heights Homeowners Association, can provide nearly the same political theater as Moore. Alas. Tailpipe is going to miss you, CM.