Anyone who paid attention to Fort Lauderdale's most recent mayoral elections may remember Earl Rynerson, a local businessman (he owns a tile company) who ran unsuccessfully for the seat now occupied by Jack Seiler. Despite losing the election, Rynerson hasn't stopped sticking his nose in the goings-on at City Hall.
Over the past year, on his website (abetterftlauderdale.com), Rynerson has drawn attention to the (some would say bloated) salaries of various high-ranking city employees and has railed incessantly against what he deems as wasteful spending by the city. A favorite target is "Spend-aholic" city manager George Gretsas. Earlier this month, Rynerson chided Gretsas for his proposed city budget and, another day, pointed out a sneaky-looking clause in Gretsas's contract that requires Gretsas to be automatically reappointed for another three-year term unless the city commission takes action ten months before his current contract ends.
Today, Rynerson is calling attention to two meetings that Gretsas held last week at War Memorial Auditorium. "It was nothing more than a 'rah-Rah' fest for George himself," wrote Rynerson (who did not attend the meeting himself but relied on sources' accounts). Rynerson compared Gretsas to Adolf Hitler and said that, "just like the Nazi pep rallies in Nuremburg, Germany in the 30's, this event had 'yes' men for Gretsas, admonishing the crowd to stand up to give a standing ovation to George when he finished his speech."
True, Gretsas does have a reputation as something of a humorless micromanager. When he first assumed his current job, he undertook a very pressing mission to remove chewing gum from sidewalks. Former police chief (now city commissioner) Bruce Roberts famously lambasted Gretsas when he resigned from the force last year, writing in a letter that "micromanagement and intimidation are the order of the day." Another source tells the Juice that several city employees would love to speak against Gretsas but they are "all afraid they're going to get fired."
Gretsas himself is on vacation until August 10, but Fort Lauderdale Public Information Officer Jeff Modarelli spoke in his defense, saying that Gretsas's speech last week was not a pro-Gretsas rally but rather a meeting to allay employees' fears about budget cuts. "The context was there's a lot of confusion and misinformation and fear because local goverments are facing budget challenges," Modarelli said. "The city manager felt it was important to get word to employees about what's happeneing -- to let employees know things are going to be stable, and to thank them for their great work." He promised to look for a copy of Gretsas's presentation and send it over.