Deerfield Beach Commissioner Bill Ganz is entering his sixth month in office, and he still finds his colleagues unpredictable. He thought the city's ethics code was safe. "I was as surprised and dismayed as anybody to find out it was on the agenda to be repealed," he said this afternoon, following his release from serving on a jury.
Ganz admits that he has his own "issues" with the ethics code, "but certainly not enough to repeal it." Rather, he suggests the city should manage it the same way it did with the similarly flawed telecommunications ordinance, which was improved after debate in an ad hoc committee.
"Repealing [the ethics code] completely is unnecessary, and it absolutely sends the wrong message," says Ganz.
He declined to speculate, as others have, about whether the agenda item by Mayor Peggy Noland was driven by her frustration over not being able to give the space on the Deerfield Beach pier to JB's on the Beach. "But the timing of it certainly implies that," says Ganz. "If that's not the reason, you'll be hard-pressed to get people to believe otherwise."
Ganz admits the current code is "slightly stifling," which in this particular city should make residents feel more comfortable than the loosey-goosey state ethics rules -- a situation that Ganz acknowledges.
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"It adds more pressure to dot our I's and cross our T's -- but I can't say we don't deserve it." He's referring, of course, to the indictments of Mayor Al Capellini and Commissioner Steve Gonot, and perhaps the ethical questions that have stalked Noland and Vice Mayor Sylvia Poitier.
Based on the conversation at Thursday's budget meeting, Ganz is convinced that there's a three-vote majority to repeal the ethics code. On the other hand, he has faith in the sudden surge of interest by voters. The Original Save Our Beach Committee is sending its members to the meeting with paper plates printed with pro-ethics messages.
"There is a pretty widespread groundswell of voters who are flabbergasted that this is even being broached," said Ganz. "The blowback has been so strong that I wouldn't be surprised to see some back-pedaling on this." Catching himself speaking optimistically about Deerfield Beach ethics, he hastens to add, "Maybe."
Now in his sixth month as a commissioner, Ganz said he thought he was signing up for a job that involved moving the city forward as opposed to giant steps back like this one. But he'll try to swallow his frustration for tonight's meeting so he can appeal to his colleagues' ethical conscience: "Knowing I'm in the minority, I'll be begging and pleading before they pull the trigger on it."