The Email That Started the Investigation in Deerfield Beach

I still haven't heard back from Deerfield Beach City Manager Michael Mahaney, but his office just emailed a copy of the message that apparently was the basis for an investigation into whether the city's firefighters played an improper role in the recently wrapped election.

The author of the note is Deerfield Beach attorney Tom Connick, who is a supporter of Pam Militello, who yesterday lost her reelection bid to Joe Miller. Miller received the enthusiastic support of firefighters, along with Mayor-Elect Peggy Noland, whose husband and son are employed with the department. Noland's son was charged with petty theft Monday for allegedly stealing campaign signs of his mother's mayoral rivals.

I also just spoke with Connick, who says firefighters are too involved in the city's political scene. "What they do is they will give manpower to a candidate," he said. "I think it's a real problem in Deerfield Beach -- the firefighter union support -- because they won't say it, but the reality is that they want something in return for their support."

In particular, the firefighters want to make sure they keep a defined benefits plan that calls for retired firefighters to get a steady flow of funds, irrespective of the performance of their pension funds, with the city shouldering the risk. That is, even if the stock market crashes, like it has lately, the city would be obligated to pay retired firefighter pensions -- possibly through the general fund. As a commissioner, Noland voted for the defined benefits plan. During her mayoral campaign, she vowed to recuse herself on issues involving firefighters.

Connick's email after the jump.

While the city's firefighters are free to campaign for favored candidates in their free time, they are not allowed to do so while on duty. Here is the note from Connick to Mahaney (I've bolded portions of it):

I was at the northeast intersection of Hillsboro Boulevard and Federal Highway before 8 am on March 4, 2009 when I observed a person with a Noland sign and shirt cross Federal Highway just south of the intersection and proceed to go into the Fire Station (which fire station is located at the southwest intersection of Federal Highway and Hillsboro Boulevard). 

    That incident prompted me to drive to the Fire Station area to see what activities concerning campaigning were occurring on the city's public property.

    At approximately 8 am, March 4, 2009, I turned onto the road that goes north south along the western side of the fire station. I saw what appeared to be employee of the fire department taking a campaign sign for "Miller" out of his pickup truck that was parked on the parking area that is on the east side of the road, right next to the Fire Station. That person then walked to Hillsboro Boulevard, then turned east and proceeded towards the intersection. I then drove to the fire station parking area which is on the south side of the station, where there was a golf cart that was on fire station property with persons taking Miller signs out of the golf cart.

    It was approximately 20 minutes later that I returned to the area and observed the golf cart with its back end in the fire station and the front facing west and the occupants of the golf cart acknowledging to fire department employees as it left the fire station. The golf cart then proceeded north to Hillsboro Boulevard then going east, then south on Federal Highway where it made a U-turn at a light and then went into Olympia Diner.

    On the morning of March 5, 2009, after 7 am in the morning, I observed a Ford truck with a Florida license number that appeared to be GWY3K parked on the far south side of a parking lot where there are yellow marked bumper stops of those spaces being reserved exclusively for employees of the Fire Department. The person in the vehicle took out Miller and Noland signs. Initially, those signs placed leaning next to the vehicle for a period of time. That person went into the fire station, and came out and was interacting with other employees of the Fire Department in the parking lot of the Woman's Club, and then he went and got the signs. Another person also parked in one of these exclusive fire department parking spaces marked in yellow and took out a Noland sign.

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Thomas Francis