By Bryan Boggiano
In the first commission meeting since the bombshell, employee survey revealed numerous accusations of unprofessionalism, cronyism, and toxicity in Coconut Creek Police Department leadership, the city commission briefly addressed the situation.
The developments started at the commission’s Aug. 24 meeting when resident Steven Hall emailed a letter criticizing the commission for not placing anything related to the employee survey on the meeting’s agenda.
“I believe the citizens of Coconut Creek need to know how the city staff perceives our city,” he wrote.
In the letter, Hall wrote he was concerned that 29 percent of city employees did not submit the survey. He alleged the potential reasons for that figure were employees not viewing their comments as important and they might fear retaliation. Hall continued, saying it is nearly impossible to keep surveys anonymous.
“We need to get the information from those people to have a clear picture of what is going on,” he wrote.
Hall’s focus then turned to responses from the city’s police department, summarizing employee responses of the department showing a lack of leadership, incidents of cronyism, and lack of standards.
He expressed concern over findings stating that 46 percent of police officers see no future in their job and 50 percent of police officers believe leadership does not care.
Hall said the police department will likely lose people, increasing the city’s cost to hire new people. He also urged any third party investigating the matter to report to the city commission, not city management.
With those findings, Hall stated the commission should devise an action plan that includes oversight and other important action items.
Hall’s concerns came in response to the results of an employee survey the city released in July. While the findings were generally positive, the city’s police department, especially Chief Butch Arenal, faced accusations of cronyism, lack of ethics, and retaliation, among other claims.
Since then, the city has hired ETC Institute to review and analyze the employee survey results. The cost comes at $10,975 from the city’s general fund.
HR and Beyond, LLC, is investigating the police department. According to Yvonne Lopez, community relations director, their work includes interviewing department employees.
At the end of their Aug. 24 meeting, the city commission discussed the topic, deciding whether third-party firms and investigators should report their findings to the city manager’s office or directly to the commission through City Attorney Terrill Pyburn.
“[Steve Hall] is absolutely correct that somebody needs to oversee this process,” said Commissioner John Brodie. “I think the person in my vision to oversee this process is Terrill.”
Brodie said Pyburn’s legal expertise and knowledge are both valuable and relevant to the situation’s various layers. Mayor Joshua Rydell agreed, saying agencies reporting to the city manager rather than the city attorney would be counterintuitive to transparency.
Vice Mayor Sandy Welch disagreed with reaching a consensus on whether the city attorney or city manager’s office should be the one to oversee the investigative report. Her comments came following Commissioner Jackie Railey’s early departure due to personal reasons.
“I think we need to have the whole commission here if we’re gonna be talking about a move like that…,” Welch said. “That’s more than just talking about a small matter.”
Commissioner Jeffrey Wasserman agreed with Welch’s reasoning. The commission will discuss the matter at a future meeting.
- A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan plans to pursue geosciences at Florida International University for his master's. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.
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