Governor suspends Miramar commissioner

Salesman was charged with DUI in April


MIRAMAR--Miramar Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman was suspended from office on Friday, almost a month after being charged with driving under the influence and eluding a police officer.

Salesman, who has served for four years and who was re-elected to another four-year term in March, said he was disappointed by Gov. Jeb Bush's decision, but was confident he'd be found innocent and get his seat back.

"I'm not Superman and my supporters understand that,'' said Salesman, who said he was not driving recklessly. "I'm like any average American who works the whole week and goes out on the weekend and has a drink. I'm human just like anyone else.''

The governor's order calls for Salesman, a self-employed loan broker, to vacate his seat immediately.

Under its charter, the city must conduct a special election within 90 days to fill the seat. The person who wins that post, however, would have to leave if Salesman is eventually found innocent and reinstated.

Miramar police arrested Salesman, 48, early April 30 not far from his house, and charged him with DUI, speeding and running two stop signs. Police said he was going 60 mph in a 40 mph zone and that he increased speed when a sergeant sounded his siren.

A Breathalyzer test showed Salesman's blood alcohol level registered a little more than .16, double the state's limit of .08.

Salesman, a commissioner many credit for opening the doors for other Caribbean Americans to run for office in Miramar, said he believes the charges must be placed in context.

"It's not that I shot someone or committed rape,'' he said.

The governor has suspended 30 elected officials or board members since taking office, said his spokesman, Jacob DiPietre said.

As it stands now, Miramar's commission will operate with a four-member board until the special election is held.

Any issue that gets a tie vote will fail, explained Tim Kennett, the city's administrative officer.

"The whole situation is unfortunate,'' said commissioner Troy Samuels. "We each bring something to the table."

The other commissioners were either unavailable for comment or declined comment.

Broward County's Supervisor of Elections will run the special election, which must be held by Sept 1. Still unsettled are the exact date of the election, details about when a candidate would have to file to run or establish a campaign finance account.

In this fast-growing city, where 13 candidates ran for three seats last March, it appears there will be no shortage to fill Salesman's at-large seat, even if it is just temporary.

Of Salesman's challengers in the last race, John Moore said he would definitely run and Alex Casas said he's strongly considering it.

Former commissioner George Pedlar, who was knocked off the commission by newcomer Samuels, said it's too early to say if he'd jump in the race. He said he would rather see the governor appoint someone temporarily until Salesman is found innocent or guilty.

"The early election complicates the issue,'' Pedlar said. "The process should be more in line with common sense.''

An outspoken force on the commission, Salesman became the first Jamaican-American to hold office in Miramar four years ago, and many credit him for energizing the Caribbean voting base in the city.

The divorced father of five is known for speaking out for diversity and fair representation on city boards.

This is not the first time Salesman has been in trouble with the law.

He was charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer without violence in 1998 after an incident at a Miami-Dade County tavern. The charges were dropped after he agreed to take anger management classes.

In 2002, he was fired from his teaching job at Miami Lakes Technical Education Center after being linked to a profanity-laced video students made under his supervision.

"Commissioners are human and commissioners make mistakes," Salesman said. "We just have to let this get through the justice system."

(source) Sun Sentinel (Georgia East) 6-04-05