FORT LAUDERDALE — Another week has passed, and Gov. Charlie Crist still has not appointed anyone to fill the vacant District 9 Broward County commission seat.
The position has been vacant since Sept. 23, when Crist suspended Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion following his arrest on federal fraud and money-laundering charges. District 9, the county’s only majority-black district, has been without a commissioner ever since.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Nov. 17 a group of local clergy and civic leaders criticized Crist for failing to make a timely appointment to fill the seat.
“We are asking the governor to immediately appoint someone to fill this seat,” said the Rev. Allen B. Jackson, who organized the news conference. “It doesn’t matter if he appoints a Republican, a Democrat, a man, a woman, or a black or a white. At this point, we just want to be represented.”
A Crist spokesperson said the appointment will be made soon, but provided no specifics.
“The Governor's appointments office continues to review applications we received for the vacancy and the Governor looks forward to announcing an appointment soon,” wrote Sterling Ivey, a spokesperson in the Governor’s Office, in an email to the South Florida Times following the news conference.
Ivey did not explain the reasons for the delay, and did not address the concerns raised by civic leaders at the news conference.
The governor’s office has conducted several rounds of interviews of potential appointees.
Crist is scheduled to visit Broward on Monday, Nov. 23, sources say, and will announce his selection then. If any appointment is made, it will likely come in the afternoon, before his scheduled speech at the monthly meeting of the Broward Republican Executive Committee (BREC) at 7 p.m., according to sources.
The finalists are Dania Beach City Commissioner Albert Jones; Gwen Watson, a co-advisor of the Fort Lauderdale branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Youth Council; attorney Levi Williams, counsel for the Broward Republican Party Executive Committee; and Roland Foulkes, a medical anthropologist and social scholar. All are black Republicans. Of the group, only Watson and Foulkes live in the district.
In March, Eggelletion was pressured into tabling his selection of Foulkes for re-appointment to Broward County’s Diversity Committee.
For years, Foulkes served on the Broward School District’s Diversity Committee. In 2005, he led opposition to videos and other items on the school curriculum from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSN) in Broward schools, and questioned whether GLSN was a legitimate educational organization.
Ken Keechl, an openly gay Broward County commissioner, spearheaded opposition to Foulkes’ position on the committee. While Tuesday’s news conference was taking place outside the Broward County Governmental Center, Keechl was selected by his colleagues to serve next year as mayor of Broward County. District 9 residents did not have a say in that vote due to the vacant seat.
District 9 community leaders say they have not been advised on the process of Eggelletion’s replacement, and have not been informed of the status of any possible appointment on Monday, or any other time.
At Tuesday’s news conference, flanked by about a half-dozen supporters outside the Broward County Governmental Center, Jackson read statements acknowledging support for an appointment to the District 9 seat from Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Barrington Russell and other local elected officials.
Standing with Jackson on Tuesday were former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Carlton B. Moore, who ran against Eggelletion in 2000, and former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Tim Smith.
“There is no reason that this seat should not be filled at this time. This governor is failing us,” Moore said. “We understand the necessity of filling a vacant seat. Obviously, our governor does not.”
In a statement released on Sunday, Nov. 15, the group said, “We see no valid reasons for this delay, and seek a full explanation why the people of District 9 have endured no representation on the County Commission for more than a month.’’
Jackson is the senior pastor at Living Word Community Church in Lauderhill, which is in District 9. Jackson twice ran unsuccessfully for Eggelletion’s seat. He was also an applicant for the appointment to fill the seat.
“Look, I was not even given an interview, so I know I won’t be getting any appointment. If that was what I was after, I certainly wouldn’t be calling the governor on the carpet at a press conference,” Jackson said when asked if the move was intended to improve his chances of getting the appointment.
“There have been several county commission meetings, and the District 9 seat is always empty,’’ Jackson continued. “It’s not about me. This is about the people of this district who deserve, and have a right to representation.”
Since Sept. 23, there have been seven county commission meetings, and commissioners have discussed and/or voted on numerous issues, including workshops on the expansion of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The latest county commission meeting was Tuesday. The District 9 seat was again conspicuously empty.
Photo: Rev. Allen Jackson