Wilton Manors is scheduled to honor a police officer and a former commissioner for Women’s History Month, but the city’s selection process was clouded by a fictitious nominator.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, commissioners voted to honor former commissioner Julie Carson and police officer Nikki Cox for Women’s History Month, but not before sharply criticizing the process conducted by the Community Affairs Advisory Board.
“I feel like this is supposed to be a good, happy moment to recognize someone in our community and I feel like some of that is just drained,” Commissioner Mike Bracchi said. “I’m not sure it’s the right process.”
CAAB put forth four nominees — Carson, Cox, small business owner Carvelle Estriplet and real estate agent Adrienne Foland — ultimately recommending Carson and Estriplet. Vice Mayor Paul Rolli said he was unable to verify the person who nominated Estriplet. The name listed on the application was Julian Bashir, Ph.D. No address or phone number was listed for Bashir.
“If we have a fictitious person nominating someone what do we do?” Rolli asked. “It’s not really transparent. There’s a lack of integrity there.”
Rolli said the nominating process was extremely insular, noting only one member of the public submitted a nomination. He said he conducted an exhaustive search for Bashir and could only turn up a reference to a Star Trek character.
“If you have a fictitious person making a nomination, how do we know what they’re saying is correct?” Rolli asked CAAB Chairman Michael Sansevero. “You’re asking us to judge an application that was put in by someone who we don’t even know who it is.”
Resident Aimee Ballantyne nominated Cox, vouching for her problem-solving skills and resiliency.
“I have personally witnessed her face down — and shrug off — sexism — and unpleasantness — even from her own male colleagues! — as she works in a predominantly male industry. She holds her own. She extends respect and courtesy towards all,” Ballantyne wrote.
Mayor Scott Newton went to bat for Carson, highlighting her decades’ worth of service on the dais as “well-deserving.” Newton defeated Carson in the last mayoral election by a razor-thin margin.
Commissioner Gary Resnick said he was disappointed the process had morphed from a fun event into a “gotcha” game. Resnick thanked Amy Waxman, a nurse, for volunteering to administer COVID-19 vaccinations at Richardson Park. “She was there for weeks and made everyone feel comfortable and safe and secure,” he said.
Sansevero admitted the board had been “pranked” and cautioned other city boards to thoroughly vet their nominators. Commissioner Chris Caputo said he would personally nominate Estriplet next year.
“Carvelle is a completely worthy person for this award,” Caputo said.
The women will receive their awards at the next commission meeting on March 22.
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