By Kevin Deutsch
Multiple residents were thrown out of a recent Margate City Commission meeting for shouting from the audience on a night when commissioners repeatedly lobbed accusations at one another from the dais.
The ugly scenes played out both before and after the commission voted to make Commissioner Anthony Caggiano the city’s new mayor and Commissioner Tommy Ruzzano the new vice mayor at their Nov. 22 meeting.
A parliamentary maneuver by Commissioner Antonio Arserio—still mayor until the meeting’s adjournment— helped secure the vice mayorship for Ruzzano over Commissioner Joanne Simone.
Multiple residents took turns at the speaker’s podium to voice opinions on the unfolding drama.
“We’re fully aware of what’s going on; the playbook is being followed,” said Margate resident Jonathan Kraljic, who supported Simone for the city’s top positions.
Kraljic claimed the mayor and vice mayor positions were being used as “a political tool to benefit some before their re-election bids.”
In November’s election, Margate voters approved a law giving them the power to directly elect their mayor starting in 2028.
Until then, city commissioners will continue to make the choice.
The Nov. 22 fireworks began in earnest when Margate resident Richard Zucchini took to the podium and said Simone was “a very nice woman” but lacked the leadership skills and vision to be mayor.
He then accused Simone and other commission members of botching a deal that would have given the city 15 acres of free land from a Margate golf course years earlier.
The accusation riled Commissioner Arlene Schwartz, who blasted Zucchini for promoting what she said were lies.
“I’ve had it,” said Schwartz, mayor when the golf course issue arose.
“Don’t interrupt me,” said Zucchini.
Schwartz asked City Manager Cale Curtis to confirm the city had not been offered any free land in talks involving the golf course.
Curtis said he was not aware of such an offer.
When Zucchini and two others in the audience continued to shout at Schwartz, Arserio ordered them removed from the chambers.
“I’ve just had it with that nonsense,” Schwartz said during their removal.
“I don’t want to have my reputation impugned so that he could have his five minutes of fame,” Schwartz added, calling Zucchini “one of the most disliked people in the city of Margate.”
“He hasn’t got the history, he hasn’t got the common sense, but he does have an amazing ability to lie.”
But the drama wasn’t over.
Later in the meeting, Simone said she had been the subject of an orchestrated campaign by fellow commissioners to deny her the mayor and vice mayor roles.
Simone said her colleagues were “antagonistic and disrespectful toward me” and had “purposely and intentionally excluded me from the mayor and vice mayor rotation since 2014.”
The commissioners have engaged in “hurtful, divisive, and immature behavior,” she said.
Simone said her colleagues’ ostracising her was a response to her supporting two commissioners’ challengers in a previous campaign.
When the meeting adjourned, commissioners and residents wished one another a happy Thanksgiving.
The drama was over—until their next meeting.
- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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