Tensions between Steve Glassman and John Herbst — two of Fort Lauderdale’s most vocal commissioners — were on display Tuesday after Glassman demanded to know why the city falsely claimed Inter Miami added stadium seats without a permit and how the media posted the story so quickly.
“The world is watching how we behave,” Glassman said. “We have to be spot-on.”
The email in question, authored by Assistant City Attorney Rhonda Hasan, sparked headlines on June 21, the same day it was sent to Inter Miami lobbyist Stephanie Toothaker. Hasan’s email told Toothaker the city was in the process of red-tagging the stadium and warned that ignoring a stop-work order can be an arrestable offense.
In the end, there was no red-tagging of DRV PNK Stadium after city officials drove out to the site and saw no seats had been installed.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel and WPLG-Ch. 10 both covered the dust-up, posting stories not long after Hasan fired off her email at 4:42 p.m. on June 21.
With soccer superstar Lionel Messi on the way, the world is watching, Glassman warned during a public meeting on Wednesday.
Messi, expected to make his Inter Miami debut on July 21, has triggered a frenzy of interest among fans and a promise from team owners to add 3,200 stadium seats as quickly as possible. Fort Lauderdale has agreed to expedite the permit process but construction on the new seats has not yet started.
Fort Lauderdale welcomed David Beckham and billionaire brothers Jorge and Jose Mas with open arms when they offered to build a soccer stadium on taxpayer-owned land in return for a 50-year lease that’s costing them $1 a year. The city is still waiting on a promised park, but the $170 million stadium was built in record time.
‘I have no idea’
On Tuesday, Glassman grilled Hasan on why she sent “our partner” a threatening email that was based on a false assumption.
“Does anyone know how the media knew about this in two minutes?” Glassman said.
City Manager Greg Chavarria answered.
“I asked [the Sun Sentinel reporter] and she wouldn’t say,” he said.
“Well she’s not going to reveal her source,” Glassman replied.
Mayor Dean Trantalis suggested Hasan explain how she came to write that email and how the press knew about it so quickly.
“I have no idea how the media got a hold of that,” Hasan said.
As for the email, Hasan said the city’s building official told her he was sending out an inspector to red-tag the property. Hasan said she called Toothaker to let her know. When she didn’t answer, Hasan sent the email.
Glassman said he was disturbed by how it was all handled.
“We are at a very delicate point now with Inter Miami,” he said. “It seems like there’s an attempt to say ‘gotcha’ when we don’t have proof.”
Playing point man
Hasan and Commissioner John Herbst, whose district includes the stadium, have been representing the city in behind-the-scenes talks with the team’s owners over the delayed building of a 20-acre park next to DRV PNK and other points of contention.
On Tuesday, Glassman argued that Hasan’s warning email disqualifies her from sitting in the room and negotiating in good faith with Inter Miami.
The mayor and Interim City Attorney D’Wayne Spence are the ones who should be representing the city in any negotiations with the team’s owners, Glassman insisted.
“The mayor needs to be in the room,” he said.
Herbst listened without comment, at one point walking off the dais.
When he returned, he defended Hasan, saying she’s done an outstanding job in the negotiations with Beckham United.
The city officials who drove out to the stadium to check on things might very well have put a stop to any attempt to get a jumpstart on the new seats, Herbst added.
Not the boss
He then made a reference to a time not all that long ago, when he worked as the city auditor and Glassman was one of three commission bosses who voted to fire him during a late-night meeting in February 2022. Herbst ran for commission that fall and won by a landslide.
Now a colleague who shares a seat on the dais, Herbst told Glassman he seems to want to tell him what he can and cannot do.
“I no longer work for you,” Herbst said with blunt precision. “I can do whatever the hell I damn well please.”
Glassman, undaunted, had this response: “When I see behavior that puts the city in jeopardy or at risk, I’m going to bring it up. You can act all innocent like you don’t know what’s going on. But we know what’s going on.”
Susannah Bryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan