Tamarac City Manager Michael Cernech fired after facing felony charges

Tamarac City Manager Michael Cernech ART
Cernech will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and other benefits.

The city of Tamarac has fired City Manager Michael Cernech after investigators charged Cernech with conspiracy to commit racketeering, a felony.

Those charges were announced late last week. He turned himself in Friday and had been released by Saturday with a GPS monitoring device. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Cernech will lose his $272,000 salary along with nearly $70,000 more in other benefits.

Prosecutors say Cernech conspired with real estate developers Bruce and Shawn Chait, along with several other individuals. The Chaits are already facing charges of attempting to extort rival developer Arnaud Karsenti. The charges tie Cernech into that alleged scheme.

According to a release late last week from Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, Karsenti’s company, 13th Floor Investments, acquired a Tamarac property more than a decade ago after the Chaits defaulted on a loan.

Prosecutors say Cernech helped the Chaits manufacture false claims that soil on the property was contaminated.

“The Chaits and co-conspirators did this by filing lawsuits using straw plaintiffs as puppets for the sole purpose of getting the victim to pay,” read a release from Moody’s office. “The Chaits used this false claim as leverage knowing that the victim would not want to have his reputation tarnished — even through false accusations and bogus threats of lawsuits.”

Prosecutors say Karsenti was pressured to pay $3.4 million in total. But Cernech’s attorney has said he profited in no way from his actions and was working on behalf of the city’s interests.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) headed the investigation.

Cernech served as Tamarac City Manager for more than a decade after being appointed to that position in January 2011. He has worked with the city since 2001.

Tamarac commissioners weighed other options, such as simply suspending Cernech with pay or firing him without cause, which would have allowed Cernech to leave with a hefty amount of benefits.

But city officials ultimately decided to fire Cernech with cause, allowing those benefits to be withheld. It’s unclear if Cernech will file suit over that decision.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]



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