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This Florida Town Commission Should Have Its Own Reality Show

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Facebook/The Town of Pembroke Park
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Facebook/The Town of Pembroke Park

Pembroke Park is one of the tiniest towns in Florida, with a square mile and a half of palm trees, mobile homes, and Canadian snowbirds who winter among the 6,000 year-round residents. It’s so small it doesn’t even have a hotel, and the hottest night out is at Frenchie’s Bar and Grill.

But behind the sleepy exterior, a municipal feud worthy of a major city is brewing. At the center: former mayor and current town commission member Geoffrey Jacobs, a Navy veteran and ex-cop with a scandalous past.

“He is a headache. I think he treats people so badly and they don’t want to deal with it,” Vice Mayor Erik Morrissette told The Daily Beast. “He manages by fear and I believe he is not suitable for office.”

Jacobs has been investigated, censured by his colleagues, and sued by a former town employee. He has been accused of fostering a hostile work environment, sending a homophobic TikTok to a former town attorney, hurling slurs at his opponents, and using his town credit card for “questionable” transactions.

While Jacobs, a Republican, has denied any wrongdoing, he’s lodged plenty of his own allegations, accusing fellow commissioners of corruption, making complaints about colleagues to state agencies, and filing a libel lawsuit, since dismissed, against a resident who publicized his firing from a job in Arizona.

Things really came to a head in November, when Police Chief Ra Shana Dabeny-Donovan interrupted a town meeting to investigate a complaint about the mayor that Jacobs made to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office earlier that evening.

“It has come to my attention that the police have been called because there is an allegation by the commissioner that I have a weapon on me, particularly that I have a gun on me,” Mayor Ashira Mohammed explained.

“So, with that, I’m going to allow the chief to search my purse, on the record, so that everyone can see.”

No weapon was found, and this month Broward prosecutors hit Jacobs with a misdemeanor count of misusing 911 for the allegedly false claim. He denies the charge, but his critics say he’s gone too far.

“Of all the things he has done, and in my opinion, what he did to the mayor is at the top of the list,” Commissioner Bill Hodgkins said. “When you publicly humiliate someone like that, it’s another level.”

Geoffrey Jacobs’ history of controversy stretches more than 15 years and 2,000 miles from Pembroke Park—to Arizona, where he began working for the Department of Public Safety in 2002. A highway motor cop, part-time pilot, and later a photo-enforcement specialist, he made headlines for the May 2009 speeding arrest of former Republican Party Executive Director Brett Mecum.

Soon, less flattering headlines followed. In 2008, DPS began investigating Jacobs, who had a fling with the daughter of the agency’s director Robert Halliday, according to court papers and a report in the Phoenix New Times. The probe was reportedly triggered by pictures Halliday took of his daughter’s bruised arm and leg; she then alleged he hurt her during sex and took photos and videos without her consent.

Rumors swirled around the office about Jacobs' sexual behavior and antics, including a claim he used a DPS airplane to circle the home of another ex who was also a DPS officer, the New Times reported. (He told DPS investigators he made “one circle” over his ex’s apartment from 1,500-plus feet in the air.) DPS investigators discovered that Jacobs once wrote a fake obituary for that ex-girlfriend to convince Hawaiian Airlines to transfer her non-refundable ticket to another woman, the New Times reported. (He claimed an airline representative suggested the maneuver.)

“I’m human, just like anyone else,” Jacobs said in a 2014 interview. “The punishment I went through was ridiculous. [DPS] violated my civil rights in investigating me.”

According to Jacobs’ libel suit, DPS completed its investigation and handed the findings to the Glendale Police Department, which submitted one possible criminal charge to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office on April 9, 2008. Prosecutors told The Daily Beast they declined to prosecute because there was “no reasonable likelihood of conviction,” but Jacobs was fired in September 2009 and decertified as an Arizona law officer. Jacobs sued DPS and the Hallidays in 2010 for defamation and emotional distress, but the case was dismissed.

In 2014, Jacobs ran for Maricopa County justice of the peace as a Democrat but lost. He moved to Pembroke Park two years later, bringing his political ambitions with him. His attorney, Mike Pizzi, says Jacobs’ background was hardly a secret and that residents elected him a commissioner in 2019 “with full knowledge about what happened.”

“That ship sailed many years ago and talking about it now, it’s like a broken record,” Pizzi said.

Pembroke Park Mayor Ashira Mohammed has her belongings searched.

Pembroke Park Mayor Ashira Mohammed has her belongings searched after Commissioner Geoffrey Jacobs accused her of bringing a gun to the meeting.

The Town of Pembroke Park

At first, Jacobs worked alongside his colleagues for the benefit of the residents of Pembroke Park, a diverse, working-class community about a 10-minute drive from Hollywood, Florida.

“In my opinion, he has an outgoing personality. He is very charming when he wants to be,” Hodgkins, his fellow commissioner, said. “He is also very brutal when he wants to be.”

Sentiment began to turn against Jacobs in 2020 after he went to war with Mohammed, the Democratic mayor. “Mr. Jacobs has reported what he believed to be misconduct by the mayor and other city officials to the state authorities on multiple occasions,” Pizzi said.

A damning Broward Inspector General’s Office report found Mohammed improperly used her office when she failed to resign as mayor before an unsuccessful bid for state representative and used the town’s Facebook page to self-advertise. (The state declined to prosecute Mohammed in 2022.) Jacobs filed a lawsuit demanding that Mohammed resign; he was appointed mayor by the commission when she stepped down in November 2021.

Complaints of a hostile workplace and potential code violations mounted against the new mayor—to the point that the commission that put him in the position would hire an outside attorney to conduct an independent investigation at the cost of $19,000.

In August 2023, the investigation found that Jacobs’ tenure was marked by a “pattern of bullying, threatening harm, intimidation, public humiliation, and retaliation.” Thirteen current and former employees alleged that Jacobs would lash out in anger, use intimidation tactics to drive people out, and routinely bash the town as a “shithole.” Other witnesses said that Jacobs framed and displayed the New Times article about the Arizona scandal in his mayoral office.

“It felt like he was proud of it,” Hodgkins told The Daily Beast.

Babette Friedman, the town’s former human resources director, tried to talk to Jacobs about half a dozen formal complaints against him. He refused and tried to have her fired, the investigative report alleges.

Former town attorney Melissa Anderson told The Daily Beast that during her two years working for Pembroke Park, Jacobs was always difficult and condescending but did not attack her until he began pushing for the creation of a town police department.

In an interview for the independent investigation obtained by The Daily Beast, she said Jacobs’ behavior became “increasingly aggressive and bizarre.” In text messages included in the report, Jacobs called Anderson a “fucking cunt” to the town clerk. On Oct.1, 2022, Jacobs allegedly sent her a TikTok video of a bouncer bashing “masculine women,” describing them as “super confrontational”—until they realize a man can beat them up.

“I was so baffled. And freaked out,” Anderson, who is openly gay, told The Daily Beast of the video.

At a subsequent town meeting, Jacobs was encouraged to apologize to Anderson; he said he would “when hell freezes over.” He claimed that he accidentally sent Anderson the TikTok and insisted that he works with a “great deal of gay flight attendants,” the investigative report said.

“I think the worst thing he has done is waste the resources of a small underserved community for the aggrandizement of his own ego,” Anderson told The Daily Beast.

In March 2023, Jacobs was re-elected to the commission by Pembroke Park residents after running unopposed. The commission, which appoints the mayor, opted to have Mohammed resume her old job, ousting Jacobs.

But the drama did not end when Jacobs was dethroned. During a May 2023 food drive, he allegedly called Friedman, who is Jewish, a “Nazi” in front of colleagues and residents—prompting the commission to censure Jacobs for violating the town’s code of conduct. Jacobs responded by calling Hopkins “stupid” and “ignorant” at a meeting.

“But there are other choice words, four-letter words that I would use to describe you,” Jacobs said at the June 14 meeting, referring to Friedman. (She filed a $2 million lawsuit against Jacobs in December, which Pizzi called “totally meritless.”)

At the meeting, Jacobs, wearing a T-shirt with the words “First Amendment” and eating popcorn, claimed to be the victim of harassment by the commission. In September 2023, a glimmer of good news for him: the results of an investigation into his use of the town credit card did not find misconduct.

“The small city of Pembroke Park is spending more money on outside special counsels than they have investigating President Trump,” Pizzi said. “It’s ridiculous and it’s all part of this twisted witch hunt.”

Commissioner Geoffrey Jacobs wears a T-shirt with the words “First Amendment” to a Pembroke Park commission meeting.

Commissioner Geoffrey Jacobs wears a T-shirt with the words “First Amendment” to a Pembroke Park commission meeting.

The Town of Pembroke Park

As Pizzi tells it, once Mohammed became mayor again, she engaged in “relentless” retaliation against Jacobs—and that led Jacobs to call the Broward County Sheriff’s non-emergency line just before the town meeting in November of last year.

“I’m expressing my personal safety concern because the mayor has had continual threatening behavior towards me on the dais. At the same time, she carries concealed,” Jacobs said on the call. “She has posted about carrying weapons all the time, including here.”

In the call, Jacobs admitted he did not know if Mohammed was carrying a firearm “at that moment,” but stressed that he was concerned. Then he joined his colleagues on the dais without a word of apprehension, the police affidavit about the incident says.

When police arrived to search her, Mohammed walked to the front of the dais, joking that her tight tan dress would reveal any concealed weapons, and handed her purse to the chief. Before returning to her seat, she made the point of patting herself down in front of the cameras.

Mohammed later told police she had no idea why Jacobs would accuse her of bringing a gun to a meeting because she had never talked about carrying a weapon.

Jacobs alleged that Mohammed’s friends and family had previously threatened him and his family but could not give specifics other than his belief that the mayor was carrying a firearm in the city government building, the affidavit states. “This town’s commission is corrupt and needs to be investigated,” Jacobs said, according to the affidavit.

The search immediately sparked a new legal battle between Jacobs and the town. Pizzi has filed an intent to sue the town and others for $10 million for violating his client’s rights and submitted a motion to dismiss the charges—which he calls a “baseless political attack.”

“It was an innocent phone call based on innocent concerns and it was blown out of proportion,” Pizzi told The Daily Beast. “He does have concerns about his safety. He does have fear for his safety. But again, a lot of members of Congress and a lot of city officials around the country fear for their safety. That’s not a crime.”

As the fight drags on, eating up time, energy, and resources, Morrissette believes the only hope for a return to normalcy in the local government is for the governor to oust Jacobs.

“I think he is a dictator. He is the only one causing this trouble and he cannot keep hurting people,” Morrissette said. “He has no allies in the commission. He needs to go.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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