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How can a city named Sunrise, just minutes from the beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast, be anything but cheery?

Well, it seems that when there are coupons for free Bundt cakes involved, things in Sunrise aren’t so sunny. And now a city official is feeling the heat.

Sunrise city leaders are due to meet in a special session this week, to discuss the future of City Manager Richard Salamon. He’s in hot water after a coupon dispute at a local business led some of his colleagues to question his ability to continue in his job.

A discussion about the matter took up more than a half hour of city commissioners’ time at their regular meeting last week. Dannie Augustin, owner of a local “Nothing Bundt Cakes” franchise, appeared before the commission to explain how Salamon sought special treatment when he showed up to her store with an expired coupon.

It all started when Augustin’s bakery opened several months ago. She said she showed up at the city manager’s office with cakes to help promote her business. She was told that city officials couldn’t accept freebies, so she left some coupons instead.

And a few weeks ago, Augustin says Salamon showed up with one of the coupons for a free $3.99 mini-Bundt cake – but the coupon had actually expired the day before.

What difference does one day make? Plenty, according to Augustin. “We do not accept expired coupons. That’s our policy,” she explained to commissioners. “He asked to speak to the manager, and then he was like, ‘Ok, well, I just don’t understand why you can’t accept it, why can’t you break a rule’,” she continued. “So he left. He was upset.”

Then, a “nasty” review showed up on the store’s Facebook page, apparently authored by Salamon’s wife. The one-star review complained about the “horrible management”, and the author said her husband had intended to use the coupon before it expired, “but he couldn’t make it before they closed. He went by today and got there with minutes to spare, but the manager stated that she would not honor the coupon… He replied that the point of the coupon was to get people into the business. She did not care. We will never buy another cake from this location.”

“To have somebody write something so nasty, we’re bringing revenues to the city of Sunrise that he’s managing,” Augustin said. She wrote to commissioners to complain, and said Salamon showed up to her store offering an “insincere” apology and questioning whether her business would even make it.

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“You are a city manager. We are doing business in your city. And you have the ability to speak to a business owner and say I don’t believe in your longevity?” she said at the commissioners’ meeting, directly addressing Salamon, who didn’t respond. “There are certain things that are expected of certain positions, and family members… there has to be some kind of corrective action.”

“Corrective action”, like getting fired? Over a coupon?

That’s not out of the question. “He has lost my confidence,” commissioner Mark Douglas said. “If he believes he can continue to function in the organization under that cloud, then he can kick and scream all he wants. We’ll see.”

Douglas was not a Salamon fan anyway. “I was going to move to fire the city manager long before,” he said. “The city manager has lost my confidence with respect to a lot of things.”

Commissioner Larry Sofield said he’s “concerned” about the situation. He stopped short of calling for the city manager’s ouster, but said the coupon dispute could cause Salamon to lose the respect of his employees. “I can’t believe a $4 coupon has got us here today,” he said. “This places a little bit of a black eye on us… That is not what we are about at all.”

Disputes over coupons happen all the time (and sometimes they even involve weapons). So one could argue there’s nothing particularly egregious about Salamon’s situation – he tried to get the store to accept an expired coupon, the store refused, so he left.

But the negative review, and the comment questioning the store’s ability to stay in business, could be seen as something of a conflict of interest. City officials are supposed to encourage local businesses to open and thrive – so the city manager is going to let his inability to get a free mini Bundt cake cloud his judgment about what’s good for the city?

Besides, if city officials couldn’t ethically accept free cakes in the office, why could they try to use coupons for free cakes in the store?

They’re all among the questions that commissioners will likely be asking this week, as they debate Salamon’s future. Then, the city manager may end up asking himself whether arguing about a free dessert was really worth it.

Image sources: Nothing Bundt Cakes / City of Sunrise, Florida

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