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Citizens group announces lawsuit against city of Riviera Beach

Posted at 11:46 PM, Dec 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-07 20:10:59-05

Wednesday’s Riviera Beach City Council meeting was off to a heated start.

Riviera Beach residents voiced their frustration against City Attorney Andrew DeGraffenreidt. 

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“The man has an absolute conflict of interest,” said Riviera Beach resident Norm Adams. “He should not only resign. He should be disbarred.”

Many in the audience agreed and yelled “lock him up”. 

DeGraffenreidt was answering a question by Mayor Thomas Masters when he suddenly yelled at someone in the audience: “Shut up for a minute I’m talking to my client,” DeGraffenreidt said. 

The meeting got so heated, Councilman Terence Davis, who a citizens group is currently trying to recall, got up and left after someone in the audience said something he didn’t appreciate.

DeGraffenreidt later apologized for telling a resident to shut up but he remained on the hot seat for the remainder of the meeting. 

“This was a shameful abuse of Mr. DeGraffenreidt’s power,” one resident said, referring to the letter the city attorney sent to Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, Susan Bucher.

In the Nov. 22 letter, DeGraffenreidt tells Bucher to only count petitions from specific timeframes. Based on those dates, Bucher threw out all but two petitions from the around 8,600 petitions.

A resident said that now the city is going to face another lawsuit by the citizens group and their attorney John Whittles. 

“I don’t think they can take the city to court,” DeGraffenreidt said. 

But the Whittles disagreed. During a news conference on Wednesday Whittles and Yisrael Amon, who is leading the recall, announced they’re going to sue the city and Supervisor of Elections. 

“These petitions were in fact brought within a 30-day period,” Whittles said. “And we're going to ask the judge the necessary parties to consider that: 30 days. So we can begin the second step of this process the rebuttal process." 

DeGraffenreidt said the citizen’s group is over.

“It’s done,” DeGraffenreidt said. 

But Yisrael was quick to point out that it isn’t. 

“It is nowhere close to being done,” Yisrael said.

Whittles said he’s going to file the lawsuit no later than Friday.

This will be the third lawsuit against the city since council voted to fire City Manager Jonathan Evans on Sept. 20. 

At the end of the meeting council voted to hire interim City Manager Karen Hoskins as the new permanent city manager, with the provision that she will only stay in the position until they find a new city manager. 

City charter states that council can only be without a permanent city manager for 120 days, which would be up in January.