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Evidence found to charge 2 Riviera Beach council members with battery

City Council censors Councilman Tradrick McCoy
Posted at 11:18 PM, Feb 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-15 23:19:30-05

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office found enough evidence to charge Riviera Beach council members Tradrick McCoy and Douglas Lawson with simple battery, according to an incident report WPTV received on Thursday.

Both men declined to press charges after a fight between the two elected officials occurred after a special council meeting in January. The report also said Lawson's cornea was cut after surveillance video showed McCoy's hand, with his pointer finger extending, making contact with Lawson's face.

Lawson responded by pushing aside Riviera Beach Mayor Ronnie Felder and a security guard, who the report said tried to stop Lawson from reaching McCoy, out of the way and then grabbing McCoy by his collar and holding him in the corner. According to the sheriff's office, Lawson said he held McCoy until more people could defuse the situation, but a security guard said it appeared to be more aggressive.

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A spokesperson for Lawson said he wanted to put the incident behind him and called it unfortunate in an email. The spokesperson said he supports McCoy seeking help to deal with anger issues and called him a strong advocate for people living in Riviera Beach.

"Mr. Lawson hopes Mr. McCoy will diligently seek the help that he needs to deal with any issues that threaten to distract him from his goal of supporting the citizens of Riviera Beach," the spokesperson said.

As of Thursday night, McCoy didn't respond after WPTV contacted him for comment.

Read the full Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office report below:

The 15-page report is the first official account of a fight between Riviera Beach council members, which led to the city council censoring McCoy to the governor's office to possibly remove him from office earlier in January. The fight occurred after Lawson ended a city council meeting while McCoy was speaking out against the city not notifying the public about fecal bacteria and E. coli contamination in the water supply.

"Nobody should be sitting here waiting seven months for an explanation of why there’s fecal matter in the city’s water supply," McCoy said.

City staff said the notification was delayed for about seven months because the drinking water wasn't affected and debates with the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County over the language in the notice. However, the mayor said city staff were incorrect earlier in February as the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County said the drinking water was affected by the contamination.

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WPTV also received emails from a public records request showing the city didn't put a notice out earlier because it was trying to remove required language from the notice and believed the positive tests were incorrect.

Records from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection show another water sample in Riviera Beach tested positive for fecal bacteria on Aug. 15. A city official said the test incorrectly came up positive. It is unclear if a notice regarding this positive test was set out as of Thursday.

Felder said he was planning on using a third party to investigate the issues related to the city's water, which is colored yellow. City staff said the water is yellow due to organic material from pipes.

The incident report from the fight said Felder ignored requests from the sheriff's office to participate in the investigation. The report also includes interviews with Riviera Beach City Manager Jonathan  Evans, Lawson's legislative assistant Danielle O'Sullivan and two different security guards.

WPTV contacted every person on the incident report for a statement late on Thursday and is still awaiting comment from all parties involved.