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Former Riviera Beach council members hope lawsuit will result in removal of city manager

Posted at 4:52 PM, Oct 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-04 17:30:04-04

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Former Riviera Beach council members Lynne Hubbard and Terrence Davis filed a lawsuit against the city and City Manager Jonathan Evans, claiming the terms of a settlement agreement they had entered with Evans have been violated and in turn, they say, he needs to be fired again.

The city manager saga started in Sept. 2017 when three council members, including Davis and Hubbard, voted to fire Evans for misfeasance, but they never gave any reasons.

Evans, who was well liked in the community, had only been on the job for six months.

Following his firing, many residents asked council members to hire Evans back. When they refused, a group started collecting signatures for a recall petition to get the three council members out of office.

The recall ultimately failed due to wrong dates on the petitions, but voters got their wish at the two local elections following Evans firing, resulting in all three council members to lose their seats. They were replaced by candidates who promised to bring Evans back.

Evans was rehired by the new council in May.

The lawsuit by Hubbard and Davis is based on a settlement agreement Evans entered into with the city after his firing. He was awarded $190,000, but in return, was not allowed to work for the city again.

After Hubbard and Davis were voted out of office, the new council voted to change that agreement, allowing Evans to come back.

Hubbard and Davis then filed their lawsuit, claiming they fear retaliation by Evans.

Evans attorney pointed out to the judge that fear was “purely speculative.

Judge Glenn Kelly listened closely to arguments from both sides on Friday morning. He dismissed the motion to dismiss the case by the defense and dismissed the motion for summary judgment from Hubbard and Davis.

He voiced concerns over the case.

“I have a city who I’m assuming is following the will of the people who elected them, employing a manager,” Judge Kelly said. “How would I find that it would be in the public interest to basically void that based on your client’s desire to enforce the agreement.”

The judge asked Hubbard and Davis’ lawyer, Jonathan O’Boyle, to clarify that his clients ultimately were asking for the removal of Evans from his position. O’Boyle said that was correct and that they were not looking for a monetary resolution.

“I see that Judge Kelley is really struggling with what do I do,” O’Boyle said after the hearing. “How do I enforce this? I don’t want to, necessarily, take away the city’s manager but at the same time I don’t like when promises are not upheld.”

Evans attorney pointed out during the hearing that Davis and Hubbard were no longer on council and if they wanted to fire Evans again, they should run for office again instead of going through the legal system.

The attorney for the city, Richard Jarolem, said after the hearing the residents of Riviera Beach have spoken.

“It’s the city’s position that the city council represents the citizens,” Jarolem said. “The citizens wanted Mr. Evans as a city manager, the election happened that voted the current council in, that current council voted Mr. Evans as the city manager, and it is the public will to have Mr. Evans be the city manager.”

Judge Kelly said he is aware of the fact that people were hoping for him to rule on Friday but he said he was not in a position to do that just yet.

A new hearing will be set.