RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Just two weeks ago, the newly elected council in Riviera Beach voted unanimously to start negotiations with the former city manager, Jonathan Evans.
Council received standing ovations from the crowd that night but the honeymoon phase might be over.
After weeks of agreement over continuing negotiations with Evans, two council members did a 180 and called for a meeting to end those negotiations.
“I was furious,” said resident Erika Davis. “You know I was furious!”
Evans had been a big topic during the March election, which resulted in all incumbents losing. All of the three council members who voted to fire Evans in 2017 have since been voted out of office.
“Most of us got elected with the hope of Jonathan coming back,” Mayor Ronnie Felder said. “We’re not going to make everybody happy. But we need to make a decision soon. The city is hurting, we’re bleeding, we need healing.”
Councilman Tradrick McCoy had called the special meeting because he believed Evans asked for too much money in the proposed contract.
“I’m a good steward over the taxpayers' dollars and that’s what I was elected for,” McCoy said.
The move took even many on the council by surprise.
“I was confused why a meeting was called when we were still in active negotiations,” Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson said. “We all agreed on Wednesday to continue negotiations and that’s why I don’t understand why this meeting was called in the first place.”
Miller-Anderson said she had been the point person in the talks with Evans and had brought council’s concerns over the contract to him. She said he had conceded on most counts and agreed to their terms, which is why she was surprised McCoy wanted to suddenly end negotiations.
But the meeting ended before it even began. Three council members, Miller-Anderson, Julia Botel, and Shirley Lanier, voted against adopting the agenda.
The city attorney looked up how to proceed and determined that it would simply end the meeting and no public comments would be heard.
“I feel like what’s right for the city is to allow the public to speak and allow your colleagues to speak,” Councilman Douglas Lawson said.
Lawson had also asked for the special meeting to end negotiations with Evans.
Tensions on the council were already on display only a month after the election.
“We as residents are tired,” said resident Mary Brabham. ”We can move this city forward, but we can only move it forward with the right person that will sail this ship.”
Negotiations with Evans will now continue.
The next council meeting, with an update on the contract negotiations, is next Wednesday.