RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — “The nicest thing I can say tonight is that this was an ugly meeting,” said Riviera Beach resident Bonnie Larson at Wednesday’s Riviera Beach city council meeting. “A really ugly meeting.”
The meeting had already drawn controversy, because it was held just six days before the runoff election, and one of the board members, Terence Davis, had already been voted out of office.
But because his successor had not yet been elected, Davis was on the dais.
The meeting started with in-fighting when Davis attacked Councilwoman Julia Botel’s background. Eventually, Chairwoman Tonya Davis Johnson interrupted.
“I’m asking Mr. Davis to make his comments relevant,” Davis Johnson said. “I cannot control what comes out of his mouth and the next step for me would be to disband this meeting.”
Davis went on to make vague accusations and speculations about the employees in the I.T. department, who he suspected leaked information to the media and other people.
“There been a lot of things happening with emails, text messages, copy machines,” Davis said and was interrupted by loud laughs in the audience.
Many in the community remembered when Davis could not produce text messages from his city-owned cellphone and finally said his phone had fallen into the ocean.
“We have been in such disarray, wanting to know where those text messages are,” said Riviera Beach resident Madeline Irvin. “How did your phone end up in the ocean?”
Davis continued his accusations, saying someone at the city used city equipment to print out election flyers.
But Contact 5 had discovered in the middle of the election that Davis spent $2000 of taxpayer money on magnets with his name on it.
In 2017, he also bought Dart Vader boots with his city credit card.
“I take great pride in putting on a Darth Vader uniform,” Davis said. “I take great pride in putting on the boots.”
Many in the community voiced the need for change.
“We need new blood up there, we need new thoughts,” one resident said.
One name came up frequently: Jonathan Evans.
The former city manager was fired by three city council members in September 2017 and the residents have not forgotten.
“It will always be there in the minds and hearts of the citizens,” said one resident.
Many said they are hopeful, with a new council, they can bring Evans back to Riviera Beach.
“I told (the council members) that night, you have not heard the last of this,” said Riviera Beach resident Mary Brabham. “Because you disrupted the city.”
Of the three council members who fired Evans, two, Terence Davis and Dawn Pardo, have already been voted out of office. The third, Lynne Hubbard, is fighting for her seat on the dais on Tuesday’s runoff election.