The firing of Riviera Beach city manager - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

The firing of Riviera Beach city manager

September 20: A regular Riviera Beach city council meeting in the firing of City Manager Jonathan Evans, who just got on the job six months prior. 

Mayor Thomas Masters asked the council members at the beginning of the meeting if they were planning to fire Evans, after he had heard rumors in the community. 

They didn’t answer. 

At the end of the meeting, when most people had left, Councilman Terence Davis made the motion to fire Evans based on misfeasance. 

Council members KaShamba Miller-Anderson and Tonya Davis Johnson were taken by surprise, wanting to know what those reasons of misfeasance were. 

Davis said he couldn’t provide those reasons because he was protecting the city and due to “legal legalities”. 

Council members Lynne Hubbard and Dawn Pardo didn’t ask for the reasons and supported the motion without question. 

Evans was fired by a 3-2 vote. 

September 21: NewsChannel 5 asked Davis again for the reasons. He said City Attorney Andrew DeGraffenreidt had advised him not to say anything, but he assured NewsChannel 5 that he had proof of the misfeasance. 

“It’s not based on my opinion, it’s based on facts,” Davis said.

As the three city council members refused to give reasons and the other two council members and the mayor were in the dark, NewsChannel 5 started investigating. 

Evans’ personnel file had no disciplinary action or complaints. 

September 26: NewsChannel 5 uncovered several emails that show that Hubbard was using public funds to pave a private driveway. Evans had launched an internal investigation. 

Evans had also stopped a project by Pardo, which would have used public funds on private property. 

September 27: Hundreds packed a Riviera Beach CAR meeting to confront the council members and get answers.

Davis, Hubbard and Pardo all refused to give their reasons for firing Evans. 

The anger in the community was growing. 

“You ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” said one resident. 

Hubbard and Davis promised they would provide their reasons at the next city council meeting on September 26.

RELATED: Read more about the firing of Riviera Beach City Manager Jonathan Evans

September 25: Riviera Beach resident Tradrick McCoy files lawsuit against the city, demanding to learn the reasons for misfeasance presented by Davis. 

September 26: After promising to reveal the reasons for firing Evans, around 400 people showed up to the city council meeting.

It started with the city attorney, advising the council not to reveal the reasons, stating that the community didn’t have a right to now. 

“It was your decision to make,” DeGraffenreidt said. “Let me handle it now.”

People in the community said they wanted the three council members to rescind their vote and bring Evans back, or face a recall.

Davis, Hubbard, and Pardo refused to answer questions from the public or NewsChannel 5.

September 28: Sources tipped off NewsChannel 5 to a secret meeting at Hurst Chapel. 
NewsChannel 5’s Wanda Moore saw several people get into the church, including council members Hubbard and Davis and Riviera Beach Police Chief Clarence Williams, and former council member Bruce Guyton, who had pleaded guilty to Sunshine violations in August. 

Sources say the meeting by the group was to discuss ways to keep Evans out of office and how to deal with the emotional backlash of the community.

After the meeting was over, Wanda Moore asked the chief what the meeting was about.

Chief: “I don’t know anything about the contents of the meeting. And why would walk up to the police chief and ask him…”

Bruce Guyton: “He just arrived.”

Chief: “Yeah I just arrived.”

Reporter: “Oh you just arrived? Because we saw you walk in earlier.”

Chief: “I’ve come and gone. And you couldn’t have seen me.” 

Reporter: “And you don’t know what this meeting was about?” 

Chief: “I have no idea. You have to ask someone that was in there.”

Reporter: “So you just happen to be here?”

Chief: “Yeah.”

Reporter: “And you have no idea what anyone was talking about?”

Chief: “I have no idea.”

First Amendment lawyers said the meeting violated the spirit of the Sunshine Law.

September 29: Riviera Beach resident Tommy Walker said he went to the meeting at Hurst Chapel, hoping he would learn the reasons why Evans was fired. 

Walker is a vocal supporter of Evans. 

“I walked in and as soon as they saw me, Chief Williams came over to me,” Walker said. “We stopped right then and I tried to scan the room, to see who else was in there, but the chief was directly in front of me. I looked at him and I said: ‘Well, I guess this doesn’t look like a meeting that I’m supposed to be in.’ And he looked at me and said: ‘You’re right Mr. Walker.’ We shook hands and I left.”

Chief Williams changed his story, saying that he was at the meeting but only to protect people and that he couldn’t go into details because he couldn’t reveal “law enforcement strategy.” 

Williams is scheduled to retire on December 5.

Sources say Williams wanted to make Alex Freeman, a close friend of his, the next chief. 

Freeman was visibly upset with Evans. During the September 26 council meeting, Freeman raised his voice and said he was disappointed in Evans for not giving him the chance to interview for the chief’s position. 

“I deserved a seat at the table,” Freeman said. 

Evans had said Freeman was simply not qualified to become the next chief. 

Sources also say Williams wanted to become the new city manager. 

October 3: At the council meeting, emotions running high again and Councilman Davis makes a surprising motion.

“I make a motion to make Chief Clarence Williams the next city manager,” Davis said. 

Loud boos from the audience follow. Nobody seconds his motion.

Mayor Masters asked the chief to get a one-on-one meeting with him to explain why he was at Hurst Chapel. 

October 6: Following NewsChannel 5’s report of the Hurst Chapel meeting, the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association takes a vote of no confidence against Chief Williams. 

It passes overwhelmingly 67-3.

October 10: As the mayor is still waiting to hear from the chief when they can meet, the chief is holding a news conference.

Williams was surrounded by high-profile lawyers and wants to “protect his brand." He said he is the victim of a witch hunt but did not specify who was behind the witch hunt. 

He then accused his own officers of misconduct.

“Officers who endanger the lives of babies,” Williams said, without providing specifics.

He also accused his own officers of tipping of drug dealers, and abusing sick time. 

October 11: Police Benevolent Association President John Kazanjian reacts to the chief’s news conference. 
He said he was offended by how the chief spoke about his officers.

“He doesn’t respect his rank and file,” Kazanjian said. “He has to go. He has to go now.” 

Kazanjian sent a letter to city officials, urging them to remove the chief from office immediately.

The interim city manager, Troy Perry, can fire the chief. 

The mayor can only suspend the chief and city council could overturn the decision. 

The mayor said he wants to hear from the chief first before making his decision. The chief was still not responding to the mayor’s request for a meeting. 

October 12: Riviera Beach residents gathered at Jay Ministry to gather enough signatures to recall the three council members who fired Evans. 


 

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