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Palm Bay: Facebook Comments.

After our post the other day on Palm Bay, Councilman Holton and his attempts to distract people from his own issues, we decided to monitor the comments on the FloridaToday article on the subject.

We thought instead of waddling into the morass that is Facebook comments, we would answer some of the questions and address some of the points that were raised here. Because the people that made the comments are not public figures, we decided to blur out their names on our blog. We have always said that we would rather address thoughts rather than people and so we shall do that here.

The police have no duty to disclose the tip they are acting upon or who made the tip.

The reason for that is simple – we don’t want all sorts of retaliatory actions going back and forth escalating any situation.

Take this out of the Holton / concealed weapon incident for a moment. Assume for a second that the police get a call about a loud and perhaps violent argument between a husband and wife next door. The couple is screaming at each other.

The neighbor calls the police and the police come out to talk to the warring couple. When the police get there, there is no noise that can be heard outside of the house.

Do people want the police to just walk away? After all, the silence could be because one of the couple is hurt or even worse.

Or do we want the police to knock on the door and see what is going on and make sure all occupants of the house are safe?

Do we want the police to be telling the angry couple the name of the person who made the call to them? Risking further escalation down the road?

Or do we want to allow the police to evaluate the truthfulness of the call and address whether a fake complaint has been made?

The bottom line is whether we as a society want people to be able to contact the police for legitimate reasons without fear of retaliation or do we want the police to decide whether a person is making false complaints and deal with them within the legal system?

The point being that there is no reason to find out who made the initial complaint. If the police thought the complaint concerning Holton was credible, they had a duty to investigate and they did.

End of story.


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Palm Bay: Shiny Objects!

Palm Bay was back in the news because City Councilman Holton decided it would be a good idea to talk about the “safety” of people in Council meetings after he was stopped by Police Chief Roberts and asked Holton if he was carrying a firearm as Holton was entering the Council Chambers.

With ongoing investigations into Palm Bay and ethical violations alleged against Holton himself, it appears that this latest episode is nothing more than Holton trying to distract from other issues.

Look here!! Shiny Objects!

We wrote about the whole stop issue here.

From an article on the FloridaToday, Holton sent an email to various officials concerning the stop:

Notice the first question:
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Palm Bay: Tres Holton Is Upset Chief Of Police Rogers Did His Job.

Palm Bay Councilman Tres Holton is back in the news again and again for all the wrong reasons.

According to Holton, he was stopped at a City Council meeting and asked by Chief of Police Jim Rogers if Holton was in possession of a concealed weapon. In a FaceBook post (seen below) Holton says Rogers is a “good man” who was “obviously set up to bust me.”

It appears that Holton thinks that Chief Rogers would not act outside the color of law. As that is the case, Holton should realize that Rogers, or any officer, cannot simply stop people without causes. Rogers was executing was it now typically referred to as a “Terry stop,” named after the Supreme Court case of Terry v. Ohio.

The case involved whether the police could stop and interrogate a suspect based on several factors such as the area, known criminal activity or a “reasonable suspicion that criminal activity had occurred or was afoot.”

One has to believe that Rogers had information or a belief that Holton was carrying a weapon into a Council meeting which is why Rogers stopped him otherwise Rogers would have been breaking the law and even Holton never makes that claim.

According to Florida Statute 790.06:

(12)(a) A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into:
1. Any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05;
2. Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station;
3. Any detention facility, prison, or jail;
4. Any courthouse;
5. Any courtroom, except that nothing in this section would preclude a judge from carrying a concealed weapon or determining who will carry a concealed weapon in his or her courtroom;
6. Any polling place;
7. Any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district;
8. Any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof;
9. Any school, college, or professional athletic event not related to firearms;
10. Any elementary or secondary school facility or administration building;
11. Any career center;
12. Any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, which portion of the establishment is primarily devoted to such purpose;
13. Any college or university facility unless the licensee is a registered student, employee, or faculty member of such college or university and the weapon is a stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon or device designed solely for defensive purposes and the weapon does not fire a dart or projectile;
14. The inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport, provided that no person shall be prohibited from carrying any legal firearm into the terminal, which firearm is encased for shipment for purposes of checking such firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on any aircraft; or
15. Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law. (emphasis ours)

If Rogers was acting on information he had been given, he had a duty to stop and ask Holton if Holton was illegally carrying a weapon into a Council meeting. Holton makes no assertion that Rogers searched or frisked him, which Rogers could have legally done.

In short, there was nothing illegal that Rogers or anyone did in this instance.

Yet Holton decided to play the victim.
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Palm Bay: So What Happened With The Council And Trey Holton?

As reported in the FloridaToday and in a post that we wrote, last Thursday night, the Palm Bay City Council discussed what the next step would be following a hearing officer finding “probable cause” to believe [Commissioner Holton] violated city code dealing with conflicts of interest.”

We wanted to follow up on the events of that night.

The agenda item was very late in the meeting and identified as:

Selection of Special Counsel for Special Council Meeting

City Attorney Lannon indicated in a memo that as he represented the Council members, it would be a conflict of interest and impossible for him to represent both Councilman Holton and the other Councilmen in any special hearing the City may hold going forward. Lannon was advising the City to seek outside counsel and that is what the Council was to discuss and vote upon on December 7th.

You can watch the meeting at the City’s website, or you can even download sections and specific agenda items and watch them on you computer at your leisure.

It should be noted that both Mayor Capote and Councilman Anderson were not in attendance at the meeting, but participated via the telephone. In an ironic twist of fate, their absence left Holton in charge of the meeting as he is the Deputy Mayor.

The item started out with Lannon making a statement on the Florida Bar Rules that he said required that he and his office bow out because they cannot represent Holton as a client and at the same time represent the other Council critters as a client.

Lannon then made a curious statement about retired Circuit Court Judge John Moxley Jr., who the City had hired to hear the case and had made the finding of probably cause:

Lannon: “Judge Moxley is an excellent judge and I respect him very much but he not Board certified in local government law.”

(If Moxley was not qualified to hear the case, which seems to be Lannon’s point, then why did Palm Bay hire him to hear and render a decision on the case?)

Lannon recommended that the Council hire a lawyer certified in local government law to replace him and represent the Council. He also recommended that the Council hires a similarly certified attorney to represent Holton.

Lannon said the Council should consider hiring an attorney for Holton because just like any accused in a criminal matter, Holton has the right to representation.

That statement led to this exchange:

Councilman Bailey: “This is not a criminal matter, is it?”

Lannon: “I misspoke when saying a criminal manner. This is a civil matter.”

Councilman Santiago: “I understand that this is not a criminal proceeding, but like any court proceedings, the accused has a right to counsel.”

Santiago chimed in saying, in part:
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Palm Bay: Hearing Officer Finds Probably Cause Commissioner Holton Violated City’s Conflict Of Interest Code.

Palm Bay City Commissioner Trey Holton is in more hot water after an independent hearing officer found that there was “probable cause” to believe [Commissioner Holton] violated city code dealing with conflicts of interest.”

The allegations stem from Holton’s work for the Space Coast Paratroopers Association before taking office as a city councilman in November 2014.

But Holton didn’t get paid for his work from the organization — which partnered with the city in its “Homes for Warriors” program — until after taking office.

The hearing officer, retired Circuit Court Judge John Moxley Jr., found that the temptation to place private interest of the SCPA ahead of Holton’s public interest to Palm Bay would indicate that there was probable cause that the appearance of conflict of interest existed from the time

Holton took office until the time the SCPA ceased to exist on April 24, 2017 — a period of nearly 2½ years.

Moxley added, though, that Holton never actually voted on any SCPA matters during that time.

As one would expect, Holton disagrees with the findings.

What happens next in this process is the City Commission will proceed to either a Special Commission meeting at which time the City will need to hire an independent legal counsel, or do nothing.

If the Special Commission meeting takes place, Holton’s fellow Commissioners can vote for nothing to happen, reprimand; censure; removal or exclusion from leadership positions; or removal or exclusion from the governing board.

Removing Holton would be a huge step and we don’t think that would happen.
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Cocoa Beach, Palm Bay, Satellite Beach: If You Like Meetings, You Have Your Choice Tonight.

Like a seemingly endless items at a buffet, tonight there are lots of meetings that people can and should attend in their local communities.

COCOA BEACH: Tonight Cocoa Beach hosts a Charter Review Board meeting. The agenda for the meeting can be found here. There are some interesting things within the proposed changes to the Charter as we suggest that people read them as they will affect everyone.

The City also has two more meetings this week. Tomorrow night there is a Special City Commission Meeting concerning the budget which starts at 6:00 P.M.

The Commissioners will be right back at it on Thursday night at 6:00 PM again for a CRA meeting followed by a regular Commission meeting at 7:00 PM.

PALM BAY: The City Council will meet tonight at 6:30 PM for a budget meeting as well. Ordinances will be read, discussed and voted upon concerning fees and millage increases.

The Council takes a day off and then hosts a regular meeting on Thursday at 7:00 PM.

SATELLITE BEACH: Satellite Beach has a Board of Adjustment meeting tonight concerning a variance request made by the developers / architects of the proposed Solar Hotel. We wrote about this variance request and why it does not meet any legal standard for a variance yesterday.
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“It’s Only……”

Last week the Palm Bay City Council voted 3-2 to increase the storm water fees that residents pay. The average increase seems to be roughly three times the amount property owners are paying now.

Prior to the vote, the Council sent out letters to property owners advising them of the proposed change.

One of the points raised in the letter was this one:

Why use special assessments to fund stormwater management services?

The use of special assessments requires the City to meet the Florida case law requirements for a valid special assessment including fair and reasonable apportionment. This means that unlike taxes, which can be used for any general purpose, the revenues collected through the stormwater special assessment can only be used to fund stormwater management services like ongoing maintenance of City-owned storm drainage infrastructure, as well as water quality monitoring, evaluation and improvements.

If it weren’t so sad, we’d be laughing. This is essentially saying “because we can’t stick to a budget where funds are allocated to certain line items, we want to have you pay more for our lack of fiscal responsibility and discipline.

However, there is a much more damning reason for the assessment fees as opposed to a tax.

Palm Bay has an ordinance that requires taxes to get approval by the voters. By in effect admitting the City cannot spend responsibly, they certainly don’t want voters to have a say in the City taking more money from the voters’ pockets.

(Let’s be clear about this too – while there is a legal technical difference in a fee and a tax, that difference is not known to peoples’ wallets, pocketbooks and bank accounts. To the citizen, the money is coming out of the same place. It is the government who determines where it will go.)
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Palm Bay: “Mommy! That Man Is Being Mean To Me!”

Tres Holton

The headline caught our eye:

Tres Holton walks out of Palm Bay City Council meeting

“What could possibly cause a Councilman to walk out of a City Council meeting?” we wondered.

City Councilman Tres Holton walked out midway through Thursday night’s meeting after Councilman Jeff Bailey accused him of using his SunPass account and personal email at the dais.

However, Holton said he was conducting official business during the meeting, not personal business.

Holton and Bailey sit side-by-side during city council meetings. The dispute occurred during discussion of a

zoning variance for a $35 million commercial development next to Bass Pro Shops.

“Maybe we need to stop for a minute because I see that Councilman Holton seems to be interested in his SunPass stuff, as well as his personal email. So maybe we need to stop a minute so we can all pay attention?” Bailey asked Mayor William Capote.

Discussion briefly halted, and Holton looked at Bailey.

“Go ahead. Pay your bill,” Bailey said to Holton, gesturing at Holton’s laptop.

Holton did not comment. He left the dais before the zoning vote occurred, and he did not return to the meeting. The remaining four council members unanimously approved the variance.

The Cliff Notes version of this is that during the City Council meeting, Holton says he got a notice about his SunPass account needing more money and so he opened a tab during the meeting. He says that as the reload of the SunPass was for a trip related to the City, he was doing “official, not personnel, business.”

We’ve heard a lot of lame excuses in our lives, but that one ranks right up there.

What Holton doesn’t seem to realize (or maybe he does realize and doesn’t care) is that while he is fiddling with his SunPass account (even if it is only to look at the balance or the notification,) he is doing so while a presentation and a discussion of another issue is going on.

One would think that Holton would have the decency and the courtesy to listen to what is being said and focus on that and not allow his attention to wonder.
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