Palm Bay: How A Desire For The City To Follow The Law Has Angered Tres Holton.

We have been avoiding this post for quite some time, but it now seems the right thing to do.

This is the first in a three part series (maybe a four parter depending on how we feel) concerning what started out innocently enough as a simply records request from the City of Palm Bay and has turned into a battle of us against what we believe are illegal actions of the City of Palm Bay.

On June 18, 2017 we wrote about the very bizarre antics of Palm Bay Commissioner Tres Holton when dealing with another Commissioner who correctly noted that Holton was doing other work rather than listening to the debate and discussion of an agenda item. As we have said repeatedly, instead of doing what we would consider the right and mature thing of apologizing and moving on, Holton launched an attack on the Commissioner who had correctly noted Holton’s faux pas and accused the other Commissioner of being an “unrelenting bully.”

Following that debacle, we wrote about Holton’s comments on the storm water assessment fees increase and his total disdain for the impact of the increase of the fees to the extent he voted for on families and businesses within the City. Certainly the residents had voted for an increase in the fees to address the infrastructure issue, but no one could have seen the Commission voting to increase the fees by 400%. As citizens spoke out against the proposed rate increase Holton did his best Marie (“let them eat cake”) Antoinette imitation and said “it’s only a few Little Caesar’s pizzas a month” per household.

We sent our graphics guy up to the Commission to address that callous statement. We wrote about the facts here, and of course, those facts didn’t persuade four of the Commission members because, well, we aren’t sure why it failed to change anyone’s mind given the economic impact of the rate increase.

That night, our graphics guy also addressed the ridiculous “civility pledge” that Holton had introduced and was passed by the Commission. It has been our experience that people who propose such a pledge are looking to have other people be what they call “civil” and not truly apply the same civility level to themselves.

As you will see, that belief was proven to be true by Holton himself.

Which takes us to the first part of August.

We had gotten a tip that in one of the legal cases that the City was involved in, emails that were less than flattering and damaging to the City itself had been sent out. We were given copies of the emails by a third party.

On August 3, 2017 we made a public records request for those emails as part of a larger set of emails as we did not want the City to know what we were looking for. We wanted to see if, after all the charges of corruption and wrongdoing within the City, whether it would live up to the law and disclose the potentially embarrassing emails.

The request was accepted by City Clerk Teresa Jones and as we have said in public, our correspondence with her has been polite, pleasant and cordial.

Unfortunately, two things happened that prevented the timely fulfilling of the request. First, there were some staffing issues in the Clerk’s office which we understood and never pressed or got upset at the delay. Things happen and it is no use getting upset about it.

Secondly, the City had misread the request making it much broader and more time consuming. Once that issue was fixed, things moved along (or so we thought.)

A month after the initial request, we were told the emails were ready to be picked up. We sent our representative up to City Hall to retrieve the emails and curiously, he was stalked by Commissioner Holton. No matter where he went, Holton was there. It was strange to say the least. The petty comments Holton made to people about our guy were unprofessional at best, but he was prepared for them and considered the source.

Our man returned with the emails we had requested, but not all of them.

Somehow the City had not included the emails we had been looking for.

As we looked through the emails, something became clear: the City had mishandled the procedure to produce the emails.

Florida Statute Chapter 119 is also called the “Sunshine Law” in that it lets the sun shine on the inner workings of government and allows transparency and accountability. Section 119 sets forth the criteria for keeping public records such as emails and the public’s rights to inspect those records.

The law calls for the establishment of a custodian of the records. It is that person who fulfills the request. In the case of emails, the custodian is the City Clerk who would direct the City’s IT department to produce the emails.

That’s not what the City did. The City sent out requests to the senders and recipients of the emails and asked them to fill the request as it applied to them.

Therein lies the fault in what the City had done.

Imagine if you will that as a City employee or elected official, you send an email or series of emails through the City’s computer servers that may not reflect on you in the best light. Now you are asked to produce those emails and to avoid embarrassment or repercussions, you don’t give those emails out as a part of filling the records request.

Instead of the custodian of the records making sure all of the records are produced, allowing individuals to decide what they will send leads to abuse or emails not being produced which is exactly what happened here.

We sent our graphics guy back to the Palm Bay City Commission and said, “you didn’t produce the emails and here’s why…..”

In essence, we tried to offer the correct solution and at the same time, let people know how the system is supposed to work to insure all of the requested documents are produced when they make a records request.

Two thing happened after our guy sat down:

1) City Attorney Lannon said that he had produced all of the emails except those that were protected by “attorney client privilege.” He asked to meet with our representative to see the emails we had and our man declined.

The reason for declining the request for the meeting was several fold. First, Lannon wanted to see the emails which would have exposed our source. We weren’t about to do that. Secondly, we already knew that the emails were not protected by attorney client privilege as we had an attorney review them to make sure the privilege did not apply.

It did not.

There is another reason we will get to in a moment.

However, the bottom line was that Lannon dismissed our concerns because, we believe, we would not produce the emails the City had failed to produce that we had in our possession.

2) Commissioner Holton spoke next and said that he to had received the request for the emails and he then gave a very specific date and time to when he had responded to the request. He said that he also had not provided any emails that were “attorney client privilege.”

We found Holton’s citing of the exact day and time rather strange. We know that Holton doesn’t have an eidetic memory, so initially we wondered how he came up with the exact day and time.

The reason Holton was able to come up with the exact date and time was that in order to make himself look good, he had gone and looked up the email he sent while people were still discussing the issue.

Remember that “civility pledge” proposed by Holton that we mentioned earlier? Remember how we said that people that propose those pledges don’t abide by them?

Here’s section 4 of the pledge:

I shall strive to be civil in addressing City staff, members of the public, and my fellow elected officials, to listen attentively to speakers, to respect the right of others to hold different opinions, and to avoid rhetoric intended to humiliate others. (emphasis ours)

Holton wasn’t listening “attentively.” While people were talking, he was trying to get information on the date and time he responded off of his computer.

“Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”

Holton also said he “takes offense when accusations are made against the City and this Council.”

That’s somewhat an odd statement when you think about it. Why would Holton be offeded by accurate statements? Why would Holton be offended by accusations that are true? A blanket statement of being offended by all accusations shows a distinct lack of caring and accountability on the part of Holton and the City.

Tomorrow, we’ll tell you what happened in November and how City officials made thing worse and not better for themselves.

6 Responses to “Palm Bay: How A Desire For The City To Follow The Law Has Angered Tres Holton.”

  1. Alice Addertongue says:

    I guessing you have ran into the

    “Any emails regarding any matter in litigation is exempt from the Public Records Act until the lawsuits are res judicata, meaning over and all appellate rights have been exhausted. See section 119.071(1)(d), Fla. Stat. (2017).”

    reply also then. Strange how that everything that would shine a bad light on the City magically falls under this statute by simply copying the City Attorney on the email, or having him originate it.

    Their other favorite trick is not to produce the record but to provide a “letter of explanation” hoping to appease the person making the request.

  2. Third Dimension says:

    One only needs to see the morals and ethics of this administration, and question, where is the Justice? The day is coming, the people will speak out loudly with each vote.
    Enough is enough. We can only hope the State and Federal LEO’s will slap the cuffs on those who need a wake-up call.

  3. Kat davoe says:

    This is great information. Holton needs to go away. I knew he was a smug losing […] the first minute I met him. He will definitely blow smoke and if you disagree with him he turns into a little […]

    • AAfterwit says:

      Kat davoe,

      Thank you for your comment. We always appreciate thoughts from readers.

      Unfortunately, your comment contained a couple of words that our “etiquette adviser” deemed to violate our “no cursing” policy. Certainly your comment and the words used were not egregious, (not an f-bomb) but we have to draw a line somewhere and we have drawn it with “no cursing.”

      We certainly agree with the sentiment you expressed and we think that people who read the blog will understand and fill in the blanks.

      We hope you understand.


      A. Afterwit.

  4. Tres Holton says:


    • San Sung says:

      Glad you think so. A joke is a kind way to describe you.Poor excuss for a man would even be a kind description. LOCK HIM UP…..LOCK HIM UP.

  5. […] with the Palm Bay City Council, Councilman Tres Holton, and City Attorney Andrew Lannon. See here for part […]

  6. […] on the issue of a public records request for some emails. Part one and part two can be found here and […]

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