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Palm Coast Tuesday, Sep. 21, 2021 4 months ago

Outbursts, insults mar council meeting, prompting rebuke from city attorney

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City Attorney Bill Reischmann, who serves as the City Council's parliamentarian, warned councilmen that they were violating their own rules of decorum.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

City Council members shouted over and insulted one another during a meeting Sept. 21, prompting City Attorney Bill Reischmann to warn them that they were violating the council's own rules of decorum. 

Such comments by Reischmann have become a regular feature of City Council meetings in recent months.

City Councilman Victor Barbosa. Photo by Jonathan Simmons

"I take no pleasure in making these comments, but I would ask all of you to consider your responsibilities," he said at the end of the council meeting after noting the section of the council's rules that forbid council members from attacking one another's motives and speaking over each other.

The acrimony at the Sept. 21 meeting had started during a discussion of a proposal to change the rule that bars commercial vehicles from parking in residential driveways unless they're on service calls or lunch breaks.

Mayor David Alfin — who since he took office last month has combined firmness with a conciliatory diplomacy as he's attempted to keep the rancorous council on track — had passed the gavel to Vice Mayor Eddie Branquinho in order to made a motion to keep the commercial vehicle rule as is. (The mayor must pass the gavel to make a motion.)

City Councilman Nick Klufas. Photo by Jonathan Simmons

Branquinho also wanted to maintain the current rule. As he explained his own position, he began to paraphrase fellow Councilman Ed Danko's position in order to respond to it. But Danko, who wanted to change the rule, felt Branquinho was misrepresenting him.

"That's not quite what I said," Danko said.

Branquinho tried to continue. 

But Councilman Victor Barbosa — who, like Danko, wanted to change the rule — interrupted Branquinho.

"He's attacking everybody up here, but we can't say nothing to him," Barbosa said. 

Branquinho banged the gavel sharply. "Would you stop! I'm talking," he said. 

City Councilman Ed Danko. Photo by Jonathan Simmons

They spoke over each other. 

"I'm tired of this!," Barbosa said. "You're being a little kid!"

They continued.

"Nobody wants to hear you anymore," Barbosa said. 

"Good, thank you very much," Branquinho said. He told Danko he'd give him a chance to clarify his position.

The meeting returned to normalcy until council members offered their comments at the end, and Councilman Nick Klufas made a statement about decorum.

"We're sitting up here and we're representing our constituents, and we're arguing about interrupting one another when we're committing the same acts ourselves," he said.

But then, after noticing that Danko had been taking photos, Klufas added, "Facebook politics doesn't work either. I see one of our council members sitting here taking pictures of us so that they can be posted on Facebook momentarily. That's not how we should be representing ourselves."

Branquinho said he didn't post to Facebook except to respond others' insults. Recalling that Danko had told him to go back to New Jersey, Branquinho said he could do so and be welcomed with open arms. He suggested that Danko wouldn't be welcomed back to his previous community in North Carolina.

Danko said he hadn't been posting anything on Facebook. 

"You can't read my mind, Nick," he said. "... You somehow have the thought in your brain that you're the smartest person sitting up here. You're like half our age, kid, alright? Maybe when you grow up some day you'll learn a few things. I'm sorry, I watched you make smirks at Victor while he was talking, make your little stupid faces."

Mayor David Alfin. Photo by Jonathan Simmons

Danko said that if Branquinho wanted to return to New Jersey, he'd buy him a plane ticket. He said he was joking as Alfin intervened. 

"I appreciate everybody's comments," Alfin said. "What I'm looking for are comments that will move out agenda forward. We're not finished with the agenda yet."

Alfin prompted the interim city manager to provide her comments on city administration matters, and the meeting proceeded without further interruptions.

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