The Palm Beach Post by Tony Doris
January 16, 2019
UPDATE: City council majority rejects settlement 3-2 Wednesday night, voting that it should be altered to state city’s failure to provide public records was unintentional. Members Davis, Hubbard and Davis Johnson vote to try to change agreed-upon deal with Channel 5. Councilwomen Botel, Miller-Anderson vote against.
RIVIERA BEACH — Riviera Beach taxpayers will spend $50,000 to settle allegations the city violated Florida’s Sunshine Law in failing to produce two council members’ phone records to reporters from our news parters at WPTV NewsChannel 5, under an agreement that was scheduled to be approved by the council without discussion this evening.
According to a stipulated judgment prepared for signing by a circuit court judge, the city failed to provide 53 text messages from Councilman Terence Davis and three from Councilwoman Lynne Hubbard, despite public information requests from WPTV in November 2017 for reporter Wanda Moore.
WPTV made its information requests about two months after the city council fired City Manager Jonathan Evans. The sudden manner of the firing, with little discussion or explanation, raised the question of whether the three council members who voted for it, Dawn Pardo, Hubbard and Davis, communicated about it beforehand. Back-channel communications between council members concerning issues before the board are illegal.
The city provided WPTV with the Pardo text messages the station requested, and all but three of the texts sent to or from Hubbard and none of the 82 sent to or from Davis. After the TV station sued, the city provided 29 of Davis’ messages but not the rest. As a result the station was unable to state conclusively whether improper communications took place.
It was discovered through the suit that Davis’ messages were deleted “sometime in January 2018,” and that “the phone was thereafter dropped in the ocean, destroying any data that may have remained on the phone at the time,” the stipulated final judgment said.