Where Do You Draw The Line?

I attended the WPB City Commission meeting held on 2/1/16 and witnessed the removal of a black resident, Douglas Ellington from the Commission Chambers. Here are my view’s of the altercation.

Residents can address the Mayor and City Commission for three minutes, on any Non-Agenda Items. Residents are free to commend, or criticize them, and many do.

Residents are also allowed three minutes to address any item on the agenda, and are free to agree or disagree with the city’s decision, once again many do.

At the February 1,2016 meeting Mr. Ellington was the first speaker called and he was polite and calm as he addressed the commission. He claims he was fired due to him being a “whistle blower”. When his three minutes ended, Mayor Muoio thanked him for his comments and said his time was up.

Mr. Ellington continued talking and Mayor Muoio again told him his time to address the Commission was over to no avail. She offered him the opportunity to meet outside chamber’s with City Administrator Jeff Green. He refused. The mayor then explained there were other residents waiting to address their concerns with the city. Mr. Ellington apologized to the audience, but continued to disrupt the meeting and refuse to leave the podium. Mayor Muoio adjourned the meeting, and she and three commissioner’s left the dais while Mr. Green again invited him to meet and discuss his situation.

A black resident from the audience approached Mr. Ellington and while I couldn’t hear the conversation she appeared to try and reason with him. Mr. Ellington continued speaking.

A white police officer was called and he spoke with him, and made every attempt to persuade him to leave the podium. He continued speaking. A black officer appeared and spoke to him. He continued speaking. The officer then placed handcuffs on him and he was escorted from chambers. I believe both officers were respectful of Mr. Ellington and went above and beyond the call of duty to try and reason with him.

City Administrator, Jeff Green, stated Mr. Ellington was given the opportunity to sign a citation rather than be arrested but he said he would return. What choice did the city have?

Mr. Green stated Mr.Ellington was fired approximately five years ago and was set to attend a disciplinary hearing but he refused to attend. Green further stated he was terminated because he wouldn’t come back to his job.

Mr. Ellington was arrested on two separate occasions on Aug. 5 and Oct. 15 2015 after by-passing security guards and metal detectors and running the stairs (with a security guard in pursuit) in an attempt to reach the mayor’s office. When police were called he refused to leave the building and was arrested. Monday night was his third arrest for trespassing at city hall.

“First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right’s of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference subject to the laws against libel, incitement to violence, or rebellion.”

Another speaker at that meeting was William McCray, a former black WPB Police Officer, fired from the city, and is now with the PBC Sheriff’s Officer. Mr. McCray successfully sued the city and the city settled with him for $300,000.00.

McCray stated that on 1/19/16 Mayor Muoio was disrespectful to him and violated his right to free speech when she would not allow him to speak.
What he failed to mention was he arrived late, and the agenda for public comment was over and they had moved on to the next item. If you have a desire to verify this information, please visit the city website and watch the City Commission Meetings held on 2/1/16 City Commission part 1 and 2.

He then mentioned how Commissioner Moffitt, who chaired the commission meeting on 12/7/15, allowed a “white woman” to address the commission although she arrived late to the meeting and did not submit a card requesting to speak. At this meeting I was the “white woman” who can be seen on camera walking to the city clerk with card in hand while McCray was addressing the commission. McCray then stated that’s what you do for white people and won’t do it for black people. If you wish to verify my version please view City Commission meeting held on 12/7/15.

I recall at a commission meeting when Commissioner Moffitt was chair, she stopped me from speaking on an agenda meeting when I veered off subject and she respectfully brought me back to topic at hand. She was right, I was wrong.

In closing I will add at the 2/1/16 meeting one of the agenda topic’s was found on the consent agenda and was item # 8 concerning parking meter’s and the homeless. I wanted to address the topic and turned in a comment card. Unfortunately the Commission had just voted on the consent calendar and Mayor Muoio stated comments would not be heard on the issues. Did she violate my right to free speech? Absolutely not. Did I learn a lesson? Absolutely, be on time.