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A banana republic.’ South Florida commissioner gets in screaming match with mayor

Tensions boiled over at a Lake Worth Beach meeting, after a name-calling shouting match broke out between the mayor and a commissioner who referred to the city as a “banana republic” in how it has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy grew exasperated at a Thursday night meeting where commissioners planned to vote to “clarify and reaffirm” the extent of city manager Michael Bornstein’s sweeping emergency powers to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to reporting by the Palm Beach Post.

He argued that instead of calling an emergency meeting Friday, Miami Florida News March 13, Mayor Pam Triolo delegated broad emergency responsibilities to the city manager.

“This is a banana republic is what you’re turning this place into with your so-called leadership,” Hardy told Triolo, after several heated exchanges between the two city leaders.

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What set off the public spat was an admission from Bornstein at the public meeting that some residents had their utilities disconnected, before a city moratorium on suspensions on shutting off utilities was announced to begin Wednesday, March 18.

“We cut off people’s utilities this week and made them pay, what could’ve been their last check to us, to turn their lights on in a global health pandemic,” Hardy said, yelling at Mayor Pam Triolo, who had called a brief recess. “But you don’t care about that, you didn’t want to meet.”

“This gentleman has had the ability to do any number of things. We could’ve banned large gatherings, we could’ve closed the beach, we could’ve put a moratorium on utility shut offs,” said Hardy, who is running for Florida state representative in District 88.

Triolo responded by suggesting Hardy’s outburst was a publicity stunt. “You got a camera on that?” the mayor replied. “Hardy for state house.”

The video of the exchange has since been widely shared on social media platforms, and has had thousands of likes and shares on Twitter.

According to the approved resolution, the city manager has the authority to implement temporary policies to address active federal and state level states of emergencies. These include enforcing closures of public facilities and canceling events to limit public gatherings.

Neither Triolo nor Bornstein responded to a request for comment from the Miami Herald.

In a statement following Thursday’s meeting, Bornstein said the suspension of utilities shut offs will be in effect until April 30. He added most of the people whose utilities were disconnected prior to March 18 during a “transition period” were quickly reconnected. Customers who were charged reconnection fees will be credited back, Bornstein said. All the other households who did not contact the city will receive a visit from city staff to confirm the residences are unoccupied.

“During the COVID-19 crisis the City of Lake Worth Beach IS NOT DISCONNECTING UTILITY SERVICES for any utility accounts within the entire utility service area,” Bornstein wrote. “Any information to the contrary is false.”

The resolution, approved 4-1, clarified Triolo has the authority to Press Release Distribution Services  In Miami And Florida declare a local state emergency, which would allow for measures like adjusting pay for city employees who have to work overtime in an emergency situation, like a hurricane.

Triolo also released a statement addressing the Thursday exchange, saying she felt the issue of utility disconnections was “unfairly portrayed,” and she said Hardy was aware most customers had been already reconnected.

“I encourage Commissioner Hardy to join me in examining our interactions in the public and to come back together in a united front to deal with the current crisis,” she wrote.

On his end, Hardy thanked people for their support in a statement on Facebook and tweeted saying he did not regret the yelling dispute.

“We could’ve directed the City [Manager] to stop shutoffs last week, when I requested an emergency meeting for that purpose. The Mayor said no. And then we cut off lights dozens of families!” Hardy tweeted.

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