Ed Danko, a Palm Coast City Council member for less than a year, was admonished and cautioned about being removed from the dais after repeated angry outbursts interrupting a public speaker at the beginning Tuesday’s council meeting.
It was the latest public display of anger and churlish behavior from Danko, who in his 11 months on the council, going back to his very first meeting, has managed to insult, demean, ridicule, misrepresent or disparage every member of the council, the new and former mayor, the interim and former city manager, and City Attorney Bill Reischmann. At one point Mayor David Alfin told Danko that he’d have to leave the dais if he persisted in breaking the meeting’s rules, and Reischmann issued the caution more explicitly.
Never in the 21-year history of the Palm Coast City Council had a council member come close to eliciting so much as the suggestion of being asked to leave the dais.
The trigger behind Danko’s outburst was a public comment by Scott W. Spradley, the long-time Flagler Beach lawyer and current chairman of the the city-appointed committee analyzing the future direction of July 4 events in Flagler Beach. The committee is tasked specifically to recommend the best outcomes for businesses and city residents. Respect for business–and contempt for business from a council member–had brought Spradley to the council: Danko had personally endorsed a boycott of Spradley’s firm, along with other advertisers on this site.
“I have my business and Flagler Beach, which is a law firm. I’ve been there for 15 years,” Spradley began before the council. “My law firm provides representation to individuals and small businesses throughout the area. The last two years have been really a struggle for a lot of individuals and small businesses for all the reasons we know. So I added to my plate, and helped 54 businesses obtain PPP loans–paycheck protection program loans. A lot of restaurants or law firms other businesses, real estate companies, all of which kept them going, and we are happy to do that. This is what we do. Over the last two years I have have four employees, all women, all moms, all who live in Palm Coast. You represent them all, including Mr. Danko. Two weeks ago today–”
Danko interrupted. He raised a “point of order,” asking the mayor, his voice shaking, if “the Flagler Trump Club and its agenda” were on “our city council’s agenda.”
Spradley had not mentioned the club. Nor was he about to, though if he had, he’d have had as much a right to mention it as he had a right to mention, say, the Adlai Stevenson Club of Ottumwa, or the city’s own bridge club. It was the public participation segment of the meeting where members of the public may address the council on any matter they choose for three minutes–the way council members themselves get to speak, without limit, on any subject of their choosing at the end of every meeting. But Danko was intending to prevent Spradley from speaking.
Alfin corrected Danko, who interrupted the mayor’s explanation. Alfin repeated, left finger raised toward Danko, right hand wrapped around a gavel ready to strike: “The public is allowed to speak their mind, so reserve your comment.” Danko agreed.
Spradley resumed. He managed to speak a dozen words: “Two weeks ago today, Mr. Danko made a–began a social media–”
Danko interrupted, again claiming a “point of order,” though it was not a point of order. Danko had interrupted to contest a statement Spradley had not even made. The executive director of the county’s domestic violence shelter, sitting immediately behind Spradley, hung her head in her palm. Alfin, finger again raised, again admonished Danko to let Spradley finish his comment. “Respect the public first,” the mayor told Danko.
Spradley, from whom Danko’s interruptions had stolen eight seconds by now (the time-keeper stopped the clock during Danko’s disruptions, but not so precisely as to not lose seconds each time), continued: “Two weeks ago today, Mr. Danko posted on his Facebook page–he alone–and shared it to 91 other individuals–I have it, if anyone wants to read it–his position that he was asking for his followers to boycott 21 local businesses, and the sole reason for his request to boycott these businesses, including my law firm, is that we do, or we have advertised on his archenemy FlaglerLive. That’s it. That’s the reason why. And I know that’s the only reason why because he later put a follow up post, which said any of you who advertise, if you’ll take it down, I’ll support you. So that was the only reason. My concern is that we support business. A lot of businesses here support business. This particular individual, out of one corner of his mouth, says he supports business–”
Danko interrupted for the fourth time, robbing Spradley of another four seconds and now shouting as he again mis-charaterized the public comment by deflecting from Spradley’s point about Danko’s role to the Trump Club not being on the agenda. He then directly insulted Spradley: “This man is just making this stuff up trying to pin it on on me,” he said, though none of Spradley’s statements were inaccurate. “I’ve had enough of this garbage from this guy.”
“Then leave the dais,” the mayor told him, again repeating that Spradley had the right to speak.
“He doesn’t have a right to come in here and present false facts,” Danko shouted.
“That’s enough!” Alfin shot back, gaveling three times.
Danko may have a short memory. At the end of a council meeting just three months ago, Danko–who was running the election campaign of mayoral hopeful Alan Lowe–made scurrilous claims about ex-Mayor Milissa Holland, saying she had resigned because she faced criminal charges. In a video capturing his campaigning door to door, he claimed Gov. DeSantis had met with Holland and threatened her either to resign or face charges, and Danko ridiculed Holland’s daughter’s illness–all lies. The governor’s office itself refuted Danko’s falsehoods. He has yet to explain them. They have not been his only lies, though they were the most defaming. It was at that council meeting that he insulted the work of the interim city manager and the city attorney, both of whom were on the dais.
“I’ve said nothing about any clubs,” Spradley said when he resumed after the latest outburst.
Danko interrupted for the fifth time, now threatening Spradley (“you’re in dangerous territory as a lawyer and you should know it”) as Alfin gaveled, and gaveled, and gaveled.
Reischmann, the city attorney, intervened, as he has on so many occasions in the past year. There was no question who Reischmann was addressing: “All members of this council are not to speak over other members of this council, all members of this council are not to interrupt,” Reischmann said, schooling the members on proper behavior and warning of consequences: “The mayor has the power to remove individuals, including council members, from this gathering, from this room, if the order is not followed, and his orders are not followed.” Reischmann then gave a legal opinion: Spradley’s public comments had to continue. “This is, for better or for worse, democracy, and this is what the business of the City Council is–to listen to these matters and then address them appropriately.”
“So you have a few seconds left,” Alfin told Spradley, who’d lost 14 seconds of his three minutes by then.
“My concern is the viewpoint that’s being expressed through this council to other businesses,” Spradley concluded. “This council has sought not only to satisfy his constituents of which my employees are for, but also wants to bring in business. The message that I’m hearing to businesses is: come to Palm Coast. We like business–unless you advertise with the wrong guy, then we’re going to do everything we can to undermine you and to take away your employees’ wages. I usually come up with solutions when I bring up a problem. I don’t know the problem. That’s in your hands. But it’s a problem. Please fix it.”
Danko did not interrupt a sixth time but Alfin gave him a chance to have the last word. He used it to call Spradley “a liberal” (Spradley is a conservative and a registered Republican), speak of the Trump Club’s membership and make yet more false claims: “We’ve already had four sponsors drop off of FlaglerLive because of their agenda,” Danko said. In fact, Danko is counting one advertiser who had received free advertising when FlaglerLive extended free ads to struggling businesses during covid. That term ended. He’s counting another who had a three-month contract that ended before the boycott, and a third who had decided in July, according to the company owner, not to renew due to covid and financial retrenchment. There is no forth. The site has gained advertisers since the alleged boycott.
“Quite frankly, Mr. Mayor, I’m appalled that you allowed it,” Danko said of Spradley’s two minutes and 46 seconds.
“Elected officials should be supporting local business, not attempting to turn the community against itself,” Eric Cooley, who chairs the Flagler Beach City Commission, wrote on his Facebook page today. “Elected officials should be working to make the community better, not drag partisan problems into non-partisan business. Elected officials should be supporting the right to free speech and free enterprise, not attempting to dictate personal mandates on how local business functions. Lastly, a elected official should NEVER purposely damage the community they are tasked with representing! As you can see, this particular official does not comply on ANY of these counts. There is also a county commissioner who supports this [behavior]. Kudos to Scott for addressing this wrong doing head on and calling it out.”
As for the Trump Club, it had reposted on its Facebook page–the very page where it called for a boycott–an article published on FlaglerLive as recently as Sunday.