Last Updated: 5:49 p.m.
Victor Barbosa, the volatile Palm Coast City Council member whose brief tenure since November 2020 was dogged by boorish behavior on and off the council, by a sheriff’s investigation and a state inquiry into crimes he allegedly committed in Costa Rica, and by an accusation of shoplifting at Walmart over the weekend, has resigned.
“I, Victor Barbosa, fear for my life. I repeat I fear for my life,” Barbosa wrote in a stunning opening to his resignation letter. “All I wanted to do was help small businesses, fight corruption, and be the voice of the people of this community. I now understand why Council Member Howell resigned.” Jack Howell, a Vietnam combat veteran not known to have ever feared anyone or anything, resigned in 2020 because he was battling a recurrence of cancer.
Barbosa announced his decision “to whom it may concern,” a letter that was forwarded to the city manager today, hours ahead of this evening’s City Council meeting. He said effective immediately he was resigning and withdrawing his candidacy from the 2022 election. “All I want is my peace back,” he wrote, then signed.
The city attorney informed the mayor. Barbosa, according to Mayor David Alfin, wrote a very brief resignation letter in which he said “feared for his life,” in Alfin’s recollection. The suggestion took Alfin aback. “It bubbles up that thought to something that doesn’t exist,” the mayor said.
The vacancy means the council will have to appoint a replacement within 30 days, by simple majority. A special meeting is set for March 22 for the council to make the appointment. The seat will then be up for election, as scheduled, in this summer’s primary and, if necessary, in the November runoff.
The resignation is having no effect on the running of the city. Alfin met with Bevan and senior staff this afternoon. “I never sat through a more organized, informed, and quite honestly experience meeting over what potentially could be a complicated situation,” Alfin said. The city clerk and city attorney were also in the room. “I’m very impressed with the ability of staff to navigate this moment.” Bevan, who ran the meeting, was “organized and managed the meeting as a true professional.”
Until the seat is filled, Alfin said, the vacancy “doesn’t really have an effect on the meeting operation of the city council. It’s one less opinion, at city council business meetings, one person’s less comments at workshop, but it will not in any way affect the direction” of city business. Barbosa himself was not what observers of the council or city staffers would call either an ideas man, a consensus builder on the council, or an especially astute analyst–if analyst at all–during discussions. He did not advance discussions one way or another so much as weigh in with opinions and indications of how he’d vote, usually without engaging with other council members, though in recent months he had shown some aptitude for better understanding background material he was provided ahead of each meeting, and his understanding of and respect for the job was becoming more apparent.
For Barbosa, it is a fall as sudden as his rise two summers ago, when he banked on his step-mother’s name–she had been a one-term school board member and had deep ties in the county’s large and politically influential Portuguese community–and aggressive campaigning along side Ed Danko, who was elected to the council, and Alan Lowe, who was not.
Barbosa had announced a run for the County Commission last year, challenging Commissioner Joe Mullins–an elected official with whom he shares more DNA than ordinarily common–only to decide last month to drop his bid and run for re-election on the council.
“There is no peaceful life in politics,” Barbosa wrote on his Facebook page soon after revelations, reported here on Monday, that he’d been trespassed from Walmart for allegedly shoplifting an item. He’d self-checked out, but twice, on two separate scanners, had skipped scanning one particular item. Barbosa claimed he was in a hurry and had not intended to skip the item, and that Walmart’s corporate office apologized to him.
City Manager Denise Bevan called council members a little after 4 p.m. to inform them that Barbosa had resigned. The resignation was first reported by AskFlagler. She was meeting with Mayor David Alfin between 4 and 5 p.m.
The council will discuss the seat appointment this evening. “The way this happens, we are well organized through the charter of the city of Palm Coast, we have a process in place that we’ll follow to the letter,” Alfin said. “Following roll call I’ll make a statement and city clerk will define a process which is defined and detailed in the city charter. In summary we’ll put out applications for those that are interested and we must choose an applicant in 30 or less days.”
The applicants must be from Barbosa’s district–District 2–which stretches from parts of the Woodlands and the east end of Palm Coast Parkway to the South, includes Palm Harbor, the entire F Section, a small part of the north end of the B Section, and the area of Matanzas Woods and the L Section, north from Matanzas Woods Parkway.
“If you plan to run in November, you cannot be a so-called substitute right now. That’s what we did the last time,” Council member Eddie Branquinho said. “Then again, that was a different mayor, so I don’t know.” While the rules could be changed, “why would we?” he said. “I believe in special situations, but I don’t believe in special people.” Alfin agreed, saying the council will follow that precedent.
The council last went through an appointment process in 2020, when it appointed Jon Netts after the resignation of Jack Howell, and in 2018, when it appointed Vincent Lyon after the resignation of Steven Nobile. In 2020, those invited to apply for the position did so on the condition that they would not be candidates in the following election for that seat, so as to avoid giving them an inside track. That’s the approach Branquinho said he favors applying again.
Alfin puts a premium on unanimity in decisions. He was especially pleased when what had seemed impossible just months earlier–unanimity in picking a new city manager–came to be with last month’s vote to appoint Bevan the permanent manager. He said he would prize the same unanimity in the coming council appointment. As for the candidate’s qualifications, “I think there could be a very long list of things I would like to have,” Alfin said. But some knowledge of budgeting would be key: the city’s budget season is ahead. And this time, District 2’s ablest man for the job–Netts–is no longer available: he died just over a year ago.