Palm Coast City Manager Matt Morton said he is considering legal action against Council member Victor Barbosa following last week’s meeting when the first-year councilman called Morton “corrupt” and called for his firing based on thin and unvetted evidence and a lot of assumptions. The motion got no second, but left both men fuming–Morton for being defamed in public, Barbosa for not being taken seriously.
“Absolutely,” Morton said in an interview last week in answer to a question about whether he was taking legal action. “I am not going to continue to be defamed and and harassed.” He retained an Orlando attorney who he said has advise him not to discuss his course of action for now, while the attorney reviews the records “from the last several months.” Those include emails, meetings video, videos Barbosa himself posts on Facebook, among them an extended monologue the night after the meeting when Barbosa again called the manager “corrupt.”
“He just continues to double down I guess,” Morton said. “And I think he crossed the line [Tuesday] night. I think he definitely defamed and slandered especially when I had explained to him exactly what had happened.” He did not identify his attorney. But he alluded to the county commission’s turning the tables on former Supervisor of Elections Kim Weeks and her acolytes as a “playbook” at the city. Weeks, the frequent political candidate Dennis McDonald and others several years ago serially filed ethics commission, elections commission, Florida Bar and other types of complaints against county commissioners and members of the administration in what proved to be–what the ethics commission itself ruled as–frivolous actions filed with reckless disregard for the truth, and intended primarily to defame and embarrass their targets. Anyone can file such actions.
The county decided not only to fight them, but to win back attorneys’ fees spent defending officials. Those fees have exceeded six figures in Weeks’s case. Last week she was pleading with the commission to accept a $20,000 settlement. The commission refused.
Morton was paying attention. “I really believe what happened to Kim Weeks and Dennis McDonald is a playbook,” Morton said. “We don’t have to sit here and tolerate the reputation damage and, the whys and the harassment to the degree that it was done, it is absolutely disingenuous. It is meant to be hurtful and destructive. And it is, and it was completely untrue.”
Morton had alluded to legal action when he addressed Barbosa after the meeting last week. The two men were again in a brief confrontation outside the building as both were getting in vehicles to leave City Hall grounds. Barbosa was getting in his pick-up truck. Morton was hitching a ride with Councilman Eddie Branquinho.
“I did not say I was going to sue him,” Morton said, though Barbosa claims he did. “I don’t ever say I’m going to see you. I remembered that. And could I have? Absolutely at that point. What I very clearly recall saying is, you should have probably consulted a defamation and slander attorney, because the way you just defamed and lied is totally, is actionable, inappropriate, I use some kind of word like that. And it was. You can’t claim the corruption, and ‘I have evidence and you’re corrupt,’ and then just drop that bomb and then just walk away. And then the damage is out there. The damage is there today in the News-Journal, last night in FlaglerLive, this morning in the Observer. I mean, at some point, I’m not able to get another job probably after last year’s fiasco and this. My name is mud.”
When Morton referred to Barbosa doubling down, he was referring to the 16-minute video the councilman posted soon after the meeting, when he seemed despondent and disbelieving that no other council member had followed up on his claims. “You people voted for me to be your voice to stop this corruption,” Barbosa says in the monologue, “and this guy, city manager comes laughing, laughing, pointing. This is a city manager. Seriously. He just loved that he got away with what he did. And he told me he is going to sue me. That’s what he wants to do, he wants to sue me for bringing up proof of what’s going on, that nobody cared about.”Barbosa is describing how he perceived his encounter with Morton outside the building, which may yet come in play–from both sides–in subsequent claims, though the key parts about it were not recorded, and will depend on each man’s interpretation. Barbosa says Morton laughed at him. Morton says that’s not quite right.
“I was just, you know, dumbfounded and offended, honestly, and just sort of disgusted,” Morton said, describing his state of mind as he walked out of City Hall. “And I see Victor in the truck and he was acting really weird. Like, I thought he was doing something to be funny. And so I was chuckling, and I pointed it, I’m like, laughing going, Okay, I thought he was trying to lighten the mood out, you know, he’s a weird guy.” Morton referred to a previous text exchange with Barbosa who was excoriating him one minute, asking him to lunch the next and telling him he was doing a good job. “And I thought he was just trying to be funny. And so I kind of pointed out, like I said, I chuckled a little bit like, like, okay, like, I don’t know, I guess you’re trying to lighten the mood a little bit. Great, great. I’m not, you know, gonna meet. And immediately I realized I was baited because the door flies open. And before the door even finishes open, there was two cameras there.”
Mark Philips, a member of the so-called Liberty Coalition–a group of anti-maskers who have repeatedly disrupted county and city meetings–was taking video with his phone, as he and some of his partners have taken to doing, presumably to intimidate the targets of their brandished cameras. The video was later posted online. It does not catch the original gestures or exchange between Barbosa and Morton. It starts with Morton standing briefly in front of Barbosa’s vehicle, and Philips approaching rapidly. Barbosa, seemingly in mid-sentence, is saying something about it not being his fault. As Morton is walking away, Barbosa asks him, “you want to laugh? That’s how a city employee laughs? You’re laughing at city council? That’s what you’re doing.”
Philips’s camera is now near Morton, who walks toward it and asks him his name, waving at him. “I’m a journalist buddy, keep going,” Philips says, “would you like to say anything else to Victor Barbosa?” Morton says he doesn’t know what Barbosa is “complaining about.”
“You laughed at me and you pointed at me, you’re making fun of the city councilman,” Barbosa says. Morton tells him he “lied a lot tonight.” Barbosa replies: “There’s proof.”
“There’s no proof, you’re a liar,” Morton says.
“Now you’re going to drive the corrupt guy home?” Philips tells Branquinho, who is speaking with a woman trying to show him something on her phone about what code enforcement allows.
“Did you get that the city manager wants to sue me for bringing up corruption in the city hall?” Barbosa asks Philips.
“Yes sir, we got the whole thing.” (Actually, the clip does not show the whole thing, and ends there.)
Barbosa has refused to answer questions about the evening when asked by a reporter. In his monologue that evening, he concluded, first referring to council members then to himself: “They didn’t care to see what someone does something against you. Nobody cares. They don’t care. And you have a councilman that cares about you. That is easy access to. You name me one political person that’s out there, that will answer as fast as I answer back to you, and all I do is get slandered, because you have easy access to me, you want to talk, you want to threaten me. That’s not what you do to a person like me.”
Morton said Barbosa’s claims against him are “retaliation and harassment because again, I held his feet to the fire on what I believe is a violation of his oath of office and his duties as a charter, elected official,” a reference to Morton rebuffing Barbosa’s claim that the councilman had “people” inside the administration who were providing him information about code enforcement practices.
The two men, along with the rest of the council, are scheduled to sit again at the same dais when the Palm Coast City Council meets in workshop Tuesday morning at City Hall, starting at 9 a.m.
Not only a Bully but a crybaby as well. He thinksHe can dish it but certainly cant take criticism constructive or otherwise. This guy is a loose cannon and you will have problems with him and Hes going to cost you all a lot of money one day. Sue his ass to shut him up then Vote him out
Are they after a resignation here at this point from Barbosa ? Otherwise lawyers would just charge up with billable hours.
Gerald Jacobs says
Acting like children grow up. If you can’t say anything nice. Don’t say it at all.
Concerned Citizen says
I’m curious as to why we haven’t started a recall on Victor Barbosa.
Are you people afraid of him Phillips and the so called Coallition? I’m not. And I challenge anyone in that crowd to try and intimidate me. Are we really going to standby and let Palm Coast be ruled by intimidation? You know I saw this sort of behavior operating in the Middle East. And people had to risk their lives to fight it. Here all we have to do is initiate a recall and demand legal action. Come on folks. Step up and end this!!
And what is the Mayor doing about all of this? Is she intimidated as well? She must be in hiding or scared or something, Beause she’s about to let a third grade playground pissing contest escalate into much more.
To Victor Barbosa and Cronies.
You are bullies and we do not fear you. Eventually bullies get what’s coming to them. And they are put in their place.
To ALL involved.
Grow up and stop wasting all this time on tax payers dollars.
Let’s start lighting up those phones and get this bully removed. So our city staff can get back to work and doing what needs done.
John Stove says
We fully support Mr. Morton going after Mr. Barbosa for his blatant defamation and slander. People such as Barbosa, Mullins and others need to understand that words have actions. You cant just go around insulting people and pulling issues out of you A** and not think that people will react.
Its long past time that these people be held to accountability.
I am with you. Stop the bullies.
It’s not Morton’s place to hold a duly elected City Councilman’s feet to the fire regarding his personal opinion of the elected official’s oath of office and charter duties. Who the hell does he think he is? He’s an appointed employee that works directly for, and at the pleasure of, 5 elected officials (one of which, he feels he can bully and accuse of not fulfilling his oath of office and charter duties).
This is not the City Manager’s call. The elected official represents the citizens, not Morton. If the Councilmen breaks the law he could face a forfeiture of office vote from the rest of the Council or he could be recalled by the citizens. But in no case does the Manager’s opinion about the Councilman’s duties have any legal relevance or responsibility.
If Councilman Barbarosa has evidence of Morton’s wrongdoing, it’s the Mayor’s and remaining Council’s duty to objectively look at the evidence and render a decision (one with Morton being as far away from the meeting as possible to keep him from interfering). Barbarosa should also consider filing an ethics complaint against Morton.
All of the evidence should become public records allowing the citizens to decide whether the entire Council acted appropriately when the ultimately reach a decision. The last thing we need is a City Manager threatening to take legal action against a Councilman for bringing up the possibility of wrongdoing. Guess who gets to pick up the tab for these legal costs?
If Morton did nothing wrong, get the facts out there.. Prove the allegations are unfounded.. Did you instruct staff to attach Barbarosa’s name to code cases that he didn’t specifically complain about? Let’s get it all out in the Sunshine! The truth will set you free Morton!
Concerned Citizen says
You must be a Barbosa supporter.
Morton isn’t the only individual that Barbosa has tried to bully in this county. He continues to harass other employees and targeted voters during an election. Thankfully Morton is in a position to do something about it. Barbosa is an elected official assigned to represent us. The last I looked Morton does not work for him alone.
Great comment and I agree except that if ” Guido” had the evidence it would have been presented and as the Elected Official IT should have been brought up front and Center instead of the bloviation sustained by all from the “Crybaby”. He has thin skin and if he cant take it HE should Resign as the Elected one. I BET Election time can come soon enough, right?? PS Potential wrong doing is one thing Slander and Libel are another. PSS He shouldnt attack even an Employee Publicly and ask for his removal without substantiated Evidence first brought forth to those 5 Elected and the Mayor. IMO Hes got nothing but a big mouth and a bone to pick with Morton. FPC The land of No turn signals lol and more Drama than General Hospital Soap Opera OOMMGG
John Stove says
Mr. Morton besides being an elected/hired city official is a private citizen. A such, he is well within his rights (and case law proves this) to sue Barbosa for defamation of character and slander in a court of law as a civil matter or a private citizen should he choose to do so. The burden of proof is always on the accuser (Barbosa)
So your point does not apply.
If any costs are incurred they can be attached and directed at Barbosa for initiating such action and not at Mr. Morton for defending himself.
As far as alleged wrongdoing with the code enforcement issue, Barbosa himself admitted to sending the code enforcement concerns directly to Mr. Morton. Had Barbosa sent the concerns directly thru Palm Coast Connect (like the rest of us) this wouldn’t even be an issue.
Since Barbosa felt he needed to send it directly to Mr. Morton, the City Manager wisely wanted Barbosa’s name associated with the concern so that he could track it.
“Why” would you say Mr. Morton wanted to track Barbosa’s issues? Because Barbosa would claim that Mr. Morton didn’t do anything about the issues but Mr. Morton wisely would be able to track the day he submitted it to code enforcement and how they are being addressed.
Barbosa is a tool and thinks school yard bully tactics work in any setting, he may very soon financially regret making the allegations he made.
Many have been credited with originating this phrase, however no one really knows.
Never Wrestle with a Pig.
You Both Get Dirty and the Pig Likes It