Since his election in November, and more so after he was himself the subject of code enforcement violations, Palm Coast City Council member Victor Barbosa had taken to Facebook to publicize properties he considered to be in violation of city codes. Using his phone, he’d take video of a given property, comment about what he saw, post the video and pictures to his Facebook account, and let the address be disclosed.
“This is disgusting. I can’t believe that this is happening here in Palm Coast,” he said of one property in March as he walked around it. “Wow. I don’t know. So, the people that always put on Facebook that a working vehicle is, how do they say it, that a working vehicle is an eyesore, I think this is an eyesore. I think living next to this, this is a eyesore. Look at that. I’ll be writing a letter to the city manager about this. Hopefully we’ll be getting this taken care of.”
Barbosa earlier this year had been summoned to a code enforcement hearing over his own truck’s commercial signs violating city code, which bans the display of commercial signage on vehicles when vehicles are parked in residential driveways, unless the vehicle is on a service call. (The city is asking residents whether the ban should stay in place.) Barbosa resolved the issue before it got to the code board, but then stepped up his own vigilantism around town, firing off emails and texts to the city manager about what he considered to be problem addresses.
One of those was in Seminole Woods. The alleged issue in question was not visible from the street, other than the garage, but was behind fencing. It nevertheless drew Barbosa’s public rebukes on Facebook, along with photographs of the property that Barbosa posted, and later, in a comment from a reader, the disclosure of the address.
The homeowner, a Desert Storm veteran who served five years and has lived in Flagler County since 1991, was not pleased. He let council members, including Barbosa and City Manager Matt Morton, know it in a three-page, typed and single-spaced letter. “While I agree my backyard and garage need to be cleaned and I am working on it, I do not believe his approach was professional, ethical and productive,” the homeowner, who’s lived at that location since 2012, wrote. He’d had a code enforcement issue in 2019, when the city acted on a complaint about appliances in the driveway.
“Mr. Barbosa approached the subject in a manner that is disrespectful to me as a citizen, a taxpayer, and a small business owner,” the homeowner, who’s owned an appliance-repair business for over a decade. “He chose to immediately accelerate the issue by posting pictures of my privately enclosed locked fenced backyard and my garage without any warning or written notice or calling.” Barbosa had posted an aerial, Google picture of the property that included a pin disclosing the name of the man’s business, a veiled attempt at hurting the business even though Barbosa often–on Facebook–describes himself as an advocate of small businesses, and as an owner of one himself. The homeowner noted that the Google picture of the backyard “proves you can not see it from the street or neighboring homes or else he would have posted a picture from the street view instead.”
The homeowner continued, “His tactic is abusive, conniving, and hypocritical. He resorted to publicly shaming and embarrassing a tax paying citizen. His intentions are fueled by anger about his own personal issues, as evidenced in his posted video and comments on Facebook. Mr. Barbosa should practice integrity by admitting his own mistakes instead of shifting blame to others.”
Contacted by text about the issue, Barbosa declined to comment and did not answer questions seriously. “Thank you for talking about me its free publicity,” he wrote. He has apparently taken down the offending video and pictures of that and other properties he’d targeted.
He also seems to have changed tactic, perhaps in an attempt to whitewash previous vigilantism. In April he took pictures and video of an F-Section property he said belonged to two elderly people who “really need help” cleaning up their property. “I don’t want to put the address up. They need help. And I was so happy that they said yes, we need help,” Barbosa told his camera. He went on to speak about drumming up a group of volunteers to clean up the property, calling it “Flagler County Helping hands or something like that.”
On April 17, four days after the Seminole Woods property owner had sent his letter castigating the councilman, Barbosa showed up at the F Section property, cited the address and talked about trimming the bushes, fixing a tire, power-washing the driveway and getting pizza for his volunteers, if not for the homeowners. He said he wanted to “donate these people some food, I’m not sure that they’re eating right.”
It was never clear why Barbosa had decided to knock on the door at that particular property but shame the Seminole Woods property owner instead. There, the property owner said, Barbosa chose to be “publicly misinforming citizens” by making assumptions about the man’s garage. Barbosa applied that tactic in a different video, still displayed on his Facebook account as of May 12, from a different property, where Barbosa makes baseless assumptions about the homeowners making repairs without securing permits.
In a text on Wednesday, Barbosa wrote of the property owner who wrote the letter: “Ask [him] if he needs me to go help him clean up with my volunteers.” Asked if Barbosa had himself made the offer or if he’d responded to him at all, Barbosa replied: “You don’t answer my questions and im suposed to answer yours lol.” (He had asked how much money was generated by articles about him, among other unrelated questions.)
In early April at a council meeting, Barbosa, making baseless claims of “corruption,” had called for the firing of the city manager, saying the manager had put Barbosa’s name on the code enforcement complaints he’d been sending in about others, though he was not hiding the extent to which he was shaming others on Facebook with his recurring videos. Nor was he preventing others from echoing the slanders.
Barbosa allowed insults of the Seminole Woods property owner to populate his Facebook posting. “On his Facebook page, citizens have argued against each other, have used vulgar language in their comments that Mr. Barbosa hasn’t removed (from the date of this letter), and they have assumed the most untrue conclusions of me,” the property owner wrote. “I am disheartened to have such a negative experience first hand from a City official that I’ve never met in my life. it is clear by his actions that Mr. Barbosa has a strong will against the City and is taking down citizens in the process, displaying his lack of self-control.” The homeowner noted that Barbosa’s behavior was in violation of the city’s own code of conduct, though in fact the code does not apply to elected officials, only to employees of the city.
The homeowner spoke of his family’s deep roots in the community since 1991 and his own contributions in time and appliances to those in need. But because of Barbosa’s post on Facebook, the man said he’d had to install surveillance cameras for his and his family’s safety. He asked for the post to be removed and for an apology from Barbosa.
“From his Facebook post, his interactions with citizens is nothing short of rudeness, egotistical, elementary offensive, antagonistic and insensitive,” the homeowner wrote. “Code enforcement themselves do not post pictures or videos of violations on Facebook or on the City’s Facebook page or harass, embarrass, or persecute the citizen in such a manner that Mr. Barbosa has proudly and easily accomplished.”
Barbosa was elected last November in a four-way special election to fill the seat vacated by Jack Howell, who’d resigned for health reasons. Barbosa has self-limited his tenure on the council, having announced a run for the County Commission, where he would be challenging incumbent Greg Hansen. Hansen has not yet announced a run for re-election. Council members have rebuked Barbosa for his behavior on the council. The city clerk said there were no responses to the letter from anyone, Barbosa included, nor has there been any code enforcement activity in response to Barbosa’s vigilantism.
The homeowner’s letter appears below in full, minus his name and his specific address.