Flagler Beach Commissioner Eric Cooley hadn’t been seated more than a few minutes at the beginning of this evening’s meeting–his first commission appearance since his arrest on a domestic battery charge almost two weeks ago–when David Frank, a resident of South Central Avenue posed a question.
“What are your plans as a group in light of the charge brought against Mr. Cooley as far as disciplinary action or what’s going to go on with this,” David Frank asked.
“This isn’t the venue for that,” Commission Chairman Rick Belhumeur said, stumbling over a couple of sentences before saying he’d defer to the city attorney, who said he knew “very little about it except that it exists as a charge.”
The attorney specified it was a misdemeanor charge. “The reason that’s significant is because if action were to be taken officially it would be through the governor’s office, and that only happens if there’s a felony issue,” the attorney said. “That’s not the case. I don’t think it will be, but you’re free to write to the governor and ask what you’d like.” As a body, the commission is “limited” as to what it can do, the attorney continued, with either the charter or a recall signaling the potential steps. Other attorneys would have to advise Frank, the city attorney said. But commissioners don’t have authority “to discipline one another.”
In 2015 Commissioner Marshall Shupe publicly upbraided a fellow-commissioner during a commission meeting over a controversy unrelated to commission business. “We must realize that what we say and do reflects on the city as a whole,” Shupe said at the time, referring to statements the other commissioner had spoken outside the commission chambers, related to an ongoing criminal case then. “Maybe we as an elective body needs to censure any positions so that it doesn’t portray the city or any residents in a negative light,” he’d said.
Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart said late last week that she’d received “a couple” of calls from residents inquiring about the recall process in Flagler Beach. She referred them to the city clerk.
Cooley was arrested on June 29 when a store employee alleged he’d kicked and grabbed Suzanne Kenna, a store employee who shared a house with Cooley. Cooley was released from the county jail on his own recognizance.
Cooley, for his part, took the occasion to make his first public statement since the arrest. “Just for clarification, there has been no charge filed as of this point, so that is all misinformation,” he said. Cooley was referring to the State Attorney not filing a charging information. The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has, in fact, filed a charging affidavit, though it would have to be followed by the charging information for the prosecution phase of the case to go forward: domestic violence charges are often dropped when the party pressing the charge decides against it, or when the State Attorney finds insufficient evidence to pursue.
But the arrest is not erased, nor are the conditions pursuant to the arrest pending arraignment on July 31, including a no-contact order with the alleged victim. Cooley intends to enter a written not-guilty plea at the arraignment. He’s asked not to appear in person.
“There is only an accusation made,” Cooley continued, “and the other thing is that, you know, just informally, should charges get brought, and should the outcome of those charges be unfavorable, I’ll be more than willing to entertain anything that you all as commissioners would like to do. But I’m not going to make any other statements other than that I don’t see that happening.”
Frank then, speaking directly to Cooley, referred to a “class-action lawsuit” being brought against 7-Eleven by Cooley’s employees (Cooley owns the 7-Eleven on South Oceanshore Boulevard). Belhumeur stopped Frank, telling him to direct his comments to the chair. Frank then immediately moved to a different issue.
Cooley has retained Josh Davis, a former assistant state attorney and now a scrapping defense lawyer, as his counsel. Davis immediately moved to amend the no-contact order, as it would have prevented Cooley from working if Kenna was there, or living at the house: County Judge Melissa Moore-Stens granted the amended order on July 5, allowing Cooley to return home and work at Seven-Eleven, since Kenna “has left the area and is no longer employed at the 7-Eleven,” according to Davis’s motion. All other conditions of the court’s pre-trial release order remain in effect.
At Thursday’s meeting, which lasted less than an hour, Cooley spoke on two other occasions, once regarding sea turtles, and once to commend July 4 festivity organizers. The commission took no action on anything other than routine matters.
Mr. Cooley needs to resign as commissioner or be removed by the board. If this doesn’t happen the board of FB is more of a joke than they already are.
Flagler Beach resident says
“Good Ole Boys” still exist in Flagler Beach. Get a lawyer, be friends with the police, and who cares if there’s video of the “alleged” crime. Poor girl whose life was shattered. Shame, shame.
Josh Davis says
I hope the public understands how easy it is to be arrested. Fortunately, in this country, we have Due Process. Mr. Cooley has been accused of something and that is it. He has been found guilty of nothing! You can be damn sure I’ll be at the next meeting. Ignorance and prejudice is disgusting. Don’t wait for facts, just judge a man on accusations. Makes me sick.
Disgraceful. He should resign immediately.
I cannot believe that such behavior is acceptable in governing officials, but then again, Joe Mullins is running for office too.
Women should be outraged
In Flagler county it is who you are
Well, this is both interesting and tragic. It’s interesting how Mr. Cooley is deflecting the issue and ignoring the fact this is not a ‘he said, she said’ situation. A third party, and one who’s livelihood depended on Mr. Cooley, contacted the police to gain assistance on a physical confrontation occurring in their presence. Tragically, domestic violence is real and one can only hope that if Ms. Kenna was truthful in what she reported to the police, she will stay strong and bring her ‘alleged’ abuser to justice. How unfortunate that she ‘has left the area and is no longer employed at 7-11.’ Her life has been turned upside down and Mr. Cooley gets to move forward as if nothing ever happened (just a lot of ‘misinformation’ in his words). We as a community should not take these allegations lightly and Mr. Cooley should consider removing himself from public office until such time his professional and personal issues are resolved. Least we forget the amount of deaths that have fallen upon our small community of Flagler Beach via domestic confrontations. This is truly disturbing and I stand with Ms. Kenna and pray for her strength to stand up for herself and rebound from this sad situation. Lastly, kudos to Mr. Frank for raising his concerns.
I am disgusted. Suzanne DID NOT report this, an eyewitness to the abuse did. The police identified marks on her neck that corroborated the story. Many people in the community have long questioned this narcissistic psychopaths treatment of not just Suzanne but all the employees in his store. He will plead not guilty? LIAR. I lived for 20 years being controlled by the same kind of person and have finally escaped my personal hell. I abhor Eric Cooley for his cowardice and self righteous attitude. He needs to step down and clean up his dirty personal life.
I agree alleged but not lookin good 4 u
Flagler Female says
My husband and I attended the meeting last night and, as an abuse survivor, I was completely disgusted that Cooley was allowed to participate. At the very least, he should be suspended until this matter has been legally concluded. Is this man really who we want representing us in Flagler Beach? There is a witness and a video documenting this abuse against a woman he has spent 20 years with. I personally cringed every time he opened his mouth – to talk about sea turtles and beach clean up after the 4th – I do NOT want him representing me. The other individuals on the council happily talked with him and exchanged pleasant banter – as if nothing ever happened. Their biggest concerns seemed to be congratulating themselves on a great 4th of July and discussing the use of paper straws at local restaurants. It is my opinion that by allowing Cooley to participate last night the others are basically saying it is okay to hit women. It all made me sick to my stomach. I was so excited to move to Flagler Beach but, after seeing this small town display of justice my view of the town is now coated with a black fog. Shame on those in authority who have done nothing to show support against violence committed on women. The others could have easily protested by stepping down as long as he is there. Instead they have decided to stand by this sociopath.
Flagler Female says
Mr. Davis – I can appreciate where you are coming from and I think we all understand the possibilities and realities of false arrests in this country. However, there was a witness AND a video. If you are in public office and are accused of abusing someone, you should remove yourself until the matter has been resolved. I’ll see you at the next meeting. I’ll be wearing purple to show my support for victims of domestic violence. Myself included.
@Flagler Female: Thank you. I too was at the meeting and feeling sick to my stomach, and I am sad there was no action taken.
Thank you Mr. Frank.
@Josh Davis: Spoken like a true attorney supporting his client.
@ BMW: Very well said. Resolve: If the Commission can’t do anything about the problem can we as residents take matters into our own hands inasmuch as starting and signing a petition requesting that Mr. Cooley “remove himself from public office until such time his professional and personal issues are resolved”?
If the justice system doesn’t get this correct….our society can with hitting him in the pocket by using the
7-eleven on the mainland instead. That’s what I intend to do.
Hey Mr Cooley, the EYE-Witness disagrees with you. Defend yourself in court, but seems you have a bit of a “reputation”. I’ll let the courts decide his guilt or innocence, but when found guilty I hope some of the people commenting and defending him, go to dinner with him, and eat their words.
Well said and I agree 100+ % lets keep the heat on him.
Government rules have to prevail. Read the article…
As a body, the commission is “limited” as to what it can do, the attorney continued, with either the charter or a recall signaling the potential steps. Commissioners don’t have authority “to discipline one another.”
As the attorney suggested, you can write the governor but in the meantime it appears there is nothing the city commission can do. Mr. Cooley at this point is an embarrassment to the city and is making his colleagues look bad even though their hands are tied. If he truly cares about his city, he would resign and take the weight off everyone else. No one created all this chaos but Mr. Cooley himself and it’s extremely selfish of him to allow the city and the other commissioners to take so much of the heat for it.
Only Me says
If it wasn’t physical abuse the officers would not have arrested him, he needs to go. Respect the victim and do the right thing.
Fernando Melendez says
Truly an unfortunate situation to be in, and a most unflattering spotlight. My prayers for the family and all involved.
Palm Coast Mom says
Response to Josh Davis…Are you Mr. Cooley’s attorney for this cause?
If so, I question your participation in a news-related community chat discussing your client. Your response here seems to be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct by the FL Bar and most certainly an ethics violation. In the very least your personal language and attitude is being preached to your client’s peers, community and future clientele.
Why is it that Mr. Romaine assulted a law enforcement office, a report was written and there is no record of an arrest or charge on the Sheriff or Clerk of Courts websites? Why is it also that Lea Stokes was arrested https://flaglerlive.com/50501/lea-ann-stokes-dui/ in Flagler Beach for her 2nd DUI AND she tried to bribe the officer yet there is no record of this on the Clerk of courts website (I didn’t check the Sheriffs website)? With these questions raised why is this man being drug through the mud? This is political!
Palm Coast Mom-Are you an attorney? Since when did you become judge and jury to chastise Mr. Davis? He is absolutely right, this man is innocent UNTIL proven guilty. For people to get on this blog and bash him when he hasn’t been convicted of anything, and without knowing all the facts is WRONG! It is unethical for you to judge Mr. Davis. When you have one finger pointing at Mr. Davis, there are three pointing back at yourself.
Mr Cooley is valuable to our community, his personal business is his, not raked against his accomplishments
There is only an accusation made, says Mr Cooley. That is a real cavalier statement to be made by one who has been arrested for domestic battery. I’d suggest it is a bunch more than an “accusation”. That accusation has been substantiated by a witness, the victim, and subsequently by deputies based on statements and the bruising on the victim which led to Mr Cooley’s arrest.
For him to be so arrogant as to sit with other commissioners until this is adjudicated speaks volumes. I’d venture that a number of commissioners were uncomfortable with his presence. Of course others were more than happy to “yuk” it up with him. This also speaks volumes.
It would be more appropriate for Mr Cooley to step aside until this matter is cleared up by the court in my opinion.
Just what values is Mr.Cooley to the city of Flagler,what has he done? He has treated his customer rude, he has treated his employees unfair and assulted some of them. I sent a letter to the 7-11 coporate office outlining these items.
Where does the Mayor stand in this situation? Is she hiding behind the ‘it’s only a bunch of misinformation?’ Is she not uncomfortable with the third party allegations and the fact a lot of the community does not believe Mr. Cooley should serve as a distraction to the Commission until such time as Ms. Kenna refuses to go through with the charges (as in most cases)? Is the Mayor not concerned about the homicide by domestic violence that is way too prevalent per capita in our sleepy little town? It’s silly to consider Mr. Cooley is too valuable to our city and thinking so only strengthens the ‘good ole’ boy network’ as solidified by his fellow commissioner. The Sheriff created a seminar to educate the public after the latest string of deaths by domestic violence, the Flagler Police routinely respond to calls of domestic disturbances within the city and we as a community can affect change by addressing this very public issue fairly. Let’s suggest the Mayor have a heart to heart talk with Mr. Cooley and turn this into a positive by considering Ms. Kenna’s innocence until she and the eyewitness have been proven guilty of lying about the couple being in an abusive relationship, Ms. Kenna being physically attacked and kicked in the 7-11 cooler. Ms. Kenna may have retreated to another town, possibly to the comfort of her family in WV, but I’m still here and will continue to be her voice until Mr. Cooley and his band of enabler’s are held accountable for his role in this tragic situation.
There are “ETHICS”, and then there are “rules and regulations and laws”.
” IF”, Mr. Cooley were an honorable, ethical person, he would step down from any kind of elected position unless or until he has been found completely innocent of these terrible accusations.
Patti Powell says
I too, attended the meeting hoping that Mr Cooley would have or would resign. I do understand that the Commission and the Mayor have their hands tied in this matter, but was hoping that he would “Do the right thing” It was a foolish hope because a person that would do what he had done and then sit there and talk about “allegations and misinformation” isn’t capable of doing the right thing. He needs to resign at once because he is a black eye on our city.
Lance Carroll says
Josh Davis: I have witnessed the disgusting abuse Eric Cooley committed against Sue, several times…
Lance Carroll says
Eric Cooley is a shame on manhood and the City of Flagler Beach. I have witnessed his abuse of Sue.
Resign! or kick him out.
He gotta go!!!
Where are the good example from fellow commissioners?
Let the facts play out. says
“Just what values is Mr.Cooley to the city of Flagler,what has he done?”
Mr Cooley has been nothing but an amazing part of the Flagler Beach community. He has worked endlessly on town issues, beach clean ups, setting up meet and greets with the Flagler Beach police and many many others. He spent his personal time and money gutting home after home after home in Flagler Beach after the flooding. I can say he has been nothing be a great community leader and contributor to Flager Beach. If you lived in this town you would know about his great contributions. I cannot attest to his home life.
Jackie Mignone says
Well, a man that beats on a women is not a great person in the community…. open your eyes !
tell me do you read any papers? Did you see how he would belittle and treat sue as a slave in the store all the time…. I did — that is not a nice person for the community !! What is your understanding of good and evil?
Cooley was arrested on June 29th. Where are the videos from the security camera? A picture is worth a thousand words. What is the hold up obtaining this info??
Let the facts play out. says:
And let me paraphrase. It doesn’t matter that a third party called the police for assistance when they witnessed an ‘amazing part of the Flagler Beach community’ committing a violent physical act against a woman who he lived with and who worked diligently to control his business asset. Mr. Cooley is so valuable of an entity that we as a community full of domestic homicides should deny the possibility that the witness who depended on Mr. Cooley for his livelihood and the woman showing signs of abuse ARE LIARS UNTIL SUCH TIME the victim decides to not press charges and allows yet another less than moral person get away with abusive acts against women. Guess what? Mr. Bundy worked the suicide call center, are we to consider his contribution over reality, too.
So, I can beat up a woman and all is forgotten if I clean up the beach, buy donuts for city workers, correct? I would like to see the paper work on ALL the homes he repaired at his expense, none of the home owners have come to his rescue. He is a poor example for the young people of Flagler and has only hurt the city of Flagler Beach.
It is my great hope that Mr. Cooley takes a moment to pause and see the pain he has caused, not just to this one woman, but to a town and its people who sincerely trusted and believed in him. If he is unwilling to admit his own deep flaws, then he really should go. Flagler Beach is too honest of a community to tolerate hate and manipulation.
But if there is a silver lining to this tragedy, it is that the continual pain that the victim has faced hopefully is coming to an end. Let’s send prayers and love to Suzanne for her protection and her well being AND to Mr.Cooley in hope that he can see the damage he has caused and perhaps stop his patterns of abuse.
Flagler Beach Is Disfunctional says
Many people have witnessed the behavior Eric displayed against Sue and other employees. It was not surprising when he was arrested, the signs were apparent. Why were none of the law enforcement officers who use to congregate at 7/11 aware of what was going on? They’re not trained to detect signs of a person not functioning normally? The City Commission was not aware?
No wonder this happened. It seems to be the attitude in Flagler Beach, fostered by the Commissioners & city leaders, to over step authority, to trample the rights of the residents. It’s the residents that support this town and clean up the messes created by others. It’s time clean house, to take back our town.
The whole lot needs to go.
SO WELL STATED!!…. i STILL SEE THE ” FLAGLER POLICE CARS IN 7-11… why are they still supporting the store.. … STRANGE….. A man arrested on Domestic Violence…. WOW!!