An unnerving, and to Mayor Milissa Holland frightening, incident interrupted tonight’s Palm Coast City Council meeting as a man menacingly walked up to within a foot or two of the mayor before a Flagler County Sheriff’s commander quickly stepped between him and Holland and eventually directed the man away from the dais.
It was the latest in a series of confrontational incidents that just weeks ago required Holland to be escorted to her car by a deputy while the same man was shadowing the city manager and a city council member in another part of the grounds following a tense meeting, and that previously had caused the manager to hire additional armed security. But tonight’s aggression was unprecedented and signaled yet another escalation–or degradation–of public misconduct toward officials and civil servants.
Palm Coast City Manager Matt Morton was just beginning to introduce the sixth item on the council’s agenda this evening when one of the people in the audience–Mark Phillips, familiar to council members as a shrill opponent of all things masks and a member of the so-called “Flagler Liberty Coalition”–briskly walked past the sitting deputy and toward Holland.
He had done so on previous occasions, walking up to the mayor or to other officials, cell phone brandished and video rolling, but never during an actual meeting item. This time he wasn’t holding up his phone (it’s not clear what he held in his left hand) but he walked up to Holland and she immediately reacted: “No, sir, NO SIR!” The Sheriff’s commander began walking toward him.
Holland’s voice rose, to a pitch unheard in her five years on the council: “NO, SIR! ABSOLUTELY NOT,” as Cmdr. Phil Reynolds stepped in between Phillips and the mayor. She was incensed and shaken. Reynolds gestured to Philips to move aside.
“We’ve got to take firmer action,” Vice Mayor Eddie Branquinho said. A security guard–one of the newly hired security guards the city administration felt compelled to bring on months ago because of rising tensions and security issues in public meetings–walked up near the dais as Reynolds was beginning to direct Phillips and another man who’d joined him out of the room while Branquinho was pleading with Phillips: “Please, please, you’re disruptive.”
Bill Reischmann, the city attorney, leaned over to Holland and told her Phillips was just trying to unnerve her. “I know,” Holland said, indignant. “I know. I’m not getting scared in the middle of a council meeting,” she told him. “ENOUGH!!” Someone in the audience yelled out something about “listen to the people.” Council member Victor Barbosa suggested a break.
Holland would have none of it: “We’re moving forward.” The situation appeared back in control, though Phillips refused several times to leave the room before he finally did. A group of people remained in the parking lot. (Philips is an ally of County Commissioner Joe Mullins, who sponsored Philips’s bus trip to the nation’s capital on jan. 6, where a pro-Trump rally turned into an armed insurrection against the U.S. Capitol.)
Reischmann, who just two weeks ago had read an impassioned proclamation, written by the Florida Bar, about civility and the importance of civil discourse in public settings, artfully asked to have “a conversation with the mayor and the council.”
“What just happened is unfortunate and it’s not productive to the results that we’re trying to achieve,” he said, though he addressed council members as much as he was addressing the audience. “And I would request going forward that–and I know this Council supports that objective–of having a productive business meeting. I would remind all of you to understand that the council rules and procedures provide that the mayor does have control of the meeting, and I would ask all of you, so that we can work as a team to try to conduct these meetings in a professional, civil and business situation–which which we have, and which we just did.
“The mayor has a large responsibility, it’s a difficult responsibility. I think tonight is a perfect example of what you face when you’re running a meeting with people that their comments and their behavior are done to be disruptive. And that’s why we have these gentlemen here.” He pointed to the deputies. “Thank you very much. And so I would simply ask this council to continue to support your mayor, she has a duty to warn disruptive citizens and participants, and if those warnings are not heated to ask these gentlemen, to be removed from this council so that this council can conduct its business in a professional civil manner.”
Reischmann then returned the floor to Morton. Council members had all remained in their seats, silent (but for Branquinho’s entreaties) and the meeting resumed. At the end of the meeting, each council member in turn, and in varying degrees, condemned the disruption.
Before the incident, the discussion had for some 40 minutes or more turned to the city’s proposed expansion and rebranding of the city’s tennis center near Fire Station 25 off Belle Terre Parkway. It’s an ambitious plan that would see the addition of tennis courts and the construction of pickleball courts, a low-impact, rapidly growing sport especially among older athletes. Anticipating partnerships beyond city government, the tennis center would be renamed the Reilly Opelka Racket Center, after the tennis player who attended Indian Trails Middle School and is now ranked 46th in the world.
The plan has drawn some opposition from residents who consider it too ambitious (“are you all out of your mind up here?” a man who identified himself as Nick DeSantis, and who wore a “Ron DeSabntis for Governor” shirt, said, drawing a rebuke from the mayor, who reminded him of the council meeting’s procedures. He was followed by Phillips, who twice called the plan “insane.” But he was controlled at that point, and was followed by numerous other speakers, some for the plan–among them Wally de Aquino, the Chief Operating Officer at AdventHealth Palm Coast, and George Opelka, Reilly’s father–some against. But the tension was evident.
The man who followed DeAquino, a Woodlands resident and an opponent, referred to a city staffer as a “clown,” was immediately rebuked by Holland. He argued with her and talked over City Attorney Bill Reischmann, who warned him that if he continued violating procedures, he’d be removed. He continued, turning political. Others followed, those against clearly outnumbering those favoring the proposal, most of them speaking respectfully. But periodically, a speaker would veer toward menace, as when a man wanted to criticize Council member Nick Klufas for “talking down to us” about masks. Reischmann cautioned the man, who walked away from the podium making a veiled threat.
Council members then discussed the issue, with Council members Eddie Branquinho and Nick Klufas in support, Ed Danko asking for “more facts” and public voices. Council member Victor Barbosa seconded Danko’s motion to table the matter. The motion failed. Klufas made a motion to approve the design and construction contract for the expanded tennis center. That passed 3-2.
Holland was announcing the next item, a site plan application for an apartment complex–“Mr. Morton, go for it,” she told City Manager Matt Morton–when, as many people in the audience were leaving, the meeting veered off course.
What happened here tonight, pretty bad,” Branquinho said at the end of the meeting, calling for the likes of Philips to be barred from the room. “This is embarrassing for all of us and this, this started not long ago, we never had that before,” he continued. “It’s a shame, what happened here tonight, and if any one of us here is friends with anybody that did this, and doesn’t do anything, or recriminates them or comes here tonight and say that he’s completely against it and call them by the names, because they know the names, shame on them.”
“I would just suggest that everyone recognizes that we are the average of the people that we surround ourselves with,” Council member Nick Klufas said. “So if you look around and you see who you’re surrounding yourself with and you don’t like the direction that they’re traveling as a whole, just know that you’re going to be lumped in with them.” Barbosa said it was “great to see the community, or get involved,” but asked that it be done respectfully.
“What happened tonight was way out of line, shouldn’t have happened,” Danko said. “I know that’s happened before to Mayor Hollande when she was going to a vehicle, I’ve seen it happen to Mr. Morton, and it is an excusable, it’s not a way to conduct a business meeting, or even a workshop.”
Finally, Morton, subdued and dismayed, closed the meeting, saying: “27 years I’ve not seen this level of intentional, intimidation, and intentional intent to just bully. And it’s quite disgusting, and I’ll be very candid about that,” he said. “It’s very hard to keep the morale of an amazing staff when very few group of individuals want to bully harass and intimidate.” But he said the staff has received far more praise than disrespect.
The city manager concluded: “This inflammatory rhetoric that’s going around that they think they’re some part of mafia, or worse, denigrates our community. This is disrespectful, it’s demoralizing to staff. I’ve never seen anything like in 27 years. And it’s led to death threats, it’s led to death threats to our code enforcement officers, threats of, ‘I will shoot them in the head if they come on property,’ you were there for that one,” he said, pointing to members of the board, “and, ‘the streets will run with their blood.’ it’s time to have enough of this. Enough.”
Holland again had to be escorted to her car by deputies, who followed her home for her safety.
Rick G says
I lived in Miami-Dade County for most of my life and attended numerous County Commission meetings which were outlandish. But nothing like this ever occurred. While reading this I thought at some point the name of Joe Mullins would appear and eventually it did. Clowns attract clowns. Nut cases will believe any crap that the RW media throws out there. This is what happens when insanity rules. And I am not a big fan of Mayor Holland. But the Dias deserves respect.
Guy must have been in the wayback machine and thought he was still in DC on January 6th.
Didn’t he get back on the bus with Mullins and friends?
Apparently, this is the way politics work here in Flagler county ? There are always going to be 3 votes to 2 on something as absurd as the tennis court expansion for pickle ball. With all the issues in Flagler County & Palm Coast they’re expanding tennis courts ? The mask mandate is lifted. I’m actually in disbelief, kind of shocked that nobody was arrested from this group. Anyone else that isn’t a known regular at a council meeting does this and they’re taken into custody as the nut job they are, sent to a mental facility to be evaluated, if not outright jailed as a criminal. There’s more action & response for a moving violation off Belle Terre anywhere Palm Coast, than anyone gets their justice for disrupting a council meeting like this in an intimidating manner. The rest of us are paying for this additional security ? This isn’t getting any better and it’s time to take control of those who think that their 1st Amendment Constitutional Right includes free reign to approach council members like this. They’re overstepping their right to attend & admission into the venue to disrupt. Either this was made out to be a bigger issue than it really was, but past council meetings have turned into a circus show just the same ?
Very unfortunate. But these fools know no boundaries. However, what happened here was in no way as bad and senseless as what happened on January 6. Lawless fools that call themselves “Patriots”. They seem to have the meaning of the word very misconstrued…
Vincent T Lyon says
It is only not as bad or senseless as January 6 because the numbers are small and there wasn’t anyone in office openly encouraging them toward a violent act.
Can he not be trespassed from future meetings? Seems like he is begging for it.
And for that very reason, I thank God that I don’t reside within the jurisdiction of Palm Coast. You all can have those “power hungry” clowns.
Wow, bigger tennis, bigger pickle ball all while Belle Terre and east part of Royal Palms roads are falling g apart. I ask, is there any counsel members who plan tennis and if that might sway their vote. Either way, Palm Coast is poorly run and getting too big.
John Stove says
There has to be a “no fly” list for these morons. Once they have acted this way (give them just one warning only), they are trespassed by the Deputies and escorted out of the building. Photographs of their faces should be available to the Deputies as these people try to enter the building for any future council meeting and if they show up, they are promptly escorted off of the grounds.
Enough is enough…..if you cant figure out how to voice your opinion or objection in an appropriate manner then you cant be part of the solution, YOU BECOME THE PROBLEM.
Good for the Council, Manager et al for continuing their work and moving forward past these imbeciles…..we appreciate your work and stand by you.
Richard Marazzo says
I agree. Especially those that took part in the trump insurrection of Jan 6. They have placed themselves outside the government the majority of us want.
Mike Cocchiola says
The Mullins effect, borrowed from the Trump handbook of gaining power… fear and intimidation.
Do not let Flagler’s small segment of failed insurrectionists intimidate us. Reject them and if necessary, arrest them when they pull stunts like this. A few nights in jail and a court fine will make them think twice…in they are capable of doing so.
Vincent T Lyon says
I really doubt it would. They would probably view that as proof their ideas about government being against them are right.
I’m reminded of the old TV show “Lost in Space” as an explanation of what this guy thinks about civil interaction.
This is outrageous and unacceptable. I hope the elected officials ALL take out a restraining order, TODAY. Ban them ALL from meetings like the criminals they are. Bullies are little cowards who cannot function as adults, let’s stop treating them like adults, they are not. They are dangerous. Are they raising children and moving around in this community, it makes me concerned for their families. And where is Sheriff Staly?? We need some LAW AND ORDER, these are criminals.
Mark Phillips should have been put in hand cuffs and marched out. He should not be allowed to attend any more meetings. He was totally out of line.
William Moya says
Specially when this man had similar behavior in the past. I wonder if he would had been a black man, how would the Police would have handled it?
Let the work I do Speak for Me says
He would have been tackled, tased, handcuffed and taken to jail the first time it happened. He would have never made it to this meeting. No question he would have been thought of as a threat.
Trailer Bob says
Just amazingly disgusting and ignorant.
In my past days on the city council up north, this would never be allowed to happen. Why, oh WHY are we so tolerant of these idiots? If you all don’t really put your foot down NOW, this will only get worse, and more aggressive.
Make a plan and stick with it, because this is a very, very slippery slope that MUST end NOW.
Old Guy says
Continuing to just escort these people off the property obviously doesn’t work. Trespass them at the second incident. Otherwise they will just escalate.
Thank you Ed Danko, Victor Barbosa and Alan Lowe for bringing the lawless, sycophant Trump ideology to our community. BTW, how out of touch is Alan Lowe? 17-34 million???? To water courts, “he googled it” and that’s his number. He is obviously not qualified to run a calculator let alone be a city council person.
I guess this is what happens when you have city and county council men totally out of control and non censored. it they can act like fools why can’t the rest of the population!!
Roy Longo says
Whether or not you agree with a decision made by an elected governing body, this is 100% unacceptable. Make your voice heard in a civil manor at meetings, email. telephone calls and at the polls. Acting uncivil can never be tolerated or excused.
Unfortunately, what occurred at this city council meeting is the predictable result of what all America has watched transpire over the past 4 years in Washington D.C. with the clown-in-chief brow beating and intimidating anyone and everyone who disagreed with him. His offensive name calling and utterly reprehensible demeanor in public, completely un-presidential and disgusting to watch, has been a lightning rod for his unhinged sheeple who have learned from him their own versions of un-democratic and offensive public tirades. The city council should pass a resolution warning the public that any such behavior will only receive one warning and the very next time it happens they will be banned from attending council meetings and also could face criminal charges depending on the extent of their disruptive behavior. I don’t blame the mayor and the other city leaders one bit for their trepidation over the possibility of violent behavior from these fools!
Amen! I couldn’t agree more…
Trailer Bob says
I think you are wrong in our assessment. I voted for trump, but as time passed I was intelligent enough to see reality. Most didn’t not really know he would act in such a manner when he was running for 0ffice. SO, don’t sit on your high horse and think that everyone who voted for Trump is stupid, hateful, or ignorant.
You my friend are no better than others with your hindsight. All you prove is that YOU are full of hate and only see one side…yours… of things.
The war is over and it is time for healing. Perhaps your man will do better…but he hasn’t been in office as long as Trump was, so we will see. There are many ways to ruin a society and only time will tell.
But I am sure that both Trump and Biden will both surprise you with regard to the results of their strengths and weaknesses with regard to running a large country and the results of their choices. There is no reward for being a divider son/
Disagree. 45 is out of Office and still the nonsense continues. If all who have sense as you say and recognize it they must call out in Public those who continually disrupt the process and bring home the fact it is all misinformational nonsense projection lies and needless ridicule amongst other items to long to list. You yourself go after Mullins so explain what the difference is ???
Thank you for your response. If I gave the impression that I am better than others or was blaming everyone who voted for the orange guy, I apologize because there obviously were a lot of people, like yourself, who had the wool pulled over their eyes and have since realized what kind of man he really is. Thank God you saw the light. I have quite a few close relatives and friends who still support him for unknown reasons, but that is there issue, not mine. I just hope you are right and that our elected officials from both parties can somehow put aside their partisan differences and animosities so they are able to re-ingage in some meaningful, bipartisan progress that helps solve the major issues that have long been ignored and pushed aside by both parties – for the good of the country and all of us.
Stop voting for cowardly , lying Republicans .
Miss Holland is getting a taste of Taterville. How about some funding for the Arts. Bring some culture to Mondex.
First Why wasnt this bully/stalker arrested due to past History. Nothing good will come from this brainless Wonder and his group. Second the fact that the Drama Machines RPMs continue to be turned up in your Town with little or NO Ramifications is a mistake that you will regret sooner than later. I admit I left Flagler last year and zero regrets. Good Luck Vote Accordingly. SSMMHH
Man, I wish this page had a “like button”! I too am a former resident. Not for political reasons, marriage. 😉 I still have family and friends there, so of course I keep up on the news. I am appalled at the shenanigans going on in that little county, as well as the whole state! Fools Paradise…💔
It wasnt Political but it might sure have been now LOL
Pretty much…I have plenty to say, but I have to choose my words wisely otherwise Flagler friends who disagree will chime in and I get enough of that s*** elsewhere! All I can say is this is certainly not the sleepy little town with one stoplight I used to know!
Unfortunately, yes…I landed in Flagler Beach in 85. Left Palm Coast in 98. This is a far cry from the towns I once knew…I heard a rumor about Trump Country signs on the side of 95? If that’s true, case in point!
Common sense and common courtesy seem to be in a downward spiral
I attended the meeting last evening and couldn’t believe what was happening. The rude and aggressive behavior was only overshadowed by incredible misinformation and political postering. Council members and member of the audience should not have to be subjected to this. By the time I left I was afraid the hostility would become violent. I fear it would not have taken much more to have violence occur with this group of unhappy, poorly informed people. I applaud the members of the City Council for doing the difficult job they do and for being forward thinkers. The expansion of the tennis center is much needed, greatly appreciated and will be a fabulous amenity for our beautiful city. I think going forward, all meetings should be done by ZOOM and protect the citizens from and Council from this “group” of discontents. Moving out of Palm Coast is a wonderful solution for those not happy with this community
Celia M Pugliese says
We are leaving very dangerous times in the last 4 years and for that very reason we all need to have a civilize and respectful behavior while attending/addressing our officials in our city public meetings. We may not agree with our expected goals results but common sense and respect should prevail. There is never guarantee that we will be able to achieve all wished from our representatives as is very difficult to satisfy opposite parties in a proposal. Damn if they do and damn if they don’t! Is rarely a winning outcome for all.
The harassment of our Mayor, Council, Manager and any city employee has to stop. As reminds me of what I was exposed to as well. Thou will not be deter to attend city/county government meetings to lobby for our quality of life, I know well how we feel when harassed or cyber bully like in my case with his you tube private email to me from a county employee that my taxes pay his 150,000 to 174,000, just because I agreed with our Mayor mask mandate:
celia pugliese you are a prime example of our poorly run immigration system. You don’t hold American values and want to make our country more like the sh!thole that you came from. I will gladly help pay for you to go back”.
My answer to his coward insult is “what gives you the right?”.
Percy's mother says
Here’s a message to the fringe group that’s split off from “NORMAL” Republicans in Flagler County and Palm Coast . . . this fringe group refer to themselves as “patriots”.
You people don’t represent or speak “FOR THE PEOPLE”. You speak for your fringe group ONLY. You don’t speak for Republicans. You don’t speak for Democrats.
There are many, many Republicans in Flagler County thoroughly disgusted with the subversive rhetoric and behavior as evidenced by the actions of Mark Phillips (Flagler Liberty Coalition) at the Palm Coast City Council meeting last evening.
By the way, Mark Philips this morning posted an unflattering photo of Mayor Holland with a crown on her head titled, “Queen Holland has Spoken”. Looks like Mark Phillips has learned about distasteful posts and caricatures from Joe Mullins.
I as well as many others are thoroughly disgusted by the political goings on.
Here are a few of the major players in this FRINGE GROUP:
1. Joe Mullins, needless to say, playing a hand in the negative and subversive rhetoric, mostly behind the scenes, but continually posting that all the goings on is nothing to do with him. He thinks Wikipedia is a credible news source.
2. Alan Lowe, a nothing and a nobody with no claim to fame, who never seems to have amounted to anything, never seems to have achieved much in life, and who also gets his “wise” political rhetoric and information from Google. He’s running for the 2022 election for Victor Barbosa’s city council seat.
3. Victor Barbosa, a dunce and a bully who happens to “own a business”. What’s his educational level? 12th grade? His stepmother was the one who claimed to have a PhD and a “license” to practice in a mental health capacity . . . all completely fraudulent.
4. Ed Danko, who’s only been here a few years, who was booted out of Dare County for threatening someone. A hothead. He started off his first city council meeting getting into a verbal tiff with one of the other city councilmen. He’s still connected to the Flagler Trump Club.
5. Dennis and Janet McDonald. Nothing needs to be said.
6. Sharon Demers, Flagler County Republican Committeewoman. Last week she endorsed on Facebook boycotting any business that advertises on the Flagler Live website. (as did Mullins, by the way). She doesn’t have the guts to come out in the open with her behavior and operates behind the scenes.
7. “Pastor” Jearlyn Dennie. She was booted out of the Flagler Republican Executive Committee December 2020, one of the reasons being she had failed to “disclose” her background. By the way, has anyone ever asked her how she suddenly became “a pastor”? IS she a “pastor”? Or, is she a self-proclaimed “pastor”? In retaliation, she recently started her own “Republican” club here in Flagler County / Palm Coast called FlaglerCountyGOP, though she likes to call it the “Pachyderm Club” so as to avoid any legal issues related to using the term “Flagler GOP”, though she still likes to post sometimes as “FlaglerGOP”.
Lots of other players behind the scenes with this offensive behavior and rhetoric, but the majority (Republicans and Democrats) are disgusted and fed-up with this garbage.
I’ll leave it at that for the time being.
WOW Nailed it great post. Expose them ALL for what they are an embarrassment. Petty Power hungry liars who would try to spin the time of if asked. Deny deflect project accuse. Its a stupid childish game being played on the Community. This behavior subverts getting anything done. Take a look around its APolitical quackery. How long are you all going to take it? What are you going to do about it? How many more times will this Cancer step in front of progress for FPC. IF I were a prospective future Resident and saw this regardless of Party affiliation it would be NEXT.
Nicholas DeSantis says
Yes i was the guy in the DeSantis for Governor. I do wish you would have put in I apologized to them all although saying are you out of your minds? Something that needed to be criticized.
I just think you may have went too far to one side in this article but thats my opinion and as I believe in freedom of the press and 1st amendment I respect you and your opinion although I may not agree with all you say in this article . Hopefully in the future I read more of your articles and you stay on the path of writing truth and opinions on all sides.
Bill C says
What these ignorant nut jobs don’t realize is what they think is FREEDOM is really anarchy, the opposite of democracy.
DING DING The Winner is……..
May I add Hypocrisy. I want my life back !! Whaaaa,,, but wont wear a mask or get vaccinated. Low IQper the Orange blowhard
A Pandora’s Box has been opened all across our great nation. Bullies don’t need much of an excuse for acting out their personal issues but politics always seems to do the trick.
Perhaps there should be an established time limit for audience members to give their views so that everyone can get a chance to be heard equally. Name-calling and shouting should be off-limits.
It seems to me that it is only common sense that respectful physical limits should be firmly established for everyone–no rushing the podium.
Been There says
Mullins is behind this. He is actively discrediting Mayor Holland and inciting his moronic following against her. I have first hand personal experience of him trying to share her texts messages with others while stating, “She is out of her mind.”
Return to virtual meeting
I would describe the outcome of the 5/4/2021 city council meeting as a verbal domestic terrorist attack with sedition incitement originated/promoted as well by some county individuals who’s salaries Palmcoasters pay for. Is shameful that our code enforcement officers in the city are threatened with being shot or their blood run on the city streets while addressing or posting notices of city ordinance violations as the manager stated at the end of the meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4pxBVgih1c. Enough is enough and why is not the city taking action against those threatening bullies and file a court complaint against them for terroristic threats? Until when are we going to endure these trumper bullies and public scorn of our elected and administrators/employees city officials and Palmcoasters? We do not need Capitol 6th alike meets abuse by extreme groups in our local public/government meets. Civility should be displayed and enforced.
Life in Trumplandia. Next time he’ll bring a giant shepherd’s hook, a gun and some tie wraps. Lie down with dogs, get fleas.
The buck stops there. says
I think the real problem is Mayor Holland — regardless of her recent reelection, she does not command the respect from the vast majority of the folks in Palm County. She falsely paints herself as a Republican but is really a liberal dem and too many of us are fed up with her. She will never be able to gain enough respect to be able to conduct a meeting with decorum. Her presence is an ongoing issue.