In a first at a local government meeting, two Flagler Beach residents were arrested Thursday evening after defiantly delaying a Flagler Beach City Commission meeting for 12 minutes, refusing to don a mask, in accordance with a city ordinance, and refusing to leave the commission room on their own. They were not arrested for a mask violation, but for trespassing after warnings.
Karen D. Streit, 67, and Michael Scott Streit, 64, residents of Oak Place in Flagler Beach, were charged with the misdemeanor count of trespassing after warning, booked at the Flagler County jail and released the same evening, each on $500 bond.
The city last week renewed its mask ordinance, which explicitly mandates masks “for in-person attendees of city meetings while inside city facilities.” The ordinance forbids entry to anyone not masked. Commissioners themselves, though partitioned by plexiglass, keep their masks on at all times except from time to time when they’re speaking. The Centers for Disease Control and a overwhelming majority of scientists, backed by copious evidence and studies, recommend mask-wearing, primarily to prevent the wearer from infecting others with the coronavirus, but also to provide the wearer some protection.
But mask-wearing has turned into an ideologically-fraught issue and a point of contention in numerous communities, triggering lawsuits. Just this week, a Florida appeals court upheld Palm Beach County’s mask mandate, rejecting the claim that masks infringe on personal freedoms and comparing the requirement to bans on indoor smoking.
The Streits had been sitting at the back of the commission room at City Hall, unmasked before the meeting, when Flagler Beach Police Chief Matthew Doughney approached them discreetly to explain the law and request that they put on a mask. They refused.
All commissioners and the mayor were seated. They waited. “I don’t want to start this meeting because we have some people in the room without masks on,” Commission Chair Jane Mealy said, “and we just renewed our ordinance that says we require masks, or a resolution. So if the people without masks would wait outside until it’s time for them to come in to make their comments, that would be much appreciated.”
City Attorney Drew Smith asked if the television carrying the meeting’s live video was running. It was. Police Capt. Blanchette offered the Straits masks. “Capt. Blanchette, it was nice of you to offer them masks. But they’re not putting them on,” Mealy said. She and her colleagues waited some more. “We have a very long agenda tonight, I’d really appreciate not wasting this time,” Mealy said again. “Not going to start until the room is the way it’s supposed to be.”
“We’re citizens of Flagler Beach,” Scott Strait said as he spoke to the officers. The officers, who handled the situation with remarkable patience and discretion throughout, talked to the Streits as the minutes passed, minute after minute, the commissioners sitting, waiting, the meeting immobilized. Then an officer walked up to Mealy and quietly told her that she would have to ask them to leave. Doughney then whispered something in Mealy’s ear.
Commissioner Eric Cooley, who sits to Mealy’s right, suggested quietly that, as he explained later, “she ask them directly to leave immediately so we could get on with the meeting. My thought was they received direction from police to follow the chair’s directions and they understood the choices. No need to give them any additional bandwidth to be a martyr for whatever point they were trying to make.”
“I’m going to ask one more time that the people without mask, please leave. You have the right to wait outside, to watch the TV, and when it’s time for public comment that you can come back in and tell us what your problem is.”
“We have the right to be in this room as Flagler Beach citizens,” Scott shot back.
“No,” Mealy said, “Flagler Beach citizens have been informed that they must wear a mask in this room.”
“The state has said that the cities, the county, have no right to penalize citizens for being in public places,” he replied.
“We can’t give you a fine. I read the law, too,” Mealy said. She was right: Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, has nevertheless allowed local mandates to remain in place, but disallowed the imposition of fines.
The officers again spoke to the Straits, explained the law and the individuals’ rights–and the chair’s request. “If you do not step outside, you will be arrested,” an officer told them.
“I will not give up my liberty, or freedom,” Scott Streit said.
“Please stand up, sir, and I’m going to arrest you,” the officer said.
Streit said something about “what this government has become,” but complied, while his wife spoke up. “We all know, on Staly’s website,” she said of Sheriff Rick Staly, “it says on his website, it’s an encouragement,” and that a mandate is “unenforceable.” She was correct in so far as enforcing the mandate itself. But she had not read the part where Staly makes clear that people like her were violating the law nevertheless.
While Staly wrote of his objection to becoming the mask police, he also warned: “If a person becomes disruptive on private property over a business asking them to follow their practices to keep everyone safe, it would work like any normal trespass. The person leaves and if they return to cause trouble only then does law enforcement become involved.”
That’s what Flagler Beach police did, after displaying the sort of patience law enforcement generally doesn’t in most lawbreaking situations, let alone in a situation where two people are holding up the official business of a government. The Straits were finally led out in handcuffs.
“I apologize to everyone else who’s trying to be very cooperative,” Mealy said. “Thank you very much. So. Sorry, that’s not a great way to start a meeting, but thank you for all being very patient. So now we will call the meeting to order. This is a regular meeting of the Flagler Beach City Commission, it is Thursday, January 28, 2021, and it is 5:42.”
The couple had delayed the meeting 12 minutes.
In July 2020, Scott Streit had appeared before the commission to speak of his concern regarding a water line servicing Oak Place, and the need for a hydrant there. There appears to have been no other public interactions between the Straits and commissioners. But they do have an unsettling history with the city.
“They have been trespassed from City Hall before,” Mealy said in an interview. “They are very abusive of city staff, often over their water bill, the way it gets paid, and if they’re late they don’t want to pay a late fee.” Karen Streit “gets verbally very abusive of staff, and that shouldn’t be. You can have a calm disagreement, but she gets verbally very abusive, so she has been trespassed, I believe by Larry” Newsom, the late city manager. “So they’ve got a long history with the city.”
“They were asked numerous times to put on a mask, they were given a mask by the police captain and they absolutely refused to do so and they’re now residing at the Green Roof Inn,” Flagler Beach Commissioner Rick Belhumeur said during a break of the commission meeting. He described the Streits before their arrest as “just sitting there, defiantly sitting there and not wearing a mask.”
“My perception of this behavior is very different than many on the board since I work in retail,” Cooley said after the meeting. He owns the 7-Eleven on South Oceanshore Boulevard, in the heart of the city, where he was among the first of county businesses to don protective gear and put up plexiglass, very early in the pandemic. “I have a high exposure to this type of interaction as there is a segment of the population that believes it is ok to verbally abuse folks in service industries which I work in.”
Now, the treatment has glaringly spilled into public forums: both county commission meetings and Palm Coast City Council meetings have been disrupted by people who have refused to wear masks, to the point of causing Palm Coast to consider stepping up security measures considerably. But Cooley sees it as more of an acceleration of a trend than something new.
“The climate and attitudes directed at elected officials has eroded noticeably over the last three years I have been a commissioner,” he said. “Folks like what we dealt with today are dangerous. Anyone who is so out of control that they will not comply with law enforcement orders, that an arrest is the only solution, need to be addressed. We cannot make the best decisions possible for the citizens when we feel threatened or have potentially volatile situations happening during meetings. I thought Jane and our police handled the situation with utmost professionalism. It is unfortunate that something as simple as keeping others safe has become such a charade to some. That is why my mask says, ‘We are all in this together.'”
Mealy said she wasn’t worried about her personal security “as far as any guns or anything like that,” she said. “I was upset that people would be willing to spread an ever increasing disease, even though I’ve had one vaccination. But there’s all these new variants out there. And I don’t think it’s fair when he walked out,” she said of Scott, referring to his statement decrying citizens submitting to the commission’s treatment. “It’s incumbent on him to be concerned about his fellow citizens, and obviously he isn’t.”
Flagler Beach Police Body Camera Videos:
So disgraceful to see so-called adults behaving like this while we watch the spread of sickness and death that can be more likely avoided with responsible behavior. THANK YOU to the FBCC and our law enforcement for enforcing what is best for this community. Nothing worse than old fools!
Send them down to Mar A Largo and let them wait some tables.
Pickles Magee says
The only thing worse than “old fools” are judgmental fools, IMHO.
James M. Mejuto says
The Streits had no intention to discuss town business. Rather, they had other motives.
They are definitely trump lovers !
The City ordinance prohibits non-mask use and those two should also have been arrested on such.
I hope all meetings will be held to that standard . . . protecting the health of citizens seeking answers to problems.
Good going, guys !
Being a “Trump Lover” has nothing to do with it. There were plenty of Trump supporters that did not agree with the actions of the Streits. The actions of one do NOT reflect or represent an entire group. Stop being so divisive.
Losing our rights says
Does it make them Trump lovers or citizens who are scared that their constitutional rights are starting to be taken away? Instead of being ignorant maybe let them speak…..and listen to them.
Anne Knowles says
These people live (part time) behind me. They harass our neighbors almost constantly. They filed numerous complaints on us while our house was being built. The wife verbally attacked my husband about the steel garage he had built on the back par of our property, which was fully permitted.
2 masks are better then one says the CDC. Everyone should be required to wear 2 masks in public settings or fines and arrests should be made use of. Double Mask or stay home!!
Steve Vanne says
Mark relax. If two mask make u feel better great. U might wear two when u go to Publix since every time I shop there always someone with out a mask..
Joe Stolfi says
S U R E .. Then three masks, then four masks . Just like a shaving razor — huh ?
Two are still only 75% effective but three bring that effectiveness up to 90%.
” I am not giving up my Liberties or Freedom”. LOL Well it looks to me that you just did voluntarily. To witness such petty immature buffoonery by alleged Adults of the retired Baby Boomer sect who feel this is their shot at the brass ring is comical. All that is being accomplished is the display of disrespect and total self centeredness on your behalf to make a statement that says “Look at me cant fix stupid.” Its a mask that can help prevent the spread of a Virus that is at times lethal. How old are you people?Great example for your kids Grands or anyone else in your life provided you have one considering it looks like you have way too much time on your hands. Minors have more sense than you two. Now I am not saying one has to wear a mask but stay out of Public places where required because now my Freedom and Liberties are being trampled. Got it. This is the problem with continual bullshit to serve only themselves. Its a disgrace. I am sure you have no shame. YOU want your Liberties, Freedom, Life back? Help stop the spread of C19 and its variants by doing a few thoughtful simple things for your fellow Citizens and stop being an arrogant no nothing dumbass.
How about peoples freedom to go to a meeting without having their health threatened by a couple of self important idiots?
Who gave these two the idea that they were somehow special as they didn’t have to abide by common courtesy never mind regulations that the rest of us do? I get it they are “special, entitled kind of nuts” Twelve minutes is too long, should have tossed them immediately health and possibly lives were at risk, not the time to be nice.
How dare they put others lives at risk!
Ban them for from meetings permanently.
Mondexian Mama says
Now if only flagler county would do the same thing, people would maybe stop doing it. However, our littlest commissioner would probably vote against it.
Deborah Coffey says
Good! We can’t have people committing murder with a virus or a gun. Both are premeditated.
How can you be arrested for not wearing a mask, by law enforcement not wearing a mask??? Comical, at the very least…
They were arrested for trespass
Pickles Magee says
To be entirely fair & purely technical, they weren’t arrested for not wearing masks. The technicality is that they were arrested as trespassers. This was done because there’s no law that can be enforced in the state of FL for not wearing a mask. In fact, a person can be arrested in this state if they DO wear a mask.
What’s a technicality between friends, anyhow?
Good for them! It is about time someone stood up to these type of thugs who think they are entitled to not follow the law and do whatever they want. There are consequences for such behaviors as these two fools demonstrate. The result can be devastating during this pandemic! Now if just the Palm Coast City Council would have the moxy to do the same at their meetings!
There is no LAW requiring everyone, everywhere to wear a mask.
Pickles Magee says
You do realize that there’s NO LAW on the books about wearing masks, right? In fact, the only laws about masks is that it’s not lawful to wear a mask in certain places. Also, our governor removed all mandates about masks. All of them.
“876.12 Wearing mask, hood, or other device on public way.—No person or persons over 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter upon, or be or appear upon any lane, walk, alley, street, road, highway, or other public way in this state.”
Not sure that this page will print the link, but it’s worth the discussion, IMHO. https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/876.12
Just have to say it... says
Where are the Flagler Beach officers’ masks?
Good for Flagler Beach PD… throw them in jail! It is so frustrating to STILL see adults acting childish in the midst of this state’s very high infection rate right now during this pandemic. If people are not willing to use common sense to protect OTHERS when they leave their home, and violate CDC guidelines as well as local ordinances, law enforcement should continue to put the metal bracelets on these selfish individuals and haul them off to the green roof inn where they can be in very close, confined quarters with a bunch of other idiots… all without masks on. Now, that is what I call justice!
It’s sad to think that an uncomfortably large segment of our population can think of nothing better to do with their time and energy than disrupt government as a way of giving vent to their personal resentments–and feel entitled to endanger themselves and others while doing so. It’s alarming no matter what side of the political aisle such foolishness comes from. Politics seems to serve as more of an excuse to act out internal issues than anything else these days.
JOE STOLFI says
So they wear masks except when they are speaking,
Isn’t when people speak that the minute particles …
” speech can emit thousands of oral fluid droplets per second ”
Seems Counterproductive to me ??
youre not allowed to use your brain
follow the orders and shut up
or go to jail
Michael Cocchiola says
Thank you, Jane Mealy and Eric Cooley. Public officials must show leadership at all times. If elected officials all over this country would take a stand like this we’d put a good-sized dent in this pandemic. Until we’re all inoculated, we need everyone to mask up in public settings.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Yes Kudos to Jane Mealy and Eric Cooley for caring about their ‘family’. (I forwarded Flagler Live’s article detailing your patriotism for your constituents to the Sheriff asking him to make sure the Flagler County Commission meeting on Monday will be as safe as yours was last night. ). 2 weeks ago an unmasked lady was allowed to sit behind Mike Cocchiola and his lovely wife at the County Commission. Better not happen again..
About freaking time action was taken on people that fail to follow the rules. Now start closing restaurants that don’t follow the rules. So much disrespect for the fellow humans around them. And its not your right to not wear a mask in a business or a building that YOU DO NOT OWN. Its their building, its their taxes and insurance. If only our governor had some real gonads to make it a crime ( a nice fine would be great) to not wear a mask or even our NEW President. All I see is , I don’t want to offend anyone, I say bull, end up in the freaking hospital when your lungs hurt like hell then come talk to me. Wear a freaking mask.
The irony of being arrested for not wearing a mask by a person not wearing a mask.
Roy Longo says
Now if only the County Commission had the fortitude to make these decisions and trespass those that did the same thing.
Regarding the county commission meetings, and trespassing those who refuse to wear masks, what about the woman who was sitting directly behind Mike Cocchiola and his wife (NOT WEARING A MASK) throughout the first county commission of 2021?
AND this was after the county commission meeting had been paused at the start because people were not wearing masks. Yet this woman continued to sit throughout the meeting with her face uncovered most of the time.
Pissed in PC says
The county commission has no balls or brains. Even Fisher Price knew those red hat wearers were dicks. They need to resign.
Always gonna be those that test the boundaries.
Cindy Small says
Ummm… the police officer on the right is not wearing a mask! 🤔
This is a tough situation. This police officer should realize that a lot of folks would be hesitant to call his attention about mask because it might make a person with a gun and a badge angry (even if such concern is genuine for his safety). Q. Would you call his attention about mask ?
We’ve identified the village idiots!
But, am I looking at a photo of unmasked officers? Do as we say not as we do?
I was present at last nights meeting and the Flagler Beach police did a amazing job of handling this .Eric Cooley is 100%correct stating commissioners have been aroded .I believe wearing a mask is one of the ways to combat the virus
You shouldn’t be surprised. This is most of the Republican Party. They want to believe the media is lying to them and that there is no pandemic that is going to kill them. They think they have the right to do as they wish as our governor said you can’t fine them. This was a big mistake and a bigger mistake that our Republican congress won’t wear them either so what do you expect? Why did they bother to go to the meeting as obviously they aren’t good citizens and don’t deserve to be there. I also think you are wrong, they should have been arrested for not leaving when asked. How much more did we have to take before mask wearing is mandated. Why do I have to go to a store afraid of all the people around me walking around without a mask or care in the world. It isn’t fair to me. Why can’t the police throw these people out of the store? Why can’t our country do like other countries and give a fine? This pandemic will never go away with what I see here and throughout this country.
Concerned Citizen says
As someone who has to wear a mask to stay employed and to do the right thing. And as someone who’s wife and mother are PA’s fighting Covid on the frontlines.
Your right to not wear a mask doesn’t exceed other’s right to live.
Wear the freaking mask. And stow the political rhetoric.
The longer we take to do the right thing and flatten this. The longer we have to deal with it and see more deaths. ALl they ae asking is for you to wear a simple cloth covering. And it’s still not even mandatory. Wait until it does become mandatory and real penalties are attached.
All got what they deserved in this situation for acting like asshats.
Pickles Magee says
My friends, disrespect isn’t relegated to one side or the other of this argument.
I do not wear a mask to protect anyone. I do not have any illusions that wearing one will protect me or that anyone around me wearing a mask will protect me.
However, I will respect the establishment’s right of refusal should I not comply – that’s just me. I really don’t care what “facts” a person has about the positive effects of wearing masks, because I, too, can present “facts” to negate anything presented, and yes, from official & medical sources.
Calling people names and disrespecting them, whether they agree or disagree with this particular matter does NOT help. If you’ve nothing kind to say, simply move on.
I won’t tolerate disrespect, not to my face, not behind my back. If you disrespect someone – anyone – then the problem isn’t *them*, it’s YOU.
Why is the officer in this picture not wearing a mask? Can we get answer to this?
Behold: town Idiocracy. says
Could someone please explain why the officer in this picture is not wearing a mask? Isn’t our law enforcement required to wear a mask while in public? Still covid deniers? Conspiracy theorists? Easily manipulated? Too insecure to put a piece of cloth over your face?
Beliefs that Covid is not real or not bad shows you’ve not got a grasp on reality. Certainly the non-maskers I see in public are out looking for attention and strike me as not entirely mentally stable.
Who’s in charge in this town anyway? Anybody? Still waiting, helloooo?
They need to arrest anyone who endangers others by not following mask mandate in our stores. Go on and arrest yourself for thinking you’re somehow above it all. You’re not. Covid doesn’t care who you are. You can’t see it, you can’t arrest it and you’ll never stop it if you do not have the sense to protect the citizens of Palm Coast from it.
I hope those morons read this. Bored geezers going to council meetings. Get a life. Retrumplicans. Wear a mask you clowns.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Jane Gentile-Youd ([email protected])
To:[email protected] + 4 more Details
Two Flagler Beach Residents Arrested After Refusing to Comply With Mask Mandate at Commission Meeting | FlaglerLive
I am risking my health to attend the county commission meeting Monday and wish to remind you:
YOU HAVE THE DUTY TO PROTECT EVERYONE FROM TRESSPASSERS. YOUR PERSONAL FEELINGS ABOUT MASKS NEED TO BE PUT ASIDE AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO SUBJECT ANYONE UNNECESSARILY TO COVID.
FLAGLER BEACH ARRESTED THOSE WHO REFUSED TO LEAVE THE MEETING IF THEY DID NOT PUT ON A MASK YOU HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS AND DON’T FORGOT OR IGNORE YOUR OWN MOTTO:
” A HONOR TO SERVE A DUTY TO PROTECT’
The last meeting you allowed a lady without a mask to sit right behind Mike Cocchiola and did nothing to protect him, his wife nor anyone else near him.
Please do not under any circumstances allow anyone without a mask to sit or stand anywhere in these chambers on Monday.
David Plotts says
Where’s the cops mask??????? He does’t have one on either!!!
I felt quite sad reading this article on a 17 year old boy. He passionately like playing football. He got the COVID 19, got sick, but when he recovered he can’t play football anymore so he committed suicide.
Thats sounds like he had a mental illness to me. Someone of sound mind wouldnt kill themselves over playing football. There was much more beneath the surface going on that was lnt being addressed
Covid often causes various long term health issues post infection. Psychiatric, Neurological, Cardiac, lung etc. read the medical journals not conspiracy theories. You’re welcome.
IMO You give up your Rights at the door when a mask is required and theres no compliance.