Coronavirus Florida: Video of fiery exchange between Lake Worth Beach mayor
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LAKE WORTH BEACH — A video showing a heated argument between Lake Worth Beach Mayor Pam Triolo and Commissioner Omari Hardy concerning city management of the coronavirus last week went viral over the weekend and has been viewed more than 3.7 million times.The argument came during a city commission meeting when Hardy accused Triolo of allowing City Manager Michael Bornstein to turn off power to customers with past-due accounts “during a global health pandemic.”A resolution permitting Triolo to give Bornstein day-to-day control of the city’s operations amid the coronavirus crisis passed the commission Thursday night despite Hardy’s vociferous objection.
But Hardy appears to have won in the court of public opinion based on hundreds of messages posted on Twitter and Facebook supporting the commissioner’s stance.
The 30-year-old commissioner has also seen his social media presence expand dramatically. Since video of the dust-up was first published by the Palm Beach Post on Friday, Hardy’s following on Twitter has ballooned from 400 to nearly 189,000. His posts on Twitter since the public spat have been retweeted thousands of times.
Among those reaching out was former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal who sent Hardy a direct Twitter message commending the commissioner for a “good job.”Hardy wrote on his Twitter account that he was “overwhelmed and humbled” by the support he received, but said the focus should be on city residents facing an uncertain future who came home last week “to find the lights off, or the water off at a time when water and lights couldn’t be more important.”
Triolo said in a statement the discussion around utility shutoffs had been “inaccurately portrayed” and that she became “very upset” at the meeting “about what I perceived as bullying and unnecessary attacks on the Commission and our processes by Commissioner Hardy.”
Triolo said no utility disconnections have taken place since the city announced a moratorium on shutoffs on March 18. Those customers who had their utilities turned off before the moratorium have been reconnected and all late and re-connection fees have been reversed, she said.
“During the meeting I believed the credibility of the Commission and the City staff was under attack, and while I took the right action, I apologize for the way it had to be done,” Triolo said.
Hardy said he requested an emergency meeting of the city commission for March 13 to discuss issues, including utility cutoffs, but was denied by Bornstein, who advised the commissioner to “calm down.”
That lead to Thursday’s commission meeting, which began with Triolo and Hardy exchanging words over the meeting’s format and further digressed into finger-pointing and insults.
“This is a banana republic is what you’re turning this place into with your so-called leadership,” Hardy yelled at Triolo. “We cut people’s utilities this week and made them pay -- with what could have been their last check -- to turn their lights off in a global health pandemic. But you don’t care about that! You didn’t want to meet!”