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WATCH: LWB Commissioner, Mayor Argue Over COVID-19 Response

A Lake Worth Beach city commission meeting became heated last Thursday, as a commissioner and the mayor clashed over the city’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

During the emergency meeting, city officials discussed a local utility company’s role and the issue of residents losing power for not paying their utility bills.

Commissioner Omari Hardy says he requested the meeting and only one other commissioner agreed to it, while other city officials did not think the meeting was necessary.

A video of the meeting shows Commissioner Hardy becoming upset when another commissioner “calls the question” over the utility company.

“I’m sorry, that’s not how this works,” Commissioner Hardy says in the video. “We usually each have an opportunity to speak five minutes.”

Mayor Pam Triolo then asks for a second call to the question, as Hardy continues to ask that the council allow him to speak.

The two city officials then start arguing until Triolo calls for a recess.

In a Facebook post, Hardy says he does not regret the heated exchange between him and the mayor.

“Sometimes you have to get into trouble to stand up for what’s right,” the post reads.

The city later announced in a Facebook statement that utility services will not cut off during the corornavirus pandemic.

Courtesy: City of Lake Worth Beach/Facebook

Lake Worth Beach City Manager Michael Bornstein issued the following statement on Saturday:

There has been information circulating regarding the City of Lake Worth Beach’s Suspension of Utility Disconnections. In an effort to ease any fear being experienced by any of our residents and customers, and to set the record straight I want to provide the facts.

During the COVID-19 crisis the City of Lake Worth Beach IS NOT DISCONNECTING UTILITY SERVICES for any utility accounts within the entire utility service area. This includes within the City limits and the areas our utilities serve in unincorporated Palm Beach County and the Village of Palm Springs. Any information to the contrary is false. All will continue to receive electricity, water and sewer services.

The suspension of disconnections began on Wednesday March 18th and is in effect until April 30th. It may be extended based on the needs of the community at that time.

There were customers whose service was temporarily suspended during the transition period earlier in the week before the suspension was fully implemented. Most contacted the City and they were reconnected immediately, and all fees and charges are being credited back to those customers. A few accounts did not contact the City for reconnection and staff is visiting those addresses in person to confirm that these units are vacated either because the customer moved at an earlier date or because they are one of our ‘snow birds’ who are living somewhere else right now.

Please know City staff and the City Commission are doing our very best to address the issues involved in this crisis and to take care of our residents. Thank you for remaining calm and understanding as we move forward together.

Mayor Pam Triolo also issued her own statement on Saturday:

As Mayor I wanted to let you know that the City of Lake Worth Beach is doing all we can to deal with the Covid19 Pandemic. The Commission and the City staff are working nonstop to meet the needs and address the concerns of all our citizens.

Unfortunately, what transpired at Thursday’s emergency Commission meeting has become a focal point that is overshadowing all the good that is being done here in the City.

There were things said between Commissioner Hardy and myself during the meeting and during the recess, both on and off camera, that created a lot of undue stress and emotion. I was very upset about what I perceived as bullying and unnecessary attacks on the Commission and our processes by Commissioner Hardy. I was also concerned about how the issue of the suspension of utility disconnections was being inaccurately portrayed.

To be clear, no one is being denied Water, Sewer or Electric service as disconnections had been suspended starting on Wednesday March 18th. Most accounts disconnected in the transition period were reconnected that day and all late fees and reconnection fees are being reversed. Commissioner Hardy was aware of this before the meeting.

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.

I encourage Commissioner Hardy to join me in examining our interactions in the public and to come back together in a united front to deal with the current crisis. That should be the focus, and regardless of differences of opinion we must lead by example and where we must disagree, do so without being disagreeable.