Oak Hill Mayor Mary Lee Cook apologizes for illegal action by Commissioner Ron Engele in having NSBNews.net tossed from meeting; adding she and her colleagues were 'all guilty'
OAK HILL -- Mayor Mary Lee Cook has apologized to Henry Frederick, editor/publisher and founder of NSBNews.net for the illegal actions of Commissioner Ron Engele in having him removed from the previous meeting, adding all of the commissioners, including herself are "guilty" for having allowed it to happen in the first place.
"I want to apologize to Henry Frederick for the manner in which we handled the prior meeting," Cook said at last Monday's commission meeting. "All of us, I feel like all of us in some respect were guilty because we allowed something to happen that should not have happened."
Cook made the apology without mentioning Engele by name. Engele was a no show and no explanation was given for his absence. He could not be reached for comment.
At the April 25 meeting, Frederick was at the podium at the tail-end of the meeting, addressing the commission on discussion initiated by Commissioner Linda Hyatt who had suggested the media be placed in the back of the room. Frederick was invited to speak by the mayor and Hyatt. Without warning, Engele demanded Frederick's removal, the third demonstrative move made by Engele that night.
Earlier in the meeting, Engele screamed at NSBNews.net's videographer, Sera Frederick, jumping out of his seat. He then turned to Henry Frederick and continued his rant. A few minutes later he demanded the removal of former City Clerk Virginia Haas, who was talking aloud from her seat. Then he went after Henry Frederick again, demanding he be ejected. Each time, Police Chief Diane Young placed her hands on Haas and then Frederick, in walking them out of the meeting room and into the parking lot, closing the door behind her as she returned alone.
Engele was critical of NSBNews.net's presence without mentioning that earlier that day the online newspaper wrote an exclusive breaking news story that Sgt. Manuel Perez had been suspended with pay on allegations of stealing gas from the city pump.
Perez's suspension by Young was done just two days after the commission outright fired demoted Sgt. Mike Ihnken after he let his firearms certification to expire, which resulted in the police force having to be re-certified by a firearms expert from that agency, which also took over patrols for a 24-hour period until the training was completed.
In mid-March, Henry Frederick captured on video Engele reading a report by fellow police officer M.J. Eberhart who complained to the commission that Young had not taken action against Perez, despite the allegations being reported to her by himself and Sgt. Brian Riley on Jan. 5.
When Engele saw that Frederick had the camera on the document, he quickly flipped it over, even though it was a public record. Frederick was provided with a copy by then-Mayor Darla Lauer immediately after that meeting.
In early April, NSBNews.net reported exclusively that City Clerk/Administrator Laura Goodearly had been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in Duvall County four years earlier. At a meeting in March, Goodearly was carrying on and laughing at her predecessor's expense for having lost out on unemployment against the city after she was encouraged to quit following a drinking incident at a city function.
At the following meeting, Goodearly covered her face with a sheet of paper as the commission discussed her request for a 10 percent raise until Engele called for the request to be tabled for the next meeting, which was April 25. At that meeting, she used the computer screen in front of her as a prop to try and conceal her face from NSBNews.net's camera. Instead of getting the raise, the commission voted 3 to 1 to continue her probation another six months.
Goodearly made no mention of Engele's behavior in the April 25 meeting in the official city commission meeting minutes that were approved last Monday. Prior to last Monday's meeting, Commissioner Hyatt at a city commission workshop asked Engele to resign, but he refused.
"We were all in shock about what happened," Hyatt told NSBNews.net on the eve of Mayor Cook's apology. "It happened so fast that we were all in shock at his behavior."
Not only did none of the commissioners -- Hyatt and Kathy Bittle and Mayor Cook -- not stand up to Engele, neither did City Attorney Scott Simpson, who two months ago stopped attending the meetings in favor of participating by phone. Simpson's arrangement was suggested by Engele and the commission agreed as a means to save money.
Oak Hill resident Michelle Tyulyki stood at the podium after Cook's apology and asked the commission to force Engele to resign, making reference to a story posted in NSBNews.net in which Engele was intoxicated, according to two sources quoted by NSBNews.net during which he responded to a police scene and started barking orders at Police Chief Diane Young and two officers at the scene of a downed power line in March's severe thunderstorm. One of the sources described him as "standing up drunk" and that the police chief did nothing to stop him from driving off. Young declined comment on that incident.
Engele told NSBNews.net after that published story that he had only consumed "half a beer" and that he was actually yelling at several small children playing nearby because he worried about their safety.
Editor's Note: Our Oak Hill's investigative project, which started with the police force, has now grown to show a systemic failure in city administration as well as the elected body.
#There are more stories NSBNews.net is working on that show Oak Hill government's lack of respect for Florida's Open Records laws and even potential Sunshine Law violations that led to the discussion at the May 2 meeting.
# Despite stonewalling by City Clerk Administrator Laura Goodearly, NSBNews.net has obtained a copy of her so-called memo to other municipalities, in which she claimed media are placed in the back. What the public will find even more shocking is that when NSBNews.net asked Goodearly to forward those public e-mails, she outright refused, insisting the online newspaper's editor would have to drive from his home office in New Smyrna Beach, 36 miles round trip, for what turned out to be six pages at 15 cents each, which we refused to bite on.
# Earlier on the phone, Goodearly didn't mince words in explaining why Florida's open records law takes a back seat in her municipality: "The city needs to make money." This same clerk presented her commission with a bill for $3,000 for a public records request she hired a temp agency clerk to help her with. Big problem, though, Goodearly told the commission she had no earthly idea how the request even started or who asked for it, nor did she seek a deposit for such a massive undertaking.
# Despite embarrassing herself and the commission by covering her face with a sheet of paper at the meeting following NSBNews.net's posted story last month that she was arrested and adjudicated guilty of driving under the influence. Some in the public have rightly asked NSBNews.net why this story was written in the first place. Our explanation is built on this foundation: Earlier that month, Goodearly was yucking it it up at the expense of her predecessor who lost at an unemployment hearing against the city for benefits after she was encouraged to resign after an issue with alcohol at a city function. Goodearly, who had only been in that seat for a few months was posturing for more money, while portraying her former boss as a drunk. NSBNews.net has obtained a copy of her DUI arrest report that also speaks volumes about her own issues.
# Most of the contents of Goodearly's file have mysteriously vanished. She told the commission someone must have broken in and she had the locks changed. The missing documents were related to her file only. The issue came up during discussion over Goodearly's request for a whopping 10 percent raise to $44,000, despite questions from some of the commissioners about how she deals with others as well as the way she speaks and writes. She's actually been put on probation for six months, the same as the police chief.
# The blatant abuse of authority by Oak Hill in having NSBNews.net removed from the meeting was further bastardized and hyped by a weekly print newspaper editor known for glad handing and sleeping at meetings. That issue will be dealt with in a blog, complete with video.
# On the police front, there is much more that NSBNews.net has uncovered that is even more shocking and embarrassing than what has already been reported, including an exclusive and extensive on-camera interview with suspended police Sgt. Manuel Perez, which brings far more insight into the deteriorating situation at the police department with embattled Police Chief Diane Young.
# NSBNews.net has heard the refrain: Why keeping bringing up Chief Young's past cocaine use and other drugs? When NSBNews.net started looking into allegations of corruption in the police department last winter, we discovered situations that once reported and tied together, will show that drug past continues to dog the police department today and into the foreseeable future.
# Oak Hill wants to put a husband-and-wife investigative team in the back of the room for a reason: NSBNews.net is on the verge of blowing the allegations of "cocaine, corruption and chaos" wide open.
# NSBNews.net also has to deal with putting into perspective the options it has available in protecting its first amendment rights and the obstacles that have been put in our path as demonstrated in the videos here.
# NSBNews.net still has dozens of videos, reams of public documents and interviews to present as part of the investigative reporting project that lends credence to former Mayor Darla Lauer's description of Oak Hill as Volusia County's Windemere
NSBNews.net, also known as VolusiaNews.net, provides Volusia County 24 / 7 Internet newspaper coverage, 100% free with breaking news, news of record and investigative reports from New Smyrna Beach, FL, for a 21st-century digital world.
About the Blogger
The Right Side By Peter Mallory
Peter Mallory of New Smyrna Beach is retired as co-publisher of NSBNews.net, but he continues as an award-winning blogger for the 24/7 Internet newspaper he helped Editor/Publisher Henry Frederick establish in 2008. He was recognized as a top blogger with NSBNews.net in 2011 by the Florida Press Club.
Peter Mallory of NSBNews.net Named award Winning Blogger
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