Palm Coast City Councilman Ed Danko had a lot to say at the close of Tuesday’s Council meeting. When it came to be his chance to speak, Danko utilized the moment air some grievances: at the Palm Coast Observer, Matt Morton, Milissa Holland, Bill Reischmann, Denise Bevan, and more.
Against Matt Morton
First up in Danko’s speech: former City Manager Matt Morton. Morton had previously written a report to the city’s Human Resources Director stating that Danko had shown ‘a pattern’ of exploding at Palm Coast employees. Listed in the email were four instances in which Danko had allegedly acted with misconduct, several of which Danko would address later on in his remarks Tuesday night. “Thanks to [Morton] I was part of a political smear campaign that was launched last week from Matt Morton going to the fake news Palm Coast Observer.” Danko, evidently not one of the Observer’s most ardent supporters, also criticized the Observer within his role as campaign adviser to Alan Lowe, claiming publisher John Walsh threatened to take action against Lowe should he decide to run for Mayor.
Against Milissa Holland
Next, Danko referenced an apparent off-the-record, confidential briefing he’d received from law enforcement a few weeks prior. He moved to accuse Milissa Holland of lying about her reason for resignation, stating that it had been because of criminal charges stemming from an ethics complaint against her, and not due to her daughter’s health concerns as had been cited by Holland. Danko has been vocal about his disapproval of Milissa Holland since he emerged onto the Palm Coast political scene last year.
Danko then pivoted back to Morton, connecting Morton’s own resignation days after Holland to the same origin. He again touched on the Palm Coast Observer writing about his reported misconduct, chalking it up to “some extra stones that he wanted to throw should he ever need to.” Further attacking the Observer, Danko characterized Walsh as being “in bed” with David Alfin, a candidate for Mayor against Danko’s associate Lowe. Alfin and Lowe were both in the room for Danko’s accusation.
Against Misconduct Allegations
The councilman then took each accusation of misconduct levied against him one-by-one. One, he said, occurred before he was elected and should therefore have not been filed. Another he explained as coming from a concern for public safety (Danko had confronted a road worker about cone placement). For his confrontation with City Clerk Virginia Smith, Danko addressed only one aspect of the encounter, in which Smith had characterized him as working for then-Mayor Milissa Holland. Danko reiterated that he did not work for ‘disgraced’ former Mayor Holland. He did on other occasions described his side of all three incidents with more elaboration.
Against Denise Bevan
Danko’s next bone to pick: acting City Manager Denise Bevan. “I’m further disgusted by the fact that our City Manager is gonna allow this thing to stay open when she could just simply close it. But then again, who hired her?” Danko was part of a 4-0 vote to hire Bevan as interim Manager on June 1st. “Who put her in this position? Matt Morton.” Bevan was appointed Chief of Staff of Infrastructure in May of this year, under Morton’s tenure as City Manager.
Against Bill Reischmann
Danko then moved onto City Attorney Bill Reischmann. “I’m very disgusted with our City Attorney. I’ve been lied to enough by this man, I’ve been told one thing on the phone to find it be another thing in person at a later date.” By this point, Danko was visibly and audibly irate. He moved to accuse Reischmann of denying the release of records which showed improper dealings by Milissa Holland in her position with Coastal Cloud. He also placed Reischmann as complicit in the now-infamous Naughty List, a document of citizens who’d been reported unreasonable by city employees. Danko then indicated that he’d correspond with Bevan and Reischmann in writing only, and that he’d be refusing any phone calls from either of them.
A Vow to Terminate
Danko again addressed Bevan next, making a bold promise. “Rest assured, once there’s a new Mayor I will be making two motions on day one. A motion to cancel our contract with [Reischmann’s] law firm, and a motion to terminate you for cause as our interim City Manager.” Danko’s threat to Bevan and Reischmann appears to rest on the election of Alan Lowe as Mayor on July 27th; Lowe and Danko move on lockstep where most city issues are concerned, and Danko would likely be justified in believing Lowe to be his best chance at securing a Council majority allowing such motions to pass. Danko likely also counts on Victor Barbosa as an additional Yes vote, and Nick Klufas and Eddie Branquinho as No’s.
Asked what he thought of Danko announcing such plans should he secure a Council majority this summer, Barbosa told AskFlagler: “I’m not making any decisions regarding a city manager until we’ve seen the candidates for the position. That comment is not correct.” Furthermore, Barbosa is not a fan of being lumped in as a presumed second for Danko: “I’m getting annoyed that people keep thinking I work with Danko. I am my own council member. I don’t make decisions with other council members outside of the dais.”
Alan Lowe also weighed in on what his plans were for the matter if elected on the 27th: “I’m praying for the city of Palm Coast. Now more than ever we we need a strong mayor to bring Palm Coast through this turbulent time, bring unity back to the council and restore respect from the citizens. As mayor of Palm Coast my first priority would be to work with the Council to ensure we hire the best permanent city manager and to continue with strong legal representation. I have no current plan to terminate anyone.”
After Danko’s comments concluded, acting Mayor Branquinho indicated that he had not gotten the law enforcement briefing apparently describing Holland’s criminal charges that Danko had alluded to. Klufas chimed in, joking that Danko’s briefing was “super-secret-confidential”. Branquinho pressed Danko to clarify which law enforcement agency had briefed him, which Danko would not do. He instead assured Branquinho that he would personally ask the department who’d briefed him to fill Branquinho in as well.
Branquinho brought up that Danko had previously campaigned on allegations that Holland was being criminally investigated. After consulting with Bevan on the matter, the two agreed: better to let a third party investigate the situation with Holland to avoid conflict of interest. Branquinho spoke against the idea of ‘crucifying’ someone publicly before all the facts are known, perhaps referencing the way Danko had chosen to reveal his allegations to the public.
Making his response, Danko again voiced displeasure with Reischmann, hoping that he would not be the attorney to serve as the third party. He criticized Human Resources Director Regina Fuller, offering that her decision not to call or consult him in the misconduct investigation was improper.
Before adjournment, Nick Klufas spoke up to criticize Danko’s decision to limit communication with Reischmann and Bevan. “I think it is incredibly irresponsible to say you’re not gonna talk to city staff, you’re not gonna have an avenue of communication to the city because you don’t trust our City Lawyer and our City Manager. You’re not gonna be able to ask them for questions, you’re not gonna be able to integrate with them to try to figure out what’s going on in the city. How are you going to be an effective councilman without being able to talk to our city staff?” Danko responded that it would not be long until he made his motion to terminate the two, effectively ending the problem. He added that in the meantime, he’d be reachable by email, a notion that Klufas scoffed at.