Trish Giaccone, the director of the local nonprofit Family Life Center, attended a Flagler Beach City Commission meeting last week to speak at the podium to the board of commissioners. Her comments were in response to a statement of disapproval from Mayor Suzie Johnston last month, in which Johnston condemned Giaccone’s appearance on a radio show hosted by County Commissioner Joe Mullins. Johnston asserted that with the context of Mullins’ comments about Flagler Beach Commission Chair Eric Cooley, Giaccone’s appearance betrayed the relationship the Family Life Center and the City of Flagler Beach had formed.
Trish Giaccone appeared last month on a WNZF radio show, hosted by County Commissioner Joe Mullins. Given that Family Life Center’s chief function is to provide aid to victims of domestic violence, such was the topic of discussion on Giaccone’s episode. In the promotion of the show leading up to its airing, Mullins made reference to a 2018 arrest of Eric Cooley on allegations of domestic violence. Also in the promotion, Mullins referenced the then-recent release from prison of Bill Cosby, who’d been convicted of sex crimes. Needless to say, Cooley did not take kindly to what some took as a comparison between the two.
Giaccone appeared on the show, alongside Flagler Sheriff’s Office Chief Paul Bovino and Palm Coast business-owner-turned-Council-candidate Tim Sharp. Domestic violence naturally came up, and Mullins and Sharp took to discussing the case involving Cooley. Giaccone herself did not weigh in on Cooley’s specific circumstances when she offered her expertise to the discussion.
Though Cooley’s charges were dropped, the incident has been brought up against him at times in the three years since. For this radio program, Cooley called it “a political hit show” and expressed offense that Giaccone, whose charity has enjoyed a working relationship with Flagler Beach had participated. Mayor Johnston echoed Cooley’s characterization of the show, and in her statement declared she no longer endorsed the organization as Mayor.
Trish Giaccone’s Comments
It was clear before Giaccone approached the podium at the August 19th meeting that she had strong remarks prepared. In starting her comments, Giaccone summarized Johnston’s statement against the Family Life Center, and reiterated their purpose as an organization. She then went on to express her feelings about Johnston’s characterizations.
“The Mayor calling my behavior unethical or rogue is far from true,” Giaccone said. “I never at any time disparaged any member of this Commission, the Flagler Beach community, or any community member throughout Flagler County.”
The director then addressed claims Johnston had made that she did not answer phone calls from Johnston attempting to clarify the situation, explaining that she’d been on vacation. Giaccone also claimed Johnston had been informed of such, and had chosen not to include this information in her comments about the ordeal. She said that Johnston had received her personal cell phone number earlier in the year, but did not use it to further attempt contact.
Giaccone’s closing promise was delivered with pointedness to the Commission: “I want to make sure that the citizens of Flagler Beach are aware that our services will continue no matter what politicians say about the work we do. Because we do provide these services and we will continue to do so to those residents in Flagler Beach, whether or not we have your stamp of approval.” Giaccone received some claps as she returned to her seat, which Cooley asked residents to refrain from in accordance with procedure.
No one on the Flagler Beach City Commission responded to Giaccone’s comments during the course of the meeting. Chairman Cooley indicated afterward that he had no objections to the content of Giaccone’s message, but that he also didn’t foresee any mending of fences between the City and the Family Life Center.
“I don’t really have any observations on her comments other than it appeared she wanted to tell folks her side as it appeared to her and clearly was not interested in open dialogue or cleaning up any misunderstandings or impressions from using the organization of Family Life Center to contribute to a broadly and lengthy advertised political hit show,” Cooley said.
“My concern is more about behavior at a City meeting. I found the yelling over chair direction and not following meeting rules and decorum that were clearly announced ahead of time embarrassing and unbecoming of a director of a local non-profit organization. It is her prerogative to handle things as she so choses. I personally would have chosen a more professional route to deliver my message – the first time and the second.”
Speaking as host of the radio show, Mullins praised Giaccone’s comments. “I am very proud of how Trish stood up,” the Commissioner said. “She does the same for the victims she serves. At no time did she do anything wrong, and deserves a public apology. We at no time on the show stated anything that wasn’t true. If a Commissioner is upset about his past actions being called out, maybe he should have paused and thought before he did the action.”
Mullins has been consistently critical of Chairman Cooley in recent years, and the two have had repeated arguments on social media with one another, not infrequently becoming personal in nature.
With both sides having said their piece, the situation now appears to have been ironed out for the time being. A working relationship between the Family Life Center and the City of Flagler Beach will does not appear likely to resume in the immediate future, but the air is cleared and the public has had its chance to hear from both sides in the dispute.