BOYNTON BEACH — Another change is coming to the City of Boynton Beach.
In a 4-to-1 vote Tuesday night, elected officials voted to fire City Manager Lori LaVerriere, who has served in the position for nearly 15 years, effective immediately.
Officials will meet in the coming days to decide who will serve as the interim manager.
LaVerriere’s termination comes just days before Boynton Beach Police Chief Michael Gregory’s last day on Friday. Gregory announced his resignation last week, saying in a statement that he wanted to “take time to increase attention and focus on other areas of his life.”
District 2 Commissioner Woodrow Hay was the lone dissenting vote Tuesday night.
Three of the four who voted to terminate LaVerriere are new on the dais.
Vice Mayor Angela Cruz, Commissioner Thomas Turkin and Commissioner Aimee Kelley, who was sworn in Tuesday and is filling the District 4 position that was vacated when Ty Penserga was elected mayor in March, voted in favor of her firing, as did Penserga.
LaVerriere has come under fire since the Dec. 26, 2021, crash that killed 13-year-old Stanley Dale Davis III on his dirt bike as Boynton Beach Police Officer Mark Sohn followed him. Community members, the boy’s family members and activists have criticized LaVerriere and other officials at the commission meetings, accusing her and others of failing to take swift action against Sohn.
Penserga said at the meeting that the city had “come to a point in our history that change is required.”
“We need to take this step. It’s difficult. It’s uncomfortable. But that’s why we’re elected. We’re here to make those difficult decisions … and it’s necessary to move us forward,” he said before calling for LaVerriere’s firing.
LaVerriere said her firing does not come as a surprise and thanked the city for the nearly 15 years she worked there.
“This isn’t a shock,; the world is not ending. I will be just fine. This is usually what happens in the profession of city manager,” she said. “I certainly don’t take it personally.
“You have an amazing professional staff. Appreciate them, let them flourish and do their good work because without them you are nothing and you have nothing, ‘cause you need their help and their expertise and they’re phenomenal at it,” she said.
Stanley Davis, Davis’ father, said at the meeting that the firing is a step in the right direction in mending the broken relationships between elected officials, the police department and the community, especially the Black community in the city, that people have continually pointed to since Davis’ death.
“This is serious to me. You hear some people laugh, but it’s a sign of relief. Something that is well overdue, something that we’ve been wishing and praying and crying and screaming for,” he said. “It shows the community that this panel is for the community.”
Bryce Graham, a West Palm Beach activist who is vice president of the Central Florida chapter of the National Action Network and has been involved in Boynton Beach since Davis’ death, expressed his discontent with Hay’s vote against the city manager’s termination. Graham shouted at Hay, calling it a “blatant spit” in the faces of the people he represents in District 2, which is predominantly Black.
“It shows me that we are dealing with a commission that has a backbone, but we will not let you off the hook. We’re going to hold you all accountable as well. So let’s deal with that. Let’s deal with the fact that we still got one more to go, and his name is Officer Mark Sohn. We still got a whole house to clean,” Graham said.
Gregory’s resignation and LaVerriere’s firing came after the conclusion of the Florida Highway Patrol’s investigation of the crash. Investigators determined Davis was speeding at about 85 mph when he crashed his dirt bike, a Christmas gift from the day before. Sohn was found to be driving about 80 mph, the investigative report says.
Sohn has been on paid leave since Dec 26. The police department’s Internal Affairs investigation that will ultimately decide whether Sohn violated any department policies and what, if any, punishment, he will face is currently underway.
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