Video shows Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper’s husband going on wild rant

It was bad enough when Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper began rambling and slurring her words at Wednesday night’s commission meeting, but city officials took action after she abruptly got up and demanded the meeting be recessed because she wanted a drink of water, and began walking around on the dais arguing with colleagues. 

Deputy City Manager Nydia Rafols-Sallaberry called Cooper’s husband, Harry Cooper, to come and assist his wife, whom the mayor later said felt she needed to go home and wasn’t in shape to drive herself.

But when Harry Cooper, an orthopedic surgeon, arrived, he only made the situation worse. 

When he saw Vice Mayor Keith London videotaping the mayor, Cooper began cursing at him and threatening him. 

“You are a piece of s***,” he shouted, while a police officer restrained him. “C’mon hit me! I want you to hit me. I want you to hit me, Keith, so I can beat the crap out of you.” 

After police moved him from that situation, he began accosting City Manager Roger Carlton while being forcefully restrained. 

“You’re gone in February, you know that?” Harry Cooper shouted at the manager. “You don’t have more than two votes … it’s a no!” 

“He’s ready to be arrested,” a calm Carlton said. 

“I’m not ready to be arrested!” Cooper shouted back. “I’m allowed to talk. This is free speech. You’re gone in February. Gone!”

Police physically removed Harry Cooper away from the manager. 

“How come he’s the only city manager with his thumb up his ass?” Harry Cooper asked. 

At that point, Mayor Cooper, after stating that she doesn’t “appreciate people saying I’m drunk,” began verbally attacking the city manager. 

“I don’t respect you,” she said. “I think you’re a liar. I still haven’t figured out why you’re here and why you stayed here.”

She demanded that he resign before he was “embarrassed.”

In the end, Mayor Cooper refused to leave and the meeting resumed, where the fighting began anew.

Commissioner Michele Lazarow accused the mayor of being intoxicated and Cooper shot back that Lazarow had a drug problem. Lazarow has been in addiction recovery for 18 years.

“The poor girl had a mental problem,” Mayor Cooper said. 

“Are you talking to me?” Lazarow asked. 

“Yes, I am talking to you,” Cooper said. 
 
“You are a liar and you’re stoned, so I’m going to forgive you today because you are stoned,” Lazarow said. 

Cooper claims she was simply feeling poorly and wasn’t under the influence. She told Local 10 News that she’d been on a diet of “rice, bananas and Gatorade” after a trip to Mexico where she got a case of “Montezuma’s revenge.” 

“When you get dehydrated and you don’t feel well, you don’t feel well,” she said the following day. 

The mayor also defended her behavior and that of her husband. 

“I had to get up and get water. I needed a break. I didn’t feel well,” she said.  

“But you can’t just stop a meeting and say, ‘it’s over’ and ‘shut up’ to the people who are talking,” Local 10’s Bob Norman asked. 

“I said, ‘I need a break,'” Joy Cooper said. 

The mayor also defended her husband’s behavior. 

“Everyone knows my husband loves me,” she said. 

“You’re not going to argue that your husband’s behavior outside was appropriate?” Norman asked. 

“My husband was [acting out of] anger,” she said. “He spoke his mind. He spoke his mind.” 

Lazarow and London told Local 10 News that they don’t buy the mayor’s contention that she was simply under the weather. On Friday, they mailed a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, asking that his office investigate the matter. 
 

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Controversial statue to be removed from Broward County courthouse

A controversial statue will be removed from the Broward County courthouse following a report by Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman, county officials announced on Tuesday.

Norman reported last month about a movement to remove a statue of former Florida Gov. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward from the main courthouse in the county named for him.  

“It’s a monument of divisiveness,” said attorney Harold Pryor, president of the T.J. Reddick Black Bar Association.  

Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein agreed with Pryor.

“Here we have an individual who believed in a separatist nation — one for black people, one for white people,” Finkelstein said. 

The public defender is referring to Broward’s separatist belief, voiced in a speech contained in the University of Florida archives — that blacks be removed from America and be given their own country away from whites. 

“The white people have no time to make excuses for the shortcomings of the negro,” Broward wrote. “And the negro has less inclination to work for one and be directed by one he considers exacting.”  

Finkelstein said the statue belonged in a museum, not the courthouse.  

“For African-Americans to walk by a statue of a man who didn’t think they should live in this country on their way to a criminal courtroom is the wrong message indeed,” Finkelstein said.  

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief, county administrator Bertha Henry and courthouse officials agreed to remove the statue.

The mayor said the statue will be removed in about two weeks after work hours and placed in storage. There are no plans for the statue after that, but some officials have suggested the statue should be placed in a museum or a library. 

Sharief said she does not agree with changing the county’s name and such a move is not under discussion. 

 

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Movement growing to remove statue from Broward County courthouse

South Florida has had some controversy over streets named after Confederate officers, but it has largely dodged the issue of racially charged monuments that has hit Charlottesville and other American cities — until now. 

A movement is growing momentum to remove a statue of former Florida Gov. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward from the main courthouse in the county named for him. 

“It’s a monument of divisiveness,” said attorney Harold Pryor, president of the T.J. Reddick Black Bar Association. 

Reddick is working to remove the statue out of the courthouse, and he already has an ally in Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein. 

“Here we have an individual who believed in a separatist nation — one for black people, one for white people,” Finkelstein said. 

The public defender is referring to Broward’s separatist belief, voiced in a speech contained in the University of Florida archives — that blacks be removed from America and be given their own country away from whites. 

“The white people have no time to make excuses for the shortcomings of the negro,” Broward wrote. “And the negro has less inclination to work for one and be directed by one he considers exacting.” 

Broward wrote that “hope of civilization and crystallization of the world depends upon the white race,” and that he feared “the tension between the races will become so great that outbreaks will become frequent and harmful.”

“I deem it best [that] the Congress of the United States purchase territory, either domestic or foreign, and provide means to purchase the property of negroes, at reasonable price, and to transport them to the territory purchased by the United States,” Broward wrote, adding that the U.S. should then “organize a government for them of the negro race, to protect them from foreign invasion, and to prevent any white people from living among them in the territory, or to prevent the negroes from migrating back to the United States. I believe this is to be the only hope of a solution of the race problem between white and black.”

“I am a fifth generation Floridian,” Pryor said. “I don’t think my ancestors deserved to go another country or to another territory.”

Pryor said he wasn’t tackling the larger issue of the county being named after Broward, whose best-known position was to drain the entire Everglades for development. He said the problem was that the Broward statue was in a prominent position to greet people — many of them African-American — on their way to felony court. 

Finkelstein agreed, saying the statue belonged in a museum, not the courthouse. 

“For African-Americans to walk by a statue of a man who didn’t think they should live in this country on their way to a criminal courtroom is the wrong message indeed,” Finkelstein said. 

Pryor said he plans to set up a meeting with Chief Judge Jack Tuter, who didn’t return a Local 10  News phone message for comment. Broward County State Attorney Mike Satz told Local 10 News that if people opposed the statue, he saw no reason to keep it up and would support taking it down. 

Attorney and courthouse blogger Bill Gelin was the first to raise the issue. 

“He wanted them out of the United States,” Gelin said. “And mind you, this was happening 40 years after the Civil War when these issues were settled.”

Pryor said he doesn’t believe the statue issue will be divisive. 

“I don’t think this is a divisive issue. I actually think this is a unifying issue,” Pryor said. “I think if you polled everyone around Broward County, I think an overwhelming majority would be for this monument being removed.” 

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Broward Animal Care executive director resigns after Local 10 report

Broward Animal Care executive director Thomas Adair has resigned his position following a Local 10 News report, showing he and other county employees changed dog and cat death records in a way that made it appear pet owners who requested their animals be adopted had instead asked that they be euthanized.

When questioned by investigative reporter Bob Norman, Adair denied wrongdoing, claiming the altered records were simply part of a “quality control” process.

But the station’s findings immediately prompted the county to begin an investigation and put Adair on paid administrative leave. Adair, who was making in excess of $140,000 a year, resigned just a week after the report aired, still denying he did anything wrong. 

“I did not, have not and would not attempt to improperly alter official records,” Adair wrote in the Sept. 5 email to county official Henry Sniezek. “The decision to leave my position is based in part on my desire to avoid further disruption to the shelter staff and the mission to improve the welfare of animals.”

Local 10 obtained evidence that Adair was going into the county computer system and changing the actual reason for the county shelter to kill dogs and cats — be it for health reasons, aggressiveness, or another factor — to “owner requested.” 

Animals put down at the owner’s request aren’t included in official euthanasia totals, meaning they don’t count against the county’s much-publicized goal of becoming a “no-kill” shelter. 

A well-placed source inside the shelter said there has been a concerted effort starting at the top to bring up the number of the “owner requested” kills. 

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said the county’s investigation, which is looking at animal death records over a period of five years, has already confirmed that death records were changed at the shelter, though she said the motive for doing so has not yet been ascertained. 

“We want to know how long has it been going on, what is the extent of it, why was it being done,” Sharief said. “The county prides itself on transparency and I’m glad [Local 10 did its report]. It sheds some light on some shortcomings we need to fix.”

Perhaps most damning was that records showed that after a public records request was received by the shelter checking up on Animal Care record-keeping procedures, Adair went back into the county computer system and changed the records for a second time — this time back from owner requested to the original reason given.

Animal activist and Hallandale Beach Commissioner Michele Lazarow, who made the request, said she suspects it was a bid to cover the shelter’s tracks.

Local 10 has also obtained an email from one of Adair’s now-former underlings, animal care supervisor Irene Feser, telling Adair she was “uncomfortable” changing records at the shelter, writing that it’s “not a good idea … especially if a records request is involved … to change information on a record.” 

Adair replied that Feser was “reading more into this” than she should be, claiming it was just a “quality control check,” and asking him to come see him in his office. 

“This was somebody who had worked long enough at the county to know that she should not do that,” Lazarow said. 

Sharief said the county’s investigation’s findings will be made public when it is completed. 
 

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Is Broward County Animal Care hiding true number of pets euthanized?

For five years, Broward County has made it a goal to become a “no-kill” county when it comes to euthanizing unwanted pets, and the numbers of animals put down appear to be dropping fast with the effort.

But now, there are serious questions about whether Broward County Animal Care Director Thomas Adair has been falsifying county records to help bring about that decrease and then changing them back after a public records request was submitted in a bid to discover the extent of the problem.

A well-placed source inside Broward County Animal Care told Local 10 News that Adair routinely alters computer records regarding the number of animals euthanized at the order of the county by changing the real reason for killing the animal, such as health reasons, aggression or “owner requested.”

That’s significant because pets put down at the owner’s request are not included in the county’s official euthanasia numbers, and the number of those owner requests has been skyrocketing.

For instance, in the last six months of 2014, owners requested that a total of 34 dogs and cats be euthanized, according to county statistics.

During that same time period in 2016, that number ballooned to 307 animals killed, an increase of 900 percent.

It appears that at least part of that dramatic increase is due to Adair and his underlings changing the records.

As a sample, Local 10 obtained 13 computer screen shots showing that Adair went into the county computer system days after the fact and changed the reason for euthanizing a pet to owner request, along with two others that were changed by Animal Care employees under Adair’s supervision.

One example involves John Arthur, who looks after stray cats in his Hollywood neighborhood. He brought three kittens to Animal Care on Feb. 4 with the hope of finding them a new home.

Two days later, records show, all three were euthanized by the county for alleged upper respiratory infections, which was entered into the county computer.

County computer records show that three weeks later, on Feb. 27, Adair entered the computer system and changed the reason for all three deaths to “own req,” or owner request.

“There is somebody who is fooling around the truth, which is wrong,” Arthur said.

When questioned by Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman, Adair denied changing the records for nefarious reasons. When Norman showed him an example of an altered record, he said, “I can’t tell you why that on that particular record.”

When Norman told him that it looks like he’s altering public records, Adair replied, “I’m not.”

“The obvious reason for you to change the records … would be to make your animal control look better,” Norman said. 

“OK,” Adair said.

“Can you answer that? Is that why you did it?” Norman asked.

“No, I did not,” Adair said.

“Why did you do it?” Norman asked.

“I was QC’ing the records, and that is not an uncommon practice,” Adair said. 

“QC” apparently stands for quality control, or simply correcting false information, but the records indicate the changes themselves were false.

“He was going in and changing forms,” animal rights activist Michele Lazarow, who is also a Hallandale Beach commissioner, told Local 10.

Lazarow learned of the records changes in May, and on May 25, she had an associate put in a public records request for all forms signed by pet owners asking that their animals be euthanized during the first three months of the year.

“I wanted the numbers for the owner requested euthanasia to match up to what the shelter was claiming that they were actually killing,” she said.

Animal Care produced a total of 90 owner-request forms for January, February and March of this year, yet the county’s own statistics show 125 owner-requested deaths during that same period, indicating that at least 35 forms were missing or didn’t exist.

It gets worse. Computer screen shots obtained by Local 10 showed that Adair went into the county computer system after the public records request was received and changed the records he’d previously altered back from owner-requested to the original reason given.

“The cover-up is worse than the crime is really what happened here,” Lazarow said.

When confronted with that evidence, Adair seemed flustered.

“There’s also records in here that are the opposite,” he said. “So they went from where they were originally classified as owner-request and now they have not been.”

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said the county has begun an investigation.

“We’ve downloaded the files so we can analyze where the changes were occurring,” she said. “Broward County does not condone falsifying records. We take this very seriously.”

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Deerfield Beach football coach accused of giving teen laxatives, putting him on ‘rabbit diet’

At 15 years old, Jerome Neal had one big dream — to play football. But when he signed up to play for one city league, he said that dream nearly led to his death.

“I always had an interest in football,” Jerome said. “That’s the only thing I want to do all day.”

Jerome started playing football when he was 6, and he later excelled as a running back in a sport that his mother didn’t favor.

“Since he was a little boy, him and his dad would go out and throw football, play catch. I didn’t like him playing Little League football, but I would not take his dream away from him,” Ebony Lawson said. 

Lawson said she had no idea that Jerome’s dream would nearly cost her son his life.

“I really felt like I was fixing to lose my son,” Lawson said.

“I’m just crying and they put me in the car,” Jerome said. “After that, I dozed off and I went to sleep, and I woke up in the hospital.”

Lawson said her son would have died if she hadn’t gotten him to the hospital in time.

“If I hadn’t gotten him there in time, he would have died in the back of my car. That’s the worst feeling that any parent should have to experience,” she said.

The family said the near-tragedy began with the coach of Jerome’s city-sponsored Deerfield Beach Bisons football team, Darron Bostic, who Jerome said wanted him to play in the big rivalry game against the Pompano Chiefs.

The problem was that he weighed 180 pounds, and the team was for players 160 pounds and under.

“They were putting in the book that he was injured, he was overweight and he said, ‘I got a game that I’m holding him for,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, and what is that? We got the Chiefs. That’s the biggest game,'” Lawson said.

Jerome said Bostic put him on a “rabbit diet.”

“Pineapples, apples, salad and water — that was it. She’ll try to feed me the food, (and) I would say no (and) my coach would say no,” Jerome said.

On top of that, Jerome said Bostic would take him to the gym after practice to work on the treadmill until as late as 11 p.m. on a school day.

“He said, ‘We’re only at the gym.’ I said, ‘It don’t matter. He’s a minor. You don’t have no business having him out late, and if you can’t follow my rules you can forget it. He won’t play. I don’t care about the Bisons,'” Lawson said.

Jerome said Bostic was also giving him laxatives.

He said Bostic gave him and a few of his teammates bottles of magnesium citrate at practice.

“My coach gave me one from out of the car and I drank it, and 30 minutes later I had to use the bathroom,” Jerome said. 

Magnesium citrate is one of the most powerful laxatives you can buy, and it’s not meant for weight loss.

Jerome said Bostic gave him a total of four bottles of the powerful laxative in all before the game. He said he even drank some before school.

“During school I’m having to use the bathroom. I mean, I’m using the bathroom the whole day,” Jerome said. “The teacher is asking me why I’m using the bathroom so much. She said, ‘You probably have to go get it checked out.’ So they think it’s funny.”

Lawson, a trained home health aide, initially thought her son was experiencing food poisoning.

“He finally came back and said, ‘I had drank a laxative.’ I said, ‘Where did you get a laxative?’ And he said Coach Darron gave it to him,” Lawson said. “I contacted Darron and I told him, ‘I don’t understand what makes you think it would be OK for you to give my child a laxative.’ He was like, ‘It’s not going to do anything to him. He only had a little bit.’ I said, ‘Listen, I think I got a degree.’ And he said, ‘I respect you. I won’t give him anything else.'”

But Jerome said Bostic took him and several other players to a hotel the night before the game to work them out all evening. He said he and a few other teammates who were struggling to make weight were given bottles of magnesium citrate. 

“That’s all we knew about it — it makes us go to the bathroom and lose weight. That’s all we cared about was playing that Saturday because that was the big game,” Jerome said. 

Amazingly, Jerome made weight, dropping 20 pounds, and played in the game.

“I only played one game for the Bisons, and that was my last,” Jerome said. 

Afterward, his mother knew something was terribly wrong. 

“As he was coming off the field, he was staggering,” Lawson said.

Tune in to Local 10 investigative reporter Bob Norman’s 11 p.m. report Wednesday for part 2 of this story and to hear what the coach had to say. 

 

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