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.