By Mary Hladky
City Council members often disagree on issues, but the debate is usually confined to what policy is in the best interests of Boca Raton and its residents.
So council member Monica Mayotte’s June 9 rebuke of Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers’ advocacy for lifting COVID-19 restrictions in Palm Beach County was a notable departure from the long-standing practice of not criticizing colleagues.
At issue was Rodgers’ activism on social media and in communications with county commissioners in which he pushed for reopening businesses and recreation areas.
Other council members have been more restrained, with Mayotte and Andrea O’Rourke cautioning that reopening should be done carefully to avoid a spike in COVID-19 cases and a rise in hospitalizations.
Rodgers’ actions caused confusion and led others to think he is speaking for the entire council, Mayotte said at a council meeting held before the number of coronavirus cases in the county sharply increased.
“There has been much confusion created by your actions as deputy mayor recently,” she said. “Certainly you have a right to your opinion. But there is no question your personal advocacy has conflicted with the perceived position of this council.
“I, for one, simply have not agreed with your aggressive lobbying to the county and timeline for opening. … People assume you are speaking for the entire council regardless of the number of times you state that your words are your words alone.
“My issue is not personal, Mr. Rodgers,” she concluded. “I consider you my friend.”
Rodgers thanked Mayotte for “voicing your concerns.”
He said he had stressed at a County Commission meeting that “I am speaking on my own behalf,” later adding, “I never said this is what the city of Boca feels.”
“Clearly we disagree on this matter,” he said, adding that he would not back off. “I will continue speaking out on my own behalf and for those who ask me to speak out for them.”
O’Rourke supported Mayotte, noting that Rodgers’ deputy mayor Facebook page shows a photograph of the entire council.
Even if he is speaking for himself, “it does look like a representation of the group,” she said.
“People do get confused. I have had many questions about it.”
Contacted after the council meeting, Rodgers didn’t have much to add to what he said to council members.
“She certainly is entitled to her own opinion,” he said of Mayotte.
Rodgers first raised eyebrows when he led a car caravan from Boca Raton to Delray Beach on April 19 as part of a push by a Hollywood couple to reopen the county. More than 100 people from various cities participated.
Many of the vehicles sported Trump signs and paraphernalia. The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that those in attendance included supporters of Q-Anon, a far-right conspiracy theory of a secret plot by the “deep state” against President Donald Trump and his supporters.
Rodgers said at the time that he was acting as a private citizen.
In a June letter to county commissioners, Rodgers asked them to hold a special meeting to urge Gov. Ron DeSantis to allow Palm Beach County to ease restrictions under the governor’s Phase 2 reopening plan. He also asked them to allow the resumption of youth activities and the reopening of playgrounds.
He signed the letter as Boca Raton’s deputy mayor.
Many commenters on Rodgers’ Facebook page have thanked him for sharing information on COVID-19 statistics and for his advocacy.
“Thank you for this info devoid of fear mongering and histrionics,” one person said.
But Rodgers also has faced pushback from people worried that reopening would lead to a rise in coronavirus cases.
“Cases out of control according to county health director! And yet all you wanna do is open open open …” said another commenter.