Update: According to the incident report, the reporting officer writes that Atkins-Grad called the family walking by wearing light green shirts "white trash that were trying to get her removed from office." Also according to the report, Atkins-Grad "shouted at them that they would burn in hell for what they were trying to do."
See a copy of the incident report below.
Last night, the Broward Sheriff's Office hosted a "Night Out Against Crime" at its district office in Tamarac. So it was super awkward when city commissioner Patte Atkins-Grad was accused of assaulting a city resident right there at the event, by throwing water at him.
Kevin Muscolino says he had never been heavily involved in politics until recently. "I've probably been to two city commission meetings in 20 years," he says. But this year, he has been at the forefront of a movement to get the commissioner recalled after she was found not guilty of bribery-related charges with a defense that she was too dumb to understand she was being bribed.
"I will happily give you a rundown of what happened" last night, said Muscolino, reached by telephone this morning. He says he arrived at the sheriff's event with his wife and daughter. He and his daughter were wearing lime green t-shirts that read, "Recall Patte Atkins-Grad. Sign the Petition."
"We weren't soliciting anyone. We had just gotten there," he said. "We walked through a swale area. My daughter said, 'Oh my God, there's Patte Atkins.' Mind you, I haven't spoken to this woman other than running into her at Quiznos six years ago. She came up and threw the entire contents of her water bottle at me and screamed wildly, 'I hope you rot in hell, coming here with your daughter in those damn t-shirts. I've never done anything to you!'
Muscolino continued, "In a moment of rage, I wanted to grab her by the neck, but realizing that wasn't the best thing to do, I [got an officer instead]." The first officer was reluctant to take a report, Muscolino says, even though "I'm soaking wet! I'm covered in water!" so he had to ask a higher-ranking officer. He says that as soon as the incident report is ready, he will take it to the state attorney. "I fully intend to file charges against her," he said.
Sharon Aron Baron, who runs the website Tamarac Talk, says she witnessed the incident. She first reported it on her blog.
From Baron's blog:
"We were in a grass swale and had just gotten there, next thing I know Atkins-Grad is charging at me yelling, 'You're going to rot in hell for bringing that child out here in that shirt!' Referring to recall shirt we were wearing, and yelling 'What did I ever do to you? I've done nothing to ever deserve this!'" - Kevin Muscolino
Muscolino tried to talk to her, but then she threw her water bottle at him. Water drenched his glasses, face and shirt, and some got on his daughter.
Baron too said officers were initially reluctant to file an incident report. (Commissioners have power over officers because they vote on police matters, Baron noted.) "We were surrounded by BSO officers and were like, 'Can anybody help us? We had to run and get the chief."
Baron said she, too, was almost a victim. "Patte nearly clobbered me with the bottle. She yelled that she's sorry she didn't hit me with a bottle as well. So I said, 'So you are admitting you threw a bottle at him then?' Our chief of police was right there." [Baron says she was referring not to Sheriff Scott Israel, but the person in charge in Tamarac district office.]
The reason for the offending shirts goes back to 2006, when a father-and-son team of developers, Bruce and Shawn Chait, were trying to win influence with Tamarac city commissioners so they could buy and then build on a piece of city-owned land. Atkins-Grad let them throw a $4,000 victory party when she won her election, and she also let them pay $2,300 to lease a BMW for her. The developers received approval for their project shortly after the 2006 election.
Several commissioners were charged in relation to the bribes, but Atkins-Grad got off of eight felony charges with the defense that she was "dumb as a rock," according to her own attorney, and didn't understand what was going on. When she returned to office after her legal tribulations, city residents rallied and started a petition drive, asking that there be a special vote on whether or not to recall her.
Baron fully admits she was "co-organizer of the recall team -- I blur the lines between journalism and activism. I cant keep my nose out of stuff."
She says that the group needed 1,875 signatures to force the recall question on the ballot. "Two weeks ago, we turned in 2,600 petition signatures and we know that about 2,200 are valid." They should know in two weeks whether the Supervisor of Elections validates the signatures and grants the election.
Baron says that Atkins Grad's water bottle throw was not out of character. She says the commissioner has a special move that her detractors call "the hit and run."
To some people whom she doesn't like, Atkins-Grad will " run up and start yelling at you and run away. By the time you have a chance to react, she's gone," Baron claims.
Atkins-Grad declined to comment today. New Times has requested a copy of the incident report.
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