City Manager Expresses Feelings About Activists

Debbie Manns under scrutiny over texts with local insurance agent Jeff Starkey


July 27, 2022

Last updated

July 27, 2022

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New Port Richey City Manager Debbie Manns is under scrutiny over a series of text messages between her and local insurance agent Jeff Starkey. In the exchange, Manns expresses her displeasure over the “not guilty” verdict of a local activist Marlowe Jones, admitting to Starkey that she was “not happy” with the trial's outcome. 

Activist Marlowe Jones was charged by the city of New Port Richey with battery on a law enforcement officer but was declared not guilty after the case went to trial. During the trial, it was revealed that the only evidence against Marlowe was the testimony of the police officer, who could not recall the events of the night accurately. Alleged video proof that led to the arrest was unable to clearly show any wrongdoing on the part of Jones, who has been active in promoting the BLM movement in New Port Richey. 

According to Creative Loafing, Manns was updating Starkey, a former councilman, on the status of the trial. In the conversation, Starkey refers to Jones and other local activists as “loons;” a statement that Manns does not say anything to disagree with. 

The feelings expressed by Manns and Starkey in the released messages didn’t shock Jones. The city of New Port Richey has levied (and dropped) noise fines against protesters, and a member of the police department posted a photo on social media posing with a Confederate flag. These events paint a dire picture of distrust between the city, the police, and minorities.

After being acquitted, Jones began pursuing a civil case against the city for the wrongful arrest and accusation. The city has six months to respond before a formal lawsuit is brought against them.  

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