The Voice of the Gem City

News March 11, 2022

This is Marcia Lane,  your roving reporter.

When Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach Thursday night demanded Mayor Terrill Hill resign “immediately and irrevocably” the audience at Palatka City Commission meeting gasped. They gasped again when DeLoach said he would contact the Governor’s Office to present his findings and petition that Hill be removed from office if the mayor continued “down your self-motivated reckless path which smacks of corruption”. DeLoach presented documentation to the city regarding the charges. Hill didn’t resign but did spend more than half-an-hour answering the Sheriff, criticizing how the Palatka Police has operated and calling the attack political. A number of people in the audience spoke in defense of the mayor and others spoke up for law enforcement. During Hill’s rebuttal he spoke of talk he said came from the sheriff’s office that he was a drug dealer. Hill, who is black, said he had been fighting injustice, racism and bigotry since he returned to Palatka to practice law. He spoke of not taking cases involving arrests by the Palatka Police and the amount of money he wasn’t making. He also brought up a lawsuit he’s filed on behalf of his brother, a longtime Sheriff’s Office deputy, and the lack of promotions for blacks into command staff. He gave his version of why at the last minute he pulled out of a case involving an arrest by Palatka Police and his stand-by involvement in a traffic stop, two specifics cited by DeLoach. Several times remarks were made about how policing and the recent eight drive-by shootings in two weeks in Palatka had become a black and white issue. Hill twice pointed out there were signs marking Palatka city limits and said people who wanted to live in the county should move to the other side of the signs.

A number of Putnam Sheriff’s officers and Palatka Police members were at the Palatka commission meeting Thursday. One man wasn’t there — Chief Jason Shaw. Mayor Terrill Hill said he wished Shaw was at the meeting and didn’t know why he wasn’t there to speak. City Manager Don Holmes when asked during a break about Chief Shaw’s whereabouts said he didn’t know, but did say he understood the chief was on vacation. While Hill spoke repeatedly of his support for police and Shaw during the meeting, that message didn’t always come through. Putnam Sheriff Gator DeLoach, who first spoke of his concerns about treatment of Palatka Police at a Republican Party meeting earlier this week, said he hadn’t intended to come to the meeting, but was there to stand in solidarity with the Palatka Police “who have been under the thumb of Mayor Hill and select other members of the commission who have habitually and systematically meddled in and undermined police business for years.”

Weather — specifically rain — is playing havoc with events this weekend. A delayed start and suspension of play on the first day of The Players Championship Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach had tournament officials asking for the public’s patience. This morning rain was again a problem for the tournament that is scheduled through Sunday. The weather may also be an issue for this weekend’s Celtic Festival and St. Patrick’s Day Parade in St. Augustine. The parade is at 10 a.m. and heads from the Francis Field area and through downtown. The festival, which begins tonight, runs Saturday and Sunday at Francis Field and will include Celtic music and games.

Rain’s not the only concern. A drop of temperatures is coming Saturday night with a low of 31 degrees predicted in Palatka. Cold weather shelters are opening at First Presbyterian Church of Palatka’s fellowship hall at the Palatka riverfront and at Life Church Palatka on Saturday night.

A 62-year-old man has been charged in a shooting death during a “verbal disagreement” on Poplar Drive in Interlachen Wednesday. Michael Wojcik first called the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office but then got a firearm and went back to confront Willie Vining, 61. The Sheriff’s Office says Wojcik was arrest around 2 a.m. on Thursday on a second degree manslaughter charge.

In Putnam County First Presbyterian Church of Crescent City holds an in-door yard sale today and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Palatka continues their St. Monica Music Fest Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m. with a free concert featuring flutist Melissa Lucia and pianist Michael Clark. This evening beginning at 4 p.m. Lenten Fish and Shrimp dinners are being sold at the fellowship hall of the church at 114 S. Fourth St. On Sunday Keep Putnam Beautiful holds Spruce Up on St. Johns & Oak from 3-4:30 p.m. Gather at Ameris Bank parking lot in the 600 block of St. Johns, says Nicole Grace with Keep Putnam Beautiful.

And don’t forget to turn your clocks forward at 2 a.m. Sunday as Daylight Savings Time returns.

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