Florida’s youngest city official and gay rights advocate, Tyler Morrison, has resigned from a position on Boca Raton’s Community Relation’s board amid controversy and scandal.
It turns out that Morrison is no longer officially a resident of Boca Raton and it was his mother, Andrea Riggin, who alerted city officials of his residence and ineligibility to serve.
In a series of emails to the city Riggin outs her son as not living in the city. She then goes on to say that her son has been unduly influenced by Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, and used as a pawn in his fight for gay rights in the city. She further states that her 18-year-old son is now living with the 58-year-old gay rights activist.
Morrison was 17 at the time of his appointment and said he lived in Boca Raton when he was unanimously appointed to the board by the city council last December. He officially resigned April 3.
"He seemed like such an articulate and dedicated young man who wanted to get involved," Susan Haynie, Boca Raton's Deputy Mayor, told SFGN after the meeting where the council appointed Morrison. “I was sad to see that he had to resign in that manner.”
Palm Beach County’s official source of gossip Jose Lambiet’s Gossip Extra first broke the story with the headline “Teen Gay Rights Activist Caught in a Lie — Resigns Boca City Gig.”
Hoch took issue with the headline implying Morrison is a liar, instead commenting that Morrison did make a mistake by not resigning earlier from the board and called it a life lesson for the young teen activist.
Morrison has declined to be interviewed.
“He made a mistake, admitted he made a mistake, and resigned from the Board. The rest is gossip-column stuff and pseudo-news,” Hoch said. Hoch refused to confirm or deny to SFGN whether Morrison is living with him.
It’s still unclear when he actually stopped living in Boca. His letter of resignation reads:
“Due in great part to the incarcerations of both my parents as well as numerous issues which prevented my mother from providing a safe home environment, over the years, I have lived with various relatives and fostercare providers. When I “aged out” of the system upon turning 18 earlier this year, I became homeless. There were no relatives who could provide a safe environment for me until late-May, when I leave for college in Illinois. There were no social service agencies to offer assistance. I turned to the for assistance and was offered housing with my own bedroom and bathroom in a condominium within easy walking distance of my high school and my after school job.”
Riggin wrote in her emails to the city that Morrison hasn’t lived in Boca since October. She also claimed “Tyler would have NEVER even known of 5161 if it wasn’t for Mr. Hoch.”
The 5161 is in reference to an ordinance passed in Boca Raton in January 2011, which opted the city out of the county’s anti-discrimination policy. No other city in Palm Beach County has taken such a step to avoid protecting LGBT employees.
SFGN first interview Morrison on Nov. 8, a month after Riggin claims her son no longer lived in Boca, where he stated he did live in Boca and was inspired to get involved in Boca’s gay rights struggle after volunteering for the 2012 Obama general election campaign. He commented that he learned of gay rights issues facing Boca from news articles including SFGN’s. After that interview he went on to speak at Boca’s city council meeting and only later did he meet Rand Hoch.
In the emails Riggin admitted to being estranged from her son and went on to imply that Hoch influenced Morrison to turn down an opportunity to attend the University of Illinois. However, in Morrison’s resignation letter he wrote “when I leave for college in Illinois.”
Morrison originally applied to the community relations board after pushing city officials to update their 47-year-old anti-discrimination policy last November.
He wanted the policy to protect LGBT employees from discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” like Palm Beach County’s Equal Employment Ordinance, which Boca intentionally opted out of in January 2011.
“I really don't think has an impact on the push for equal rights in Boca Raton,” Rand Hoch told SFGN
Susan Haynie, who is officially running to be Mayor of Boca in the 2014 municipal election, according to the Sun-Sentinel, still agrees with Hoch six months after the issue was introduced.
“If we’re going to amend our personnel policies, I feel we should do it in a comprehensive manner and also address the benefit issue,” Haynie told SFGN, referring to the city’s lack of domestic partner insurance benefits.
She expects the city fathers to address both during their goal-setting sessions in May. “Our policy needs to be updated, no question about that.”
READ: Riggin's email and Tyler’s resignation
READ: The City’s response