Ocala — The Ocala City Council District 2 seat came open in December after councilman-elect, Tyrone Oliver, 63, was disqualified for a felony charge from 1986.
The charge came to light after the City Attorney Patrick G. Gilligan brought the information forward right before Oliver was to be sworn in.
In an interview with Ocala Post, Oliver expressed his concern about how the situation has been handled by the city.
Oliver, who is a Republican, said he spent a year running for the District 2 seat and won the election…twice.
“Not one time during my campaign was there ever any mention about a felony conviction,” Oliver said. He went on to say, “I was under the impression everything was fine. I had already taken care of everything on my end…not to mention I had been voting for years prior to this coming up.”
Oliver was a police officer at the Ocala Police Department in the late 70s before deciding to leave to finish college.
Then, in 1986, Oliver said he was hanging out with a few acquaintances when his life was turned upside down.
“While hanging out, we were approached by undercover OPD officers. The officers accused us of having cocaine,” Oliver said.
Oliver says he told the officers that he knew nothing about any cocaine. He said he was taken to the police station, at which time the officers interrogated him and instructed him to tell officers who had the cocaine.
Oliver said, “They told me that I either tell them who had cocaine or I would also be charged.”
Oliver told Ocala Post that he was the only black guy in the group of people who had been hauled in, and when he told the officers that he didn’t know anything about the cocaine, they charged him with selling cocaine.
Oliver said, “I remember being scared out of my mind. I couldn’t believe it.”
During his arrest, Oliver said he was not in possession of cocaine, nor had he attempted to sell any cocaine.
“It was simply a case of wrong place at the wrong time. It was a time where if you were a black man in the group, guilty or not, you got charged. If you refused to snitch or didn’t have the information police were looking for, you got charged,” Oliver said.
Oliver said he could not afford a good attorney at the time, and even though there was no evidence, he was sentenced to three months in jail and placed on probation.
After serving the three months, and while attending the University of Florida, Oliver said he paid his probation dues.
“At one point, I notified the court that I needed to move from Ocala to Tampa to finish my education and take a better job,” Oliver said. “I got permission.”
Oliver said he was then arrested in 1990 on a warrant, at which time he was told he had failed to pay $60.00. Oliver said he knew nothing about a warrant.
“I again, found myself fighting the system. I never got in trouble, did what I had to do, and somehow the situation came back to bite me,” Oliver said with a shaky voice. He added, “This never should have happened to me, and after being on this side of it, I now understand the frustration of those who innocently get caught up in the system.”
Ocala Post reached out to both OPD and the state Attorney’s Office. Ocala Post was told that per Florida Statute 119, the records were too old and had been purged out of the system.
Oliver said, “I don’t like to play the race card, but I honestly feel this is because I am a Republican black man who was set to replace a Democrat. I feel like I don’t matter.”
Oliver told Ocala Post that he has since hired legal council and is being represented by Tallahassee Attorney Richard Coats.
Oliver said they have petitioned the Governor’s Office for help with the situation but have not heard anything back.
“The city is saying I don’t have any civil rights, but this is wrong…it’s so wrong,” Oliver said.
Oliver, and his wife, who is a United States Air Force veteran, operate Deliverance Outreach Ministries. The non-profit serves more than 3,000 homeless people. The ministry not only helps with those who are homeless and hungry but they also work with several doctors and provide free healthcare to those who need it.
Oliver said he also worked for Doctor Cannon at the Ocala Orthopedic Group for 26 years as an Orthopedic Technologist.
“All I have ever wanted to do is serve the people. I am hurt over how I have been treated, I am really hurt, but I will not lose my faith,” Oliver said.
Coats says that if Oliver had better representation in 1986 he most likely would not be facing this issue now.
“I will not give up. I won the vote, not once, but twice, and I should be allowed to sit on the Council,” Oliver said.