COURTESY : Daily Commercial
fliers clarion call or dirty pool?
political literature disputed by two targeted Sumter commissioners
By Bill Koch
Published September 25, 2006
VILLAGES - Volunteers occasionally can be seen standing at mail stations in The
Villages, handing out one-page fliers on why Sumter County residents should vote
out County Commissioners Jim Roberts and Joey Chandler.
"Mistreatment will only stop if you vote out Roberts and Chandler,"
the fliers state. Villager Henry Cole is listed as the fliers' sponsor.
The literature paints the two Republicans as the culprits behind most of the
county's woes and accuses the pair of nixing proposals that would have benefited
Roberts and Chandler are accused of being "greedy," changing election
procedures, raising taxes, gerrymandering voting districts, ignoring jail
overcrowding, missing the collection of tax dollars and letting a
state-of-the-art recycling plant fall apart.
Unfortunately, all the information in the literature, titled "Remember One
Sumter," is either distorted or false, according to Roberts, Chandler,
meeting minutes, county records and local statistics.
"Everything they've reported is provably wrong," Roberts said.
"It is more than misleading. It is a flat-out, bold-faced lie."
Both Roberts and Chandler are attempting to distribute rebuttals to Cole's
"independent" campaign literature, which urges Villagers to vote for
challengers Garry Breeden and Doug Gilpin.
"If you don't have the facts, you create the lies," Roberts said of
Cole's politicking. "They don't distribute this stuff in the county because
people would know better."
Roberts said Cole hopes to paint the two incumbents in a bad light by repeating
"If you tell a lie enough times, it becomes the truth," Roberts said.
"If you look at our records, it's a very, very strong record. We have been
exemplary public servants."
Roberts disputes every point in Cole's literature. One item points to the 1994
change in the way commissioners are elected, implying the two commissioners had
a hand in the process. Chandler was first elected in 1994 and Roberts first took
office in 2000. The change to single-member voting districts was done before
either of the two were in office.
About 67 percent of Villagers voted to go to single-member voting districts in
1994. Two years ago, a ballot initiative called One Sumter, launched by now
Sumter County Commissioner Dick Hoffman, changed the system back to county-wide
voting for county commissioners. One Sumter narrowly gained approval during the
low-turnout primary election.
Cole accuses Roberts of "gerrymandering county voting districts effectively
disenfranchising Villages residents."
Roberts finds that claim absurd. Following 2003's redistricting of commission
districts, The Villages got two commissioners, rather than one - former
Commissioner Benny Strickland of Wildwood. Commissioners Mike Francis and
Hoffman, who were elected in 2004, both live in The Villages.
Roberts said if Cole is looking for a culprit, he should look to Breeden, who
retired as Public Works director two years ago.
Breeden oversaw the design of new district maps and presented them to the board
on June 10, 2003.
Cole also charges Roberts with refusing to share gas tax money and removing
gates in The Villages.
"They took away your fair share of gasoline tax used for maintaining our
roadway right of ways, and also took away your community gate protection,"
Cole says in his literature.
However, it was Public Works director Tommy Hurst who discovered that the county
was paying The Villages a per-mile rate several times higher than the rest of
the county to maintain rights of way for roads in the retirement community. Many
of those roads were residential and maintained by local homeowners.
Hurst's decision to revamp the system provoked several fiery exchanges, mostly
from Villages leaders who claimed the county's "good ol' boys" were
treating The Villages as a "cash cow," said Village Community
Development District Supervisor Nick Jones.
Village Community Development District Supervisor Seymour Rosenblatt at the time
added fuel to the controversy by saying the areas of the county outside The
Villages were "hillbilly heaven."
According to minutes from the county commission's July 26, 2005 meeting, Roberts
was the one who made the motion to renew the maintenance agreement with The
Villages, a fact Cole ignored.
On gas taxes, state law allows for sharing of gas taxes, which are used for road
repairs, with municipalities - but not with unincorporated areas or community
Cole said Roberts and Chandler "let your state-of-the-art solid waste
composting facility corrode into junk causing the present solid waste
On Nov. 18, 2003, Roberts requested from Breeden an accounting of the solid
waste facility that had won several technology accolades. The days later,
Breeden submitted his resignation letter.
Bushnell City Manager Vince Ruano corroborated Robert's claim that Cole
fabricated his comments about nixing a Villages library in favor of building one
with county money in Bushnell, where Roberts lives.
"There were no county funds involved in the construction of the Bushnell
Public Library," Ruano said in his letter.
Roberts put pressure on the developer prior to construction of The Villages
library to adhere to provisions in the development plan, which stipulated
Cole said he stands by the information in his flier.
"I can't control what they say. I put down what I heard and saw," he
said. "That was the understanding we had."
Cole said he didn't want to scrutinize point-by-point the information in the
flier. "I guess we have an honest disagreement."