County Commissioner Rob Williamson faced heat from constituents Monday for ‘liking’ vulgar comments made about Navarre residents on the social media platform Facebook.
Navarre resident Yvonne Harper, past president of the Holley by the Sea Homeowners Association, told the Board of County Commissioners that she wanted to bring some comments to light during the public forum portion of the panel’s regularly scheduled committee meeting.
“I am not seeking any action or comment by this board, but rather to shine a light on the dark world these men have created,” Harper said.
Harper told the board a little background information about her military service, her life as a mother of two and her community service.
She then told commissioners about the comments that were made by Navarre resident Bo Bowden on the Concerned Citizens of Navarre-Exiled Facebook page, comments that Williamson chose to support, she said.
In the posts, Harper, Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Tamara Fountain and Navarre Press publisher Sandi Kemp are called “#F—-ingWhiteWomen.”
The posts also refer to the women as Navarre’s threat to truth and democracy under a meme of Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Nancy Pelosi listed as threats to America’s truth and democracy.
In later posts, Harper and others were referred to as “c—t” in a “Vote a c—t out Tuesday.” Bowden posted several times about Harper, referring to her with vulgarities.
“The individual elected to represent all residents of District 4 ‘liked’ a post in which three of his constituents, four residents he was elected to serve, were called the foulest terms,” she said. “In some ways I was angered. In others I was deeply saddened because instead of being a man of integrity and saying the comment was most foul and uncalled for, he ‘liked’ it.”
Harper said she had never met Bowden and was shocked by the vulgar comments, but she said Williamson’s decision to “like” the posts was worse.
“Sadly and not surprisingly, there were ‘likes’ to this comment. But as sickening as that was, it was surreal to see County Commissioner Rob Williamson’s name as one of the individuals that liked Bo Bowden’s comment,” she said.
John Link of Milton also spoke during the meeting. Link has been critical of Williamson on social media for some time. He pointed out that Williamson pushed for the resignation of Jack Sanborn from the Tourist Development Council for a comment Sanborn made in June regarding women that some viewed as offensive.
“Possibly in the interest of fairness and consistency, asking for the resignation of Commissioner Williamson would be appropriate,” Link said.
Link also criticized an alleged verbal altercation that occurred between Williamson and Commission Chairman Bob Cole in which Williamson allegedly challenged Cole to a brawl.
Williamson did not comment on that topic. Link pushed, asking if the commissioner was denying the incident occurred, but Williamson did not respond.
Williamson said the citizen comments being made at the meeting were intended to harm his campaign for re-election.
“The folks that have come forward today are obviously in support of my opponent that is running against me,” he said. “They are trying to use this forum to influence the election.”
He went on to say that voters would not be swayed.
“Hopefully, the citizens of Santa Rosa County will see through this garbage,” he said.
He made no apology for supporting the vulgarities and attacks on the character of citizens. He did not make any comment about the posts themselves.
Cole interjected that neither of the commenters had brought up the campaign.
Beyond that comment, none of the board members made further comment on the issue, and the meeting was adjourned without action.
A Navarre resident who would identify herself only as Diane contacted the Navarre Press after watching Harper make her statement to commissioners.
“Yvonne Harper is extremely brave. As I watched her speak I felt very emotional, and I could tell it was very hard for her, but she needed to stand up and confront and expose the bullies. That took a lot of guts,” she said.
Following the meeting, Cole condemned the Facebook comments in an interview with Navarre Press.
“I was appalled by the person that would put that on Facebook or for anyone to say that about any person in our county and have the audacity to put that on the public media. I’m disturbed by any commissioner who would do anything other than denounce the comments,” he said. “No matter how you feel about anyone, you don’t degrade people like that.”
Commissioner Sam Parker said the comments directed at local women were unacceptable.
“As a father of two boys, I have taught my children to have the utmost respect for women, and I don’t feel it is ever appropriate to talk about women in a derogatory manner especially on a public forum,” he said.
Commissioners Lane Lynchard and Don Salter did not return phone calls by press time.
In regard to his re-election campaign, Williamson has received criticism on that front as well. His opponent, Dave Piech, has filed two complaints with the Florida Elections Commission regarding two recent mailers that were sent out to voters by Williamson’s campaign.
In the mailers, Williamson states that Piech just moved here from Chicago and that he refused to vote for President Trump, based on Santa Rosa County Supervisor of Elections records.
Both of these statements are false.
By law, the county’s Supervisor of Elections office cannot keep track of which candidate someone voted for. Piech has owned a home in Navarre since 2015. He moved out of Chicago 33 years ago to follow his career with the Air Force.
Under Florida Election Code 104.271 subsection 2, “any candidate who, in a primary election or other election, with actual malice makes or causes to be made any statement about an opposing candidate which is false is guilty of a violation of this code.”
The punishment for such violation can include a $5,000 fine.
A call to Williamson by the Navarre Press was not returned by press time.
As seen in the Aug. 23 issue of Navarre Press.
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