After eight months in office, District 4 County Commissioner Rob Williamson still doesn’t understand the purpose of the Fourth Estate – the “press.”
He seems to believe social media is an adequate substitute for answering tough questions the media tends to ask elected officials.
But after the last couple of weeks, we can’t really blame him for trying to dodge inquiries.
After all, he drew intense criticism for his surprise June 11 move, suspending county funding for the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Center.
Then attempted to use his personal Facebook account for damage control.
The problem with Facebook is that it allows us to paint the best version of ourselves. No one edits it. Nobody really fact checks it. The owner of each Facebook page posts only what they want and can leave out the rest of the story.
So we think Williamson was cowardly avoiding accountability, especially in light of the discovery that county staff errors resulted in “most” of the problems he had cited for blocking the center’s money.
Although the center was vindicated, Williamson cannot undo the damage he has done to the center’s reputation by casting unfair allegations regarding financial management at the volunteer group .
To add insult to injury, Williamson made his Facebook profile picture a sea turtle. Not sure if he was mocking the group or showing support, but we think mocking is a pretty good bet, considering one turtle center volunteer publicly called out the commissioner when he gave a “smirk” during a commission meeting.
Additionally, Williamson posted what he claimed was the email that was referenced in our paper and by community members as “threatening.” However, it wasn’t the same email.
The email he posted was to County Administrator Hunter Walker. In fact, in the email in question, the one that didn’t make the cut on his Facebook page, he referred to a phone call with center president Cinnamon Holderman in which he asked her to meet “without the press.”
It would stand to reason that Williamson doesn’t want the press there because he doesn’t want to be held accountable for his actions. This way, he can log on to his Facebook page and give his one-sided version of the story.
He actually posted that if his constituents would like to read “fact-based information about me or your local government,” they can get them through his Facebook updates. In his defense, he also mentioned watching the meetings online and reading the minutes, but to even consider his Facebook page as a factual update is ludicrous.
In an even lengthier diatribe, Williamson tells “his side” of the story. If you watch the video from the July 6 meeting, which is posted on Navarre Press’ YouTube channel, you’ll see Williamson’s definition of a budget proposal is different from the definition of seasoned Commission Chairman Don Salter and Attorney Roy Andrews.
That alone should clue in Williamson to the fact that not all of the issues are black and white.
Elected officials can’t take to social media and paint themselves as martyrs to their constituents. They need to be held accountable to the people who voted them into office. And that is the purpose of the press – to serve as a watchdog for the people and present both sides of an issue.