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Palm Coast City Council’s Bill Lewis: Two Minutes, Six Errors, Countless Sneers

| November 21, 2012

Bill Lewis was appointed to the Palm Coast City Council in 2008. He has yet to win a competitive election. (© FlaglerLive)

Bill Lewis was appointed to the Palm Coast City Council in 2008. He has yet to win a competitive election. (© FlaglerLive)

On Monday Palm Coast City Council member Bill Lewis sent me a note correcting an error in my Sunday column: he had in fact run a competitive campaign once, though he has yet to win one. I’d mistakenly written that he had done neither. The error was immediately corrected.

pierre tristam flaglerlive editor's blogThe following day however, Lewis took to the floor of a city council meeting for a little over two minutes and publicly but inaccurately ridiculed me. You can hear his two minutes below. The ridicule is not objectionable. It’s every journalist’s vest at one time or another. But Lewis’s inaccuracies—at least six of them in two minutes—are objectionable, considering that Lewis’s complaint was about getting one’s facts straight. I would have normally addressed him between me and the Sunshine law in an email. Since he chose to broadcast his errors publicly, they must be corrected publicly.

Bill,

“If you want to be an avenging angel,” you said in remarks directed at me from your council seat Tuesday morning, “you should perhaps get your facts straight.”

You might want to take your own advice, preferably without abusing your council seat to falsely scold others. If your two-minute comment had been published on FlaglerLive, I’d have had to run at least six corrections, two of them about your own personal history. You publicly ridiculed my memory. I won’t ridicule yours, having a mother dying of Alzheimer’s in our lovely town here. But I will correct you.

One error was made in the article in question: you never won a competitive race, but indeed ran one in 2005. The original line had it that you hadn’t run one. You alerted me to the error in an email on Monday, at 12:53 p.m. The error was corrected 24 minutes later, and a confirmation email sent to you to that effect, a faster correction turn-around than you’d get in any other media. FlaglerLive publishes on average 5,000 words a day, or the weekly equivalent of a magazine in the thick-paged 1960s, before ads devoured all content. It’s a lot of volume produced with a premium on immediacy over 15-hour days. Mistakes are made and are regrettable. The New York Times runs 10 to 20 corrections a day, despite the benefit of a few hundred editors lucky enough to work eight-hour days. But mistakes are corrected promptly and gladly, and if we could afford free hats to tip and gift to those who point them out, we would (and soon might).

What you did not do, Bill, is note to your little audience that the mistake was immediately corrected, an error of omission on your part that belies a sly bit of dishonesty I did not know you capable of. Live and learn.


Bill Lewis Undercorrects
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Second, you stated, incorrectly but to much snickering mileage from your colleagues, that I endorsed you while at the News-Journal, and that I forgot that I endorsed you. My memory is often a wreck, but not so much that it would require an ex-chemist to tell me why I wrote what I wrote in 2005. And you misunderstand the way a newspaper editorial board works. We debated, argued, deliberated, and only then voted. You might try it sometime. The News-Journal editorial board as a whole voted to endorse you. I personally did not, and was often in dissent on that board, particularly in matters dealing with Palm Coast recommendations, where age or incumbency or skin color or party affiliation sometimes took on innate virtues I categorically disagreed with. You were three-for-four coming into the interview. You were in a four-way race (you seem to have forgotten Cunnane and Crabill), though you and Alan Peterson were clearly the front-runners. But I admired Peterson then and considered him far more in command of his facts and his eagerness to do his homework than you were. His years on the council and the county commission since only confirmed my original impressions, as your years on the council have as well. I was, of course, outvoted at the time, as were you, until your coin toss.

Third, you have not won a competitive race, and to claim that running unopposed in a city where the mayor was elected by barely 5 percent of the electorate amounts to an endorsement of the voters is a little disingenuous. We were never given a choice to vote for you or not. You won by default. You could say the same of Barbara Revels or Suzanne Johnston, but they each won their first election competitively, appearing before forums, facing the challenges of a campaign and of a challenger, answering the tough questions, as you never have in a winning campaign. It’s obviously a sore point with you, but it’s neither semantics nor accurate to say that you have won a competitive election. You simply have not. Maybe you’ll change that in 2014.


You mentioned being appointed to the council two years after your first run. It was actually three. Not a big deal, but your error would have required a correction in any self-respecting publication all the same. You mentioned running two years later unopposed. It was actually one year later. You twice mis-identified FlaglerLive—as “Flagler Times” and “Flagler Online,” two outlets that have long gone the way of the 8-track. Again, not a big deal, though the casual derision you show a local non-profit business supported by innumerable local businesses and 9,000 daily readers, while not surprising (you channel your city manager well), is nevertheless distasteful for an elected representative. Perhaps some small businesses are worthier than others in your eyes, a mode of discrimination I would rather not know you capable of. Or perhaps you thought it was your turn to take a shot at local media, after Jon’s and fellow-Bill’s shot at WNZF.

And I did not “castrate” the city council on how it approached the Ferguson appointment, as you put it. I only castigated it, though as a metaphor for the council, you might be on to something. I’m not in the habit of exploiting verbal slips, either. It’s quite crass. But so is publicly lecturing someone about getting his facts straight from behind a house glassier than Sammy Davis Jr.’s left eye.

Of course, you never addressed the essence of the article in question, choosing to divert an argument about a council’s arrogance to a councilman’s dented pride. But between your sneers and the attaboy titters of your very grown-up colleagues, you illustrated the original point very well. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter.

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29 Responses for “Palm Coast City Council’s Bill Lewis: Two Minutes, Six Errors, Countless Sneers”

  1. Magnolia says:

    Standing ovation for you, Flaglerlive. Maybe someday these men will stop smirking and “atta boying” each other and remember why they were elected….to represent us, not the builders and other special interests in Palm Coast.

    We can always hope.

  2. Stevie says:

    This is why most people don’t go to city council meetings and why they hardly ever criticize their government in public. Elected officials routinely insult and harass speakers once they have finished speaking and left the podium with no way to return a defense. The comments from the commissioners are a public embarrassment and they know it. This is how they keep you shut up so they can operate in the stink they create.

  3. tulip says:

    Isn’t this the same councilman who a couple of years ago was indignant over the fact that he wasn’t allowed in the V.I.P. tent at the airshow because Palm Coast hadn’t contributed to it? If it’s not, please correct me .

    It was very unclassy for Lewis to publicly chide you, and it should’ve been between you and him. When a person reads an article about him or herself, they read it closely and take every word personally. The public sort of skims over it and misses half of what is said and by Lewis bringing it out publicly, he has called negative and silly attention to himself. Not a good idea.

  4. E. C. H. says:

    He’s on the defense so why not threaten emotional, psychological, and of course the potential financial implications to your family’s business in a public arena for speaking out. Is this guy another one of Palm Coast’s intimidation gangsters?

    By the way Pierre, the Public Corruption Unit of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement handles both corruption and the breaking of the Sunshine laws. Specifically the *Public Corruption Unit*. …according to a conversation with the FBI this morning.

    Closed door meetings do break that law, don’t they?

    Perjury in council meetings does break the law doesn’t it?

  5. Geezer says:

    Wow, I’m desirous of another “Grumpy Old Men” movie. Problem is that Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau
    have left this life. But Palm Coast can make for a nice backdrop for a revival of that franchise, and naturally
    Mr. Lewis can be screen tested. The title: “Grumpy Old Man That’s Beyond Reproach.”

    I guess that it’s obvious to everyone that this fellow and the majority of elected officials simply want power and prestige, and view their constituents as a big bunch of nags. Thats some rarified air that they breathe, these politicians. A little thin that air…….

    Looking down your nose at people can cause you to trip over your ego, Mr. Lewis.

  6. Jim Neuenfeldt says:

    hehehehehe if so much was not at stake, the first comment that comes to my mind is “Sic Em! Pierre!”.

    A large and looming problem is the General Publics distrust of elected officials. How many times have we all heard, They are the same people just different names? How often do we feel that any effort, that required to write a letter, attend a meeting, or even pick up a telephone and call, does it seem to always fall on deaf ears?

    An active and participatory council, would go out of their way to make sure that their actions are not only known, but that the input that backs it up is also. Would it be so hard to have a town hall meeting on a Saturday or Sunday? How troublesome it would be to set up a tent and put out chairs at one of the various public parks and hold a City Meeting on a Sunday? or even a Holiday? Can the City not give comptime to those that would be required to attend such a meeting? Thus avoiding overtime expense?

    It is the responsibility of any business, just like Flagler Live to reach out and make their product not only accessible, but pertinent to attract customers.. Could you imagine government having to attract taxpayers? Would things be different if they did? I think so!

    Our council talks about being business oriented, and have expertise in those business operations? How come our government then is not more businesslike in its attitudes and actions? Beating up people either physically or verbally is just wrong. The hurts of either leave lasting impressions not only on the receiver, but the witness’s as well, regardless of “victor” or cause.

    To work toward the goal of common good is what government was supposed to be about.
    It is not about what is good for my friends and my point of view only.
    Transparency in all GOVERNMENT functions is critical to trust. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have any or very little of that anymore.

    Our council members should look critically at every meeting and find ways to involve more people, not chase them away because they feel they are substandard, or not as worthy as the almighty “elected ones”.

  7. glad fly says:

    apparantly arrogance is contagious.

  8. Tired says:

    Looking forward to seeing Lewis go in 2014!!

    And why did our public officials allow Lewis the opportunity to grand stand for his own personal gain at a council meeting? Were no other competent officials present?

    E.C.H., I’m going to google, but any idea how we reach the Public Corruption Unit?

    • E. C. H. says:

      Tired: The telephone number is (850) 410-8240. They are a part of the Executive Investigation division so you may want to be sure you are talking to someone in the Public Corruption Unit.

      website is also: http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/getdoc/a0bb4ec6-ec47-4750-aa83-bd4221612040/FDLE-Contacts.aspx

      • jimmythebull says:

        The city council, mayor,city planer all need to be investigated by the F.B.I..
        Council and the mayor should be doing the job of the city planner, saving us over a million dollars over a five year period. Instead of concentrating on the Bloods selling drugs at Ralph Carter Park, they want to stop you from selling home made baked goods and pay a fee for yard sales.
        Also a council member and his wife have conflict of interests to sway his voting.
        I have contacted the Governor.

  9. daveytickle says:

    Mr. Tristam: You are one class-act that’s going to be hard to beat.
    sic-um tiger!

  10. confidential says:

    Why and open, misinformed and unjust critique by Councilman Lewis promoted the background approving laughs of his council peers..? Lacked respect for the residents. Was his public outcry against the community new councilman selection disapproval, generated by an agenda item listed on the meeting? Is not supposed to be a case of; pay (we the tax payers) and shut up!

  11. CHECK PLEASE says:

    Again you have made my day!
    You try to do the right thing and instead of being satisfied at your quick response you get a tongue lashing that sounds personal to me.

  12. Kendall says:

    Bill Lewis is an embarrassment to our city. Glad you called him out on his idiocy.

  13. Henry says:

    Kudos Pierre!!! Now this is journalism!!! Please correct the ring leader, what’s his name, oh, Landon, yes Jim Landon.

  14. Uncle Potatoe says:

    The whole dam* city is CORRUPTED !! Get out while you can. More Spy Camera’s, more Spy Drones, more
    internet policing, more cell phone monitors. More fines, more penalties, more code enforcement citation.
    I spent 35 years in another state and NEVER had these kind of harassing problems. Palm Coast is a freaking NIGHTMARE !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Dudley Doright says:

    Great job Pierre! Mr. Lewis is an embarrassment not only to himself but to the citizens of Palm Coast. A few years ago when Mary DiStefano pulled the “hit and run” caper, Mayor Netts claimed that she was suffereing from diminished capacity as an excuse for her actions. Maybe Mayor Netts will use the same excuse for Mr. Lewis. However, when such excuse is used, then that person should be removed from office for cause! Should have happen to DiStefano and Lewis is a walking case of diminished capacity. Let’s get a recall started. Mr. Lewis has not seen the ball since kick off!

  16. Deep South says:

    What does this have to do with what Bill Lewis was elected to do. Who really gives a hoot about what you feel about Flagler Live. You just wasted 2 minutes of the taxpayers money to blow off a meaningless comment of nothing. If you would direct your energy to what you were elected to do, thing would get done.

  17. PJ says:

    This s very sad.

    You have to get into a verbal correction match with this below average politician.

    I can not believe that Lewis has nothing better to do but to correct information “WE THE PEOPLE” don’t really care about.

    Lets talk the merits of Mr. Lewis and his performance as a city council member:

    1) He does nothing
    2) He barely reads the packets on the agenda
    3) He has little to no idea what the heck is going on
    4) He never puts heat on Landon, Lewis just caves and gives in all the time
    5) He never goes against the Mayor and when Lewis does he votes to bad or does not vote on the item that needs his support to the good.

    Get your facts straight, prove me wrong Councilmen Lewis………………………………..

    Peirre you had no choice but to answer the situation but quite frankly your not always wrong and not always right but at the least you write stuff that people need to read. Good Job Thanks PJ

  18. Dadgum says:

    Just saying – That’s why we have to support Flagler Live. It is our only voice in Flagler County and without it we are kept in the dark. We need information which is unbiased and “Live”.

    It would be a shame to see this valuable site that keeps us informed, sometimes, as it happens live. Please support Flagler Live today.

    PS Not affiliated in any way to Flagler Live just a supporter. I believe in supporting starving artists.

  19. wsh302@msn.com says:

    what kind of credentials does this character have, he sounds like he talks out of his axxhxxx with no fire insurance.

  20. Reality Check says:

    This grumpy old bastard needs to be gone along with the other 3, they are so out of touch with reality it is a sin, a council that can never reach a decision, they need a consultant on every issue. I sure hope the people of Palm Coast come out and vote next election, and look for a candidate under 65 (or at least does not act like he is 90, when bread was a nickel) with a vision to grow our City

  21. DLf says:

    Great come back and to the point. I was surprised you did not get the “race card” played against you ….yet.

  22. "My Daily Rant" says:

    With Fools like this CLOWN running our county you can see why were doing as badly as we are.
    Pierre good job,Maybe you should run for office,Oh right your a Liberal forget it.PEACE……

  23. Liana G says:

    …“Of course, you never addressed the essence of the article in question, choosing to divert an argument about a council’s arrogance to a councilman’s dented pride. But between your sneers and the attaboy titters of your very grown-up colleagues, you illustrated the original point very well.”…

    So basically, Mr Lewis’ handlers set him up to do a bit of distraction on their part, and they, in turn, played their part by egging him on. But were they actually laughing with him, at him, or both? No one likes, admires, respects, or feels beholden or kindly to a stooge, Mr Lewis. Hubristic pride is the worst kind of pride. And the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, especially in the hands of people like Pierre.

    An informed citizen is an involved citizen. I will definitely continue to support quality journalism like FlaglerLive!

  24. Who Dat says:

    Wow Liana! Well said. Yes, I do support FL.

  25. rgh says:

    Who really cares. Lewis, Obama , they’re both an embarressment…

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