Palm Coast mayoral candidate Alan Lowe on Friday twice aired a 100-second campaign commercial attacking incumbent Mayor Milissa Holland for lying, only to himself repeat a set of lies about her that were proven false months ago, which may amount to lying with reckless disregard for the truth–a legally actionable offense even when attacking a public figure.
Lowe’s commercial aired both times on WNZF during last Friday’s Free For All Friday, a weekly public affairs program hosted by David Ayres, the general manager of Flagler Broadcasting.
Today, Richard Coates, a powerful elections-law attorney based in Tallahassee who represents Holland, sent a cease and desist letter to Ayres and WNZF, but not to Lowe. “Because the advertisement sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida contains false, misleading or deceptive statements, you can and you should pull it from the airwaves,” Coates wrote. (In fact, the commercial was paid for Lowe’s campaign alone, not the Republican Party of Florida. Both Lowe and Holland are Republicans running in an ostensibly non-partisan race.)
“Enough is enough,” Holland said in a statement today. “For weeks now I have been attacked with baseless claims, slanderous attacks, and outright lies. As Mayor of Palm Coast I will no longer tolerate this behavior from my opponent. Today my campaign has filed a cease and desist letter to stop the lies being spread over radio. Any continuation of this behavior by my opponent is absolutely unacceptable and will be met again with legal action.”
“That’s OK because we already have ceased and desisted, because he hasn’t bought anymore,” Ayres said today. “This is his ad, this is what he did, and there’s a lot of political ads with misinformation.” Ayres said fact-checking ads would amount to potential censorship. “It’s not us, it’s him, and it’s all on him, and if he keeps putting out false info its on him it’s not on the messenger.”
Ayers could not be accused of covering for Lowe: Holland is one of Ayers’s more frequent guests on Free For All, and she previously if briefly hosted a show of her own on WNZF as the mayor, the weekly half hour paid by the city.
Lowe confirmed that he’d bought only two spots. “I haven’t bought any more time,” he said today.
Lowe said he’d gotten the information in the contentious part of his ad from the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Palm Coast Observer, saying the Observer “confirmed that there was an ethics investigation.” If the Observer did so, it would have likely been speculating, or basing its reporting on a source’;s allegation: the commission neither confirms nor denies investigations. The News-Journal has previously repeated a claim made in June by ex-Palm Coast communications manager Michael Schottey that Holland was under investigation by the other agencies, merely because Schottey, in the News-Journal reporter’s words, “was adamant those probes are in the works.” But the claim is no less false for having been inaccurately reported, or left unverified.
Lowe’s ads reflect the extent to which false claims about Holland started four months ago have fueled several candidates’ campaigns against her since the primary, conflating some of her misjudgments–which she’s conceded–into allegations of criminal acts and creating a false but damaging narrative that continues to inspire Lowe’s pronouncements against her.
Four months ago, before he was among the defeated in the primary for mayor, Schottey delivered a Facebook-live statement from Town center’s Central Park, alleging that Holland was under criminal investigation by the FBI, the state Attorney General’s office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the state Commission on Ethics. It was and remains the most explosive claim to be made about Holland this election cycle, if not about any candidate running locally.
But it was false.
It was very soon proven to be so in reporting about his statement: neither the FDLE nor the state attorney’s office were investigating Holland, both agencies told FlaglerLive, and neither the ethics commission nor the FBI confirm nor deny that investigations may be going on. FlaglerLive again this week re-confirmed with the State Attorney’s Office in the Seventh Judicial Circuit (which covers Flagler, Volusia, St. Johns and Putnam counties), with the Attorney General’s office in Tallahassee, and with FDLE, that neither Holland nor her administration are under investigation.
This too was true then and is still true four months later of the FBI and the ethics commission: while Schottey says he was himself interviewed by a federal agent, as were others at City Hall, no warrants have been served for any documents from Holland, the city manager or the city clerk. None of the three have been interviewed by the FBI. No presentments have been made or indictments issued by a federal grand jury. Month after month, the ethics commission has revealed no such investigation of Holland or anyone else at City Hall, either. It may yet. But an assertion that Holland is under an ethics investigation is, at this point, unverified.
The ethics commission receives numerous complaints from across the state. Complaints may be filed at no cost by anyone for any reason, and often are for political reasons: even if such an investigation results in a $500 fine, the word “investigation” resonates and sticks to its target: it was just such an investigation that ended up costing former Sheriff Fleming his re-election, though the fine amounted to just $500.
Some complaints the commission receives may have validity, but not necessarily through the ethics commission. Many complaints are frivolous, as county officials found out when Kimberle Weeks, the former supervisor of elections, Mark Richter Jr., a former county commission candidate, and Dennis McDonald, a past and current candidate for City Council, filed complaints the ethics commission tossed out. The county has been pursuing all three for legal fees after winning judgments that the complaints were filed with disregard for the truth.
The ethics commission analyses complains for their validity, it may even conduct an inquiry to decide whether an investigation is warranted. But it only reveals that an investigation has or will take place at its monthly meetings. Holland has not been on the commission’s agenda, nor is she on the Oct. 23 agenda as currently published.
Lowe’s ad, ironically, accuses Holland herself of lying. “Milissa Holland has attacked me in a racially motivated political TV ad that falsely claims I am guilty of criminal misconduct,” Lowe’s ad begins, a reference to a 30-second television ad the Holland campaign started airing last week, triggering her own controversy. Lowe’s statement is a stretch. Holland’s ad states that Lowe “was even charged for theft in Flagler County,” which is accurate: Lowe was charged for petit theft in 1992. The charge was almost immediately dropped. (The document indicates he was arrested, which appears to be a mistake. “From what I can tell he was not arrested, otherwise the State would have done a Nolle Pros [meaning it will not prosecute] instead of a No Information in the case,” said Rick Blaine, manager of criminal courts for the Flagler County Clerk of Courts.) The Holland ad never states Lowe was “guilty of criminal misconduct.” Only Lowe does.
But Holland’s ad was racist: when the statement is made of Lowe’s theft charge, he appears in a picture with an unidentified Black man lifted from Lowe’s Facebook page. The Holland campaign knew nothing of that man. He subsequently identified himself as Phillip Hector in an email Lowe posted on his Facebook page. Hector is a resident of Dominica, the small Caribbean island where Lowe met him in 2017 during a humanitarian mission in the wake of Hurricane Maria, when Lowe says Hector almost lost his life. “I was also told that the commercial made me look like a criminal because I am a black man,” the email attributed to Hector states. “I am not a criminal and I demand a public apology for what she been done.” (Holland has not apologized, but edited Hector out of the ad.)
Two-thirds of Lowe’s radio ad focuses on Holland’s own television commercial and the Hector matter, only incidentally turning to the claim about Holland’s own alleged criminality: “No wonder why you have multiple complaints filed against you with the Florida Ethics Commission,” Lowe states in the ad, “and your administration is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida State Attorney General’s Office, and the FBI.” The statements, either demonstrably false or unverifiable, end up undermining Lowe’s core message about Hector with Lowe’s own dishonesty.
The ad aired days after revelations in reporting by FlaglerLive and the Observer that Lowe had in the 1990s declared himself a “sovereign citizen” who did not recognize the government’s authority, nor that of the Internal Revenue Service, with whom he was in a dispute over unpaid taxes. The FBI ties the sovereign citizen movement to domestic terrorism, and the Southern Poverty Law Center categorizes sovereign citizens as part of hate groups. In an interview last week Lowe said the association was short-lived, and that he had since disavowed his previous convictions.
I love how Hector the island guy demands an apology “I was also told that the commercial made me look like a criminal because I am a black man,”
Who “told” him he looks like a criminal because he’s black?
Lowe is playing the SJW outrage game when it’s convenient for his agenda.
He actually suggested that we move low-income homes into an gated community away from Palm Coast to protect the residents property values. Clearly he’s referring to the black community with his “well… there goes the neighborhood” approach. Double standards indeed.
this guy is a schmuck, just like all sovereign citizens ,hopefully once he gets battered in the election he will dry up and blow away
me too says
There’s an old saying. How do you know a politician is lying ? Their lips are moving.
John Stove says
Is anyone surprised that a Mayoral candidate affiliated with the Republican Party is making false accusations about the other candidate being investigated by law enforcement?……. sound familiar?
If you cant win fairly and honorably…just make s**t up seems to be the norm!
Aren’t they BOTH affiliated with the Republican Party???
Flagler Liberty says
Holland couldn’t run and win as the “life-long Democrat” she really is, so she changed her affiliation after 2012 to Republican in order to fool everyone who wouldn’t vote for a Democrat. https://ballotpedia.org/Milissa_Marie_Holland
Daniel Graham says
That in itself is shady as hell, changing parties just to win and turn on those who voted you into office. I think the people of Palm Coast deserve better, not the good old boy network or the liberal arts. Just someone who speaks plainly, truthfully, and has the ability to discern right from wrong.
There is much right about our little town, none of the above qualify for that statement.
Mike Cocchiola says
What else can you expect from a Trumper? Just make up anything you want. They already bought into the deep state pedophile ring down here. Next will be the “War on Christmas”.
This Dudes a tool. I wonder whos Bankrolling him. Hmmmm
Concerned Citizen says
This guy is a loose cannon and needs to go.
We want someone to represent Palm Coast honestly and ethically. And having to resort to out right lying and smear tactics is a sign of a weak individual. Coupled with his background and inexperience how does he think he is even qualified?
On a similar note. I do notice that a lot of the media in this county has gone silent against Holland. They seem to be only attacking anyone that is running against her. And I can’t help but wonder why.
Holland already has this campaign locked down. And will represent the special interests and builders for another 4 years. Morton will stay and continue to be her yes man. And City Hall will be a miserable place to work. That’s my prediction
What a charlie foxtrot this whole election and political process has been. We had a chance to demand change in this county. Instead there are voters out there so scared of change they would rather keep 20 year or more politicians in office. Who have been bought out long ago. And will continue to laugh at us. And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
Ditto… what kind of choice is this?
Palm Coast… Fuhgeddaboudit! It’s finished IMO.
C’mon man says
Lowe sounds like an A-hole just like me. Got my vote.
Lose Another Vote Alan says
Why the slander Mr Lowe ? This coming from a “man” who denounces this country’s constitution, does not recognize the IRS, therefore refuses to pay taxes. You declared bankruptcy, even played the race card.
Stop throwing shit and hoping some of it sticks.
You give Law abiding Republicans who pay their taxes a bad name
James M. Mejuto says
re:Lowe: . . . Since when did local candidates take out TV/Radio ads to be Mayor?
What’s wrong with this picture, folks?!
However, the battle of Holland vs. Lowe is between two Republicans
who dislike each other and we have to put up with it!
All for a Mayorship of a minor city in Florida.
One candidate is attached to Real Estate interests and land developers
while the other is a known tax dodger, quite similar to trumpty-Dumpty in the W.H.
You figure it out, folks !
John Mason says
I can appreciate what everyone is thinking about this loser, but please don’t accept him as a “Republican” because that’s what he says he is. Parking a lawnmower in my garage doesn’t make it a car and Lowe calling himself Republican doesn’t make one.
Near as I can tell he’s not even an American let alone attached to any party in the country. Clearly, Holland will win and she will accept this gift of Lowes absurd comical campaign as a wake-up call and clean up her act so next time someone this dumb can’t even make the ballot.
Disappointed in Palm Coast says
First off – before you say “oh Alan’s a Trumper” let’s not forget that Milissa Holland was LITERALLY just standing on the corner of Old Kings Road and Palm Coast Parkway waving a Trump Sign (with Andy Dance) AND…. AND sent out a campaign mailer that claims that she supports Trump and that Lowe doesn’t. Which is it??? So before you throw shade on Lowe, remember she’s claiming to love Trump too, and remember – prior to 2016 she was a democrat.
Second – there IS an FBI investigation… that’s a stone-cold FACT. Many high-level Palm Coast employees have come forward to say this very thing. These are long-time, well-respected former employees who’s word I would not likely dismiss just because Holland says to do so. She’s a liar (after all she is a politician). What motivation would any of these employees have to claim there was an investigation (some dating back to WELL before Lowe started his campaign). In fact I first heard wind of it was back in August… of 2019. That was before both Holland AND Lowe announced their candidacy. The noise of ethics probes and investigations has only grown since then. The fact that the local media REPEATEDLY defends Holland and reports her position as “fact” is proof enough that something stinks in City Hall. Whether or not there is any wrongdoing by Holland… the investigations are FACT. I’m certain that both sides believes that they’re right, but it is indisputable that there is an investigation (at least one).
Third – how many local residents have made contributions to her campaign? Not many as far as I can tell. Most of her money comes from out-of-town Political Action Committees, and companies that do business with Palm Coast, and developers (local and out-of-town). You need only know this – that money ALWAYS has strings attached. Nobody gives you thousands of dollars without expecting something in return… especially not a developer. So what has Holland promised that she’s been given all this money? At my last look over $40,000 raised by her, for a job that pays $11,000 per year. $11,000! So come on people – open your eyes.
Fan of none says
Did you miss it when Lowe called himself an independent and only used the republican in name to attract a base?
Concerned for Palm Coast says
I wish people would see what you see!!!
It is not a “stone-cold fact ” that the FBI has an open investigation. Law enforcement authorities very often respond to an allegation and find no basis to open an investigation.
Carl Lewis says
You’re right that the Republican Party has been high-jacked by extremists. This is a really dangerous situation so let’s all stand together and make sure that we vote these people out of office so you can take back your Party.
Compare the rest of Florida to Flagler County and Palm Coast and we are doing pretty well. So, in this case let’s make sure we don’t get an extremist, Alan Lowe, as Mayor of Palm Coast. That would be disastrous, so vote and vote appropriately!
What more can you expect from a pathetic Trump loving republican. Dude is scum and I vote for holland