I left out a minor nugget in my story last week on Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent’s decision to back out of a debate with opponent Jon Thaxton because of a dispute with one of the sponsoring organizations, Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government.
I didn’t mention that, in her email to Dent announcing that Citizens had decided to withdraw as a sponsor if it would mean Dent would participate in the debate, Citizens President Cathy Antunes asked Dent why a WSRQ reporter said Dent had told him that Citizens had posted “lie after life” about her on the group’s website.
“SCRG is a watchdog citizen group focused on local government accountability,” Antunes wrote to Dent. “SCRG’s goal is to promote effective, responsible government decisions for the good of the local community. Should you have any issues, kindly provide a list so the SCRG board is aware of them.”
Now Antunes wants a “clarification” about Dent’s objections to how Citizens has covered her. She emailed the following to Dent Tuesday, Aug. 7:
You were recently quoted in a local publication stating that “lie after lie” has been printed about you on the SCRG website. SCRG board members have twice requested clarification regarding your concerns. Those requests for clarification have gone unanswered.
A review of the SCRG website content shows infrequent mention of your name or office, with said references backed by the public record. Once again, we ask you to substantiate your claim so it can be properly addressed.
This e-mail is being sent to both your campaign and public e-mail addresses, as public accusations against citizen groups engaged in their proper role of government oversight should be supported by concrete evidence. As you are no doubt aware, unsubstantiated allegations are improper and can result in intimidation of citizens.
Your campaign website states that you “understand that by exercising our constitutional right to vote, not only are we making a difference, we are honoring the lives and sacrifices of those who have fought so hard to protect our American freedoms and way of life.” Appreciation of constitutional rights is shared by citizens engaged in watchdog efforts. And those elected to serve the public interest have an obligation to clarify accusations to ensure productive public discourse.
A Google search of the Citizens website turns up only two mentions of Dent: one, an admittedly snarky 2011 blog post about a budget increase at Dent’s office; the other, a press release from the Republican Party of Sarasota County.