VIERA, Fla. (FOX 35 Orlando) - Sticks and stones, red and blue. The gloves are off in a war of words between a Republican Brevard Commisioner and the Head of the Democratic party in the county.
Things came to a head at the most recent commission meeting during the public comment period. Now, both sides are holding firm about the rules of engagement and debate.
“I have every right to respond and I will,” said District 2 Commissioner and Vice Chair Bryan Lober.
“A public power must never be wielded as a threat against private citizen,” replied Stacey Patel.
The tension was thick. There was no secret about the party lines. The bitter exchange of comments came after a constituent posted a sharply worded criticism about Lober. Patel says Lober crossed the line. Lober says Patel is embellishing and stirring the pot.
“Later, Commissioner Lober called for folks not to demonize the opposition, while in his words, calling local Democrats stupid, I’m quoting, 'rodents, trash and little blue ants,'” Patel said at the podium.
“I know that on your page within the past day, there was a call to report me to the Florida bar for exercising my First Amendment free-speech rights, so the First Amendment freedom of speech - that applies just to the folks you want that to apply to? Or do you think I get to enjoy that constitutional right as well?” Lober shot back.
This exchange happened exactly a week ago. FOX 35 checked with Lober and Patel to see if the temperature has cooled.
Lober says in a statement, “Aspirational standards may be commendable when they are universally applied to everyone. However, those standards should always be applied equally and we must, as a society, respect everyone's right to express speech with which we may not agree. This includes speech commenting on another's speech. This is a fundamental tenet of our legal system and to have otherwise would be to denigrate the freedoms that we hold most dear. The commission is exceedingly civil to those who appear before it in good faith. There is no need to revisit civility when the only one complaining about it is an objectively bad actor who freely admits to applying different standards to different people. Only someone hoping to create conflict and foster divisiveness would act in such a manner.”
Ms. Patel’s mind hasn’t changed. She believes Lober was being inappropriate, threatening a citizen’s job.
“Commissioner Lober has rights to free speech, but he also has responsibilities as an elected official. He swore an oath to uphold the US Constitution, which protects private citizens from government retaliation for acts of free speech,” she said in a statement.