Good Republicans, Bad Republicans: Truth is stranger than fiction
Local Lakeland, Fla. Attorney, John Hugh Shannon, is bullying and threatening to slander little people for reasons unknown: Documentation of said claims
By GORDON WAYNE WATTS (Special Report - Breaking)
Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 05:07:08 p.m.
* UPDATE: While I believe I acted with good motives at every turn/juncture, I need to clear Atty. John Shannon's name, regarding the news item, below - as touching misconceptions on my part about his own motives: Earlier this evening, Tue. 19 Aug. 2014, I attended a debate between Ms. Burton and Mr. Shannon, and, after the debate, hosted by a local "9-12" group, I made it a point to apologise to Mr. Shannon. (Although the only thing I could think of that I might have done wrong was be a bit talkative to his secretary, when making an inquiry as to why was blocked, nonetheless, whether any of this was my fault or not, I felt it was the 'right' thing to to to apologise to him.) While I am still not sure I know what happened on his end (and while I don't know whether he 'connected' my name and face & recognised me), Mr. Shannon was good enough to accept my apology, and appeared genuinely sincere. Later, I hope to have more updates, which include some news coverage of the debate. So, when you read this account, below, please keep in mind that Mr. Shannon (and his secretaries & staff, like all of us) is human, and subject to mistakes, and please be accordingly patient with all our human limitations, mine included.
LAKELAND, Florida | This is not a story I was planning (or hoping) to write, as a political reporter; however, my conscience would bother me were I to fail to bring these matters to the attention of the community and public at large. As the title implies, major misdeeds were done by the local attorney named in the title, and it is with great regret that I must even consider writing or addressing this topic, but the failure to do so would be the greater crime, as I would aid and abet in allowing his crimes to go unchecked. So, I shall chronicle this issue, from start to finish -and also (since it happened to me), in unconventional, 1st-person, narrative (as opposed to traditional 3rd-person news reporting style, normally employed by writers here, at The Register), which would be the more appropriate writing style for this case.
When the political season rolled around, and I noticed two candidates running in the Republican Primary for Fla. House of Representatives, in my district, I decided to research the candidates and issues -so as to not be a prejudiced or uneducated voter, but both candidates were lacking a little bit in the 'Issues' section of their official campaign websites: ColleenBurton.com and JohnHughShannon.com aka: ShannonForHouse.com Archive: For comparison, see the old archive of my campaign page, from when I ran for that same office: http://GordonWatts.com/Campaign.html and http://GordonWayneWatts.com/Campaign.html
Some time around Monday, June 30 or Tuesday, July 1 (I rightly don't recall the exact date), I called up Atty. John H. Shannon at his law office, and asked his take on some issues, and he was kind enough to take time to talk to me and answer some questions I had on the issues. I sent him a thank you note on Wednesday, July 2, 2014 (Screen shot to verify this is what I sent), and, in case I got the wrong email address, or it got "lost in the system" (and that does happen), I followed up with a short thank you note to his Facebook page, later that day. Some time later, I sent him a Facebook friend request, seeing we had like 3 or 4 mutual friends in common, and he was good enough to accept my friend request. I posted a very short (probably 1 sentence) thank you note on his wall feed, thanking him for accepting my add request. (I said something along the lines of: "Wow, that was a fast response to my add request; quick reflexes are a good quality in those wishing to serve the people & run for office.") My parents raised me to respect other people -and thank them for any help or courtesy they show me. Although I do not have a copy of that comment (it was either deleted or I can not see it at the current time), here are a couple other examples, to show what I mean:
Saturday, July the 5th (according to my outgoing email records), I emailed Colleen Burton, asking for her phone number (as I had forgotten that it was listed on the Dept. of State's candidates page), and she replied a few days later, telling me I could call her, and that, if she wasn't there, she'd return her messages. Shortly afterwards, I was able to speak briefly with her by phone, as well, and, like Atty. Shannon, she was polite and answered all my questions.
Likewise, I sent her a short email, thanking her for taking time to speak with me. At this point, I thought nothing of this local primary race, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary or odd.
Shortly afterwards, however, I got a "postal mailer" political attack ad, accusing Burton of advocating for illegal aliens to receive driver's licenses. I am not a cruel person, and, were an illegal alien in need of emergency medical service, I would not oppose granting this, but to reward law-breaking illegal immigrants -and put them in line ahead of Legal Immigrants -is morally wrong (and bad policy), and, as such, this attack ad flyer greatly unsettled me. So, I decided to research it. Eventually, I determined that the attack ad had not misquoted Burton, but had left out part of her complete quote, in which she supported helping illegal immigrants follow the law to pursue citizenship. (Even their website admitted as much.) Also, besides the wrong mischaratarisation of the attack ad, I was also concerned with Burton, herself, as well, because The Ledger reported that "Colleen Burton says opponent John Shannon has aired illegal attack ad":
Since the postal mailer ad came from Melbourne-based political group, Families for Lower Taxes, then The Ledger's claims that the TV ad was also from them seemed tenable, and I was displeased that Burton would likewise make a rash move. Besides the political group's wrongful action (of casting Burton in false light, and not charatarising her position correctly), and Burton's jumping the gun (to incorrectly attribute the ad to Shannon), I was also not fully pleased with Shannon's answer to my question on the issues. But that was pale by comparison to the other things, and he seemed mostly (albeit not totally) conservative, and so I had no reservations for voting for either in the general election, and -even though both of them have made human mistakes -nonetheless, I held them both Burton and Shannon in high esteem -not only for their conservative views -but also for taking time to speak with me and answer my questions.
The next day, Wednesday, July 23, I decided to write a Facebook note, as I have a large friends list, many of whom follow me on Facebook. However, when I tried to 'tag' Shannon (even though most of what I said about Shannon was positive, I tagged him as a courtesy to let him know I was talking about him), I was unable for some reason. (I was, however, able to 'tag' Burton.) So, tried to email him to give him the "heads up," as a courtesy (based on my Christian upbringing to consider/think of others), but I was unable to email him:
This got me curious, and after some investigation, I determined that he had 'blocked' me on his Facebook page -where he had, just a few days earlier, accepted my Facebook friend request.
I appear blocked from both his 'personal' page as well as his 'public' (Fan) page. A friend, however, sent me this screen shot: He is not blocked, thus we see that Shannon's page is working. My problems seeing it were not from a bad link, or similar, but rather, someone blocked me.
This is where things get real strange -but the truth is often stranger than fiction, and my responsibility as a news reporter is to simply report the news -report the truth without any fears of reprisal -and so I shall show honour for those who fought for our First Amendment:
I decided to call him and ask what was going on here. (I had done nothing to provoke him. Indeed, I had not communicated with Shannon any, whatsoever, other than to call him one time, and then send him a thank you note, both to his regular email, and then to his Facebook, as described above.) His secretary informed me that he did not manage his personal Facebook, and I am glad that I gave him the benefit of the doubt here. (I would have been wrong to rashly jump to conclusions -and assume anything here.) She did, however, seem to imply that since this was his 'personal' Facebook account, it was OK. Of course, this is like a person's personal home, as opposed to an elected leader's public office complex. While it may be legal say, for example, (former) Mayor Gow field to invite a bunch of people over to his house for a party (tantamount to Shannon inviting people to send him friend requests, and then accepting them), but then, later, for Mayor Fields to then kick a person off his property -and then have the police visit him and trespass him (analogous to what Shannon did to me), it would be immoral. No political leader with any scruples would just have a person escorted off and trespassed, like this, were the person to merely hold a different political view (which is the only thing I can infer as a reason for Shannon's action here). (I am not sure if I am inferring correctly, here, regarding my belief that Shannon's secretary thought it was 'OK' to kick me off, simply because this was his personal Facebook, but she implied this by comparing his fan page; so, please be patient with me: Solid proof follows these strong allegations.) In any event, she was patient and courteous, and took down my number and promised to look into it, this past Wednesday.
Monday (July 28) rolled around, and I had heard nothing, and then, when I got a door-knob flyer from Shannon, and saw his phone number, I decided to call him, myself, and ask him if he knew anything about this matter.
This was not the first time a political leader (or candidate, as here) has kicked people off his Facebook. The recent 'Heavy Hand' letter that The Ledger published ("[ LETTER ] "Ross Has Heavy Hand Online," by Gordon Wayne Watts, Thr, Jan 24, 2013, and the follow-up press about the 'Twittergate' scandal, documented U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross being accused of just the same thing. However, Ross' office has told me that they think an aide, no longer with the office, did this. their claim seems reasonable since, to their credit, they addressed all these matters before the letter published. Since I know that the Ledger staff did not tip them off (they even apologised to me for not having time to speak to Ross' office on my behalf), then this seems to prove that Ross' office was not acting under pressure from the press, but rather for the right reasons. Also, Ross and his office, have treated me very well, letting me participate in, probably, more than my fair share of Town Hall questions. Dennis Ross not only addressed me by name one time after a long time since the last time we met, but has always been professional and polite.
So, knowing what happened with the misunderstanding with how Ross' office had blocked/banned a bunch of people -due to a bad aide that is no longer with the office -I felt comfortable in giving Shannon the benefit of the doubt, sure that the same thing had happened; however, to be sure, and let Shannon know what had happened, I called him late Monday afternoon.
Shannon was exceptionally rude, and, at first, he said he didn't even have time to talk to me. (This was very surprising; if he is this way now, how will
he be if he get into office? We expect him to be a good steward of small matter, such as proper phone manners, before we entrust him to larger matters,
such as elected office.) He claimed that he, himself, deleted me from his Facebook friend's list. When I asked why, he accused me of calling his office and
threatening his secretary. This is incredible, considering that I have only called his office twice: The first time, I called, as described above, and I
did not talk to his secretary other than, perhaps, that she transferred me to him, and we [meaning me and Mr. Shannon] had a good conversation; nothing
out of the ordinary happened. I called his office a second time, but this was only *after* he had blocked me. So, since he blocked me *before* I spoke
to his secretary, then any claims that this was the reason are demonstratively false. Well, not quite: It is, technically-speaking, impossible to prove
So, since I have shown proof I did not threaten anyone at that office either before *or* after this call, then the only time I spoke to any secretary
was *this* time. Listen to the video of my convo with her, in the links below: Did either of us threaten (or even harass) the other? If the answer is
'no,' then, John Hugh Shannon is not only a liar, but also a "cyber-bulling" bully, for blocking me -and no doubt many others -for no reason, and then
refusing to discuss it. Also, he implicitly admitted he discussed this with his secretary, so his claims to not slander are also false, as well. Even if
he's "right" on policy, both the integrity issues - lying - and other issues, such as refusing to address the initial matter -and attempting a cover up
(like Pres. Nixon, which made a bad matter worse) -make Shannon unfit for office. -End of Editorial Update-
So, since I have shown proof I did not threaten anyone at that office either before *or* after this call, then the only time I spoke to any secretary was *this* time. Listen to the video of my convo with her, in the links below: Did either of us threaten (or even harass) the other? If the answer is 'no,' then, John Hugh Shannon is not only a liar, but also a "cyber-bulling" bully, for blocking me -and no doubt many others -for no reason, and then refusing to discuss it. Also, he implicitly admitted he discussed this with his secretary, so his claims to not slander are also false, as well. Even if he's "right" on policy, both the integrity issues - lying - and other issues, such as refusing to address the initial matter -and attempting a cover up (like Pres. Nixon, which made a bad matter worse) -make Shannon unfit for office. -End of Editorial Update-
But, assuming that I am telling the truth above, and I only spoke to his secretary on those 2 occasions, it is easy to prove that he is lying about me:
When Atty. Shannon and I first spoke, either in late June or early July (I rightly forget), I had no reason to suspect this guy was nutty. (As such, I didn't feel the need to fire up the CamCorders and Tape Recorders to 'document' this call.) However, when I noticed that I was blocked off his Facebook, I knew something was amiss, because I took special care to not "rock the boat," be "Gabby Gordon," or otherwise "over-stay my welcome." In other words, I said and did the bare minimum to try and find out the political views of both Shannon and his primary opponent, Colleen Burton.
As such, I did not tape record any phone conversation. (And, in fact, Florida is a '2-party' state, which, according to State Law, normally requires consent from both parties.) However, after I saw some odd behaviour on his end, I knew that whatever the cause, it was not myself, and so, feeling threatened, I sought to protect myself.
Ignorance of the law...
There is an old adage: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." [Well, technically, there are exceptions: such as Lambert v. California (knowledge of city ordinances) and Cheek v. United States (willfulness requirement in U.S. federal tax crimes) but Shannon is an attorney, so he is held to a higher standard: he ought to know.]
It is NOT illegal legal, in Florida, to tape record others without their knowledge, permission, or consent:
Exceptions are given in State Law, and these exceptions are clarified in long-standing State and Federal case law. Shannon's case is one such exception, and as such, he has no expectation of privacy, and moreover, even were he to have one, it would not be an expectation that the Courts are willing to protect.
So, to be clear, once I felt threatened, I fired up the tape recorder (and CamCorder -just to have a backup), and then proceeded with caution to phone his workplace. (The Morningstar ruling, for example, holds that there is no expectation of privacy in a workplace; I called Shannon's workplace, this past Wednesday.)
Then, Monday, after I had not heard from Shannon or his secretary, I called back to the number listed on Shannon's flyer (apparently, a campaign cell phone). While it may be argued that this was his "personal" number, the courts have clearly held that, if used for business purposes (he is 'working for himself,' at present -and applying for a state job, here, and thus, this is his work number in every sense of the word), it is a business number -and one in which there is no expectation of privacy.
You can listen to the only 2 times I called him (once at his office and once at his cell number) and come to your own conclusion. (He could falsely claim that I called other times, and I could not prove otherwise, but I am a long-time resident and well-known to my community to be an honest person. As U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross is fond of saying, even if we disagree -and we often do -we must be civil in our discourse, and Ross is right.)
I don't know whether Shannon will be honest and admit that I am correct in my claims here -or whether he will try to allege that I called on other occasions, not documented here. (But, even were Shannon to have had a valid and legitimate grievance with me, he should have told me what, precisely, I did, when I supposedly did it, and why he didn't come to me about it when it supposedly happened; he did none of these, strongly implying he is either a liar or so incompetent that he can't address something supposedly this important in a timely manner: incompetence or dishonesty? Either is bad.)
One hopes Shannon will come clean and admit that these are the only 2 times I called him (I have no reason to lie, and this is the actual truth, as well), and clarify why, exactly, he has a beef with me. This would go a long way in regaining the trust that was lost: I would say that I deny him my vote -but "without prejudice" to run again (or, even sooner, if he can regain his composure, to make a coherent appeal as regards his actions). [For all our non-lawyers out there, when I say 'without prejudice,' that is a legal term that means that a court has denied a petition, but the litigant may refile his/her petition - in other words, the court is giving a person a '2nd chance' if they think that they have a case; this is only appropriate, given the morals of my religion, which are described elsewhere on my online paper.]
OK, now that you've seen the proof of my claims (and also proof that is is quite legal, in this circumstance, to record), you may safely go back, above, and re-read my strong claims -this time, with an assurance that I have proven my claims.
After thought: Since I am a Christian, I normally disdain public mud-slinging. In fact, Scripture plainly demands that I go "privately" to my brother, if either he offends me (Matt. 18:15-17), or on the other hand, if I've somehow offended him (Matt. 5:23-24). In fact, I Corinthians, chap. 6 forbids a Christian taking a fellow-Christian to court. However, when I tried to talk "privately" to Mr. Shannon, he refused. Secondly, nowhere do I see on any of either his personal, work, or campaign websites any mention of him being a Christian. So, God can not hold me accountable for failing here if I have tried my dead-level honest best. Clearly, Mr. Shannon is not a Christian (or, at the least, not an observant one), and he definitely is my enemy (for reasons unclear to me). But my religious beliefs accept Proverbs 16:7 of the Holy Bible, which hold out hope that I can still come to a peaceable resolution with Mr. Shannon: God promises to do His part, so long as I do my part: (selected quotes from the Holy Bible)
I Corinthians 6
If, therefore, Mr. Shannon were a Christian, I would hope to avail myself of the remedies listed above, but he doesn't "have time" (his own words, as recorded in the video) to do what is right. I, therefore, do my best, and then, once I have a clean conscience, I ask God for help here.
Contact: Gordon Wayne Watts
821 Alicia Road