Many people who’ve sent a critical email to Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland have probably had this experience. What you get back is a long-winded written temper tantrum from Candland, who comes across as some elementary school kid who can’t accept anyone ever telling him that just maybe he’s done something wrong. Then, depending on the person, you get torn apart on the Haddow-Candland cabal’s blog, the Sheriff of Nottingham. That’s been standard operating procedure since Upstream Consulting’s Mac Haddow and QBE’s Pete Candland arrived on the scene in 2011. Most people end up cowed, distressed that merely speaking their mind to an elected official results in them getting permanently smeared on the internet by Haddow, Candland & Co. It’s Candland’s version of the democratic process – torture people on the web until they’re too intimidated to ever speak up again. It works most of the time. But not on this day, not when the other person is School Board Chair Ryan Sawyers.
Sawyers and Candland are involved in a war of words precipitated by a condescending letter that Candland sent to Sawyers questioning the latter’s integrity. Why? Because apparently three hours before Sawyers presentation of the school budget to the BOCS, school board members received an email outlining potential costs associated with changing the name of Godwin Middle School. At the presentation, Candland had questioned Sawyers about the costs, and Sawyers, who had not even had an opportunity to review this and other emails that had been sent in the few hours before the presentation, much less have the full School Board discuss them, noted that the School Board would be receiving a formal presentation on the renaming costs at a future meeting.
Those who watched Sawyers’s presentation to the BOCS saw that despite receiving the budget materials well in advance compared to the prior year, supervisors had relatively few questions, and all of these concerned small dollar line items. A question from Supervisor Nohe, however, opened the door for Pete Candland and Jeanine Lawson to weigh in on the Godwin naming issue. They clumsily tried to disguise their sentiments as budget questions, but Lawson couldn’t contain herself and related how stunned she was that the School Board had acted on impulse. Sawyers refused to take the bait and one of the easiest School Board presentations to the BOCS in recent memory came to an end.
The Haddow-Candland cabal soon realized they had potentially blown it and Haddow was ticked. By not being better prepared, by having few questions, and by focusing on small amounts in a $1 billion budget, the cabal had missed a substantive opportunity to challenge major items in the school budget. The cabal scurried to recover with a multi-pronged assault. First, Candland sent the condescending letter to Sawyers, essentially saying that since Sawyers had not mentioned the email that had been sent three hours before the BOCS presentation, the entire School Board budget was suspect. Second, the cabal engaged in their usual smear campaign on their blog, the Sheriff of Nottingham. All of that was predictable. What wasn’t predictable was what happened next.
Unlike most of the Haddow-Candland cabal’s prior targets, Ryan Sawyers refused to be intimidated. He fired back a letter that called Candland out for a litany of tactics, including his political opportunism involving small dollar items, his pop-psychology analysis of Sawyers’s “nonverbal” behavior at the BOCS presentation, and his penchant for sending information to his blogger friends to have them do his dirty work. It’s an astounding exchange, mostly because no one, we mean no one, has called Haddow and Candland out like that in public in a long time. Sawyers apparently knew that he would be criticized for his response, but it’s also clear he thinks there has for too long been a double-standard. Haddow and Candland intimidate people and crush dissent by twisting people’s words and torturing them online, while anyone who calls them out for it is somehow acting inappropriately. One of the supreme ironies illustrating this was in Candland’s long apologia available online today. Candland decried that anyone who disagrees with Sawyers is “subject to personal attacks . . . simply because people hold a different point of view than yours.” BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This comes from Pete Candland, whose entire political career sits atop Haddow, Candland & Co. torturing and attempting to destroy online anyone who disagrees with Candland.
Who knows if Ryan Sawyers will get re-elected, but he’s shown courage in standing up to those who have bullied others into silence. What we really think bothers Candland and Haddow is that maybe, just maybe, there’s a new sheriff in town.