Palm Bay: Tres Holton Tries To Burn Florida Today. Pants On Fire?

Florida Today reporter Wayne Price has written an email to Palm Bay City Councilman Calvin “Tres” Holton over the discrepancies in his candidate filings and his water bill which raised some questions in the accuracy and conflict of Holton’s statements.

We covered the controversy in this post back on June 7, 2018.

In his email Price asks Holton the same questions we had:

Where were you and your family residing in 2014 and why on your candidate’s residency form, dated Aug. 18, 2014, did you list your residence as 1729 LaMaderia Dr. SW? If you had your water delinquency funds (including fines and penalties) reduced based on your claiming not to have access to 1729 LaMaderia Dr. SW in 2014, then the above question seems to be a problem.

Also there was no water usage reported in 2014 for 1729 LaMaderia Dr. SW, according to records and you stated that “you had no access to the property” during that period. Is that something you can resolve for us?

Price’s email to Holton is polite and “casual professional,” as one would expect. Price asks if there would be a time that Holton would like to talk on the phone about this.

Holton chooses another path, foregoing a phone call and sending a reply via email.

The email is pure Holton – accusing the FloridaToday of many things. He also brings his family into the conversation which he has done before in other cases. He even manages to threaten legal action based on a law that the Supreme Court has deemed unConstitutional. It’s an interesting response to say the least.

As is our custom in these cases, we are going to Fisk Holton’s response.

In the first paragraph, Holton states three things that have no bearing on the issue at hand:
1) He attacks FloridaToday and the reporter for “blindsiding” Holton with the question and for the day and time the email was sent.
2) He tries to use his family – his wife, children and a “special needs” child as some sort of “shield” either to hide his actions or to shield him from criticism.
3) “Big Banks,” HOME, and the house itself.

The fact of the matter is that even on Father’s Day, news doesn’t stop. Reporters are still working and developing stories. Holton did not have to even look at the email as it was sent to his City email account. He could have just put it aside until Monday morning and no one would have cared. Instead he takes umbrage at a reporter doing their job.

Secondly, while Holton and others are trying to paint this as an attack on his family, it is not. The basis for the questions being raised have nothing to do with his family, but rather Holton’s actions and Holton’s actions alone. We have seen families attacked in politics and we have always condemned them. In our opinion, using your family as a shield and not taking responsibility for ones actions is as despicable as those who would attack a family that is not in the political spotlight.

Third, this is not about his home, the foreclosure, Holton’s finances, “Big Banks,” etc. This is about whether Holton either misrepresented where he was living when he gave his address on the candidate qualification form and whether he misrepresented or received special treatment from the City in regards to his water bill. We have said it within our staff and will say it hear publicly: we are happy that anyone – including Holton – was able to retain the home after the economic crisis. No one is rejoicing that Holtom went through a foreclosure proceeding. If Holton wants to try and pin his foreclosure on the people and the people who noticed it, that’s fine, but the idea would be further indication that Holton cannot or will not take responsibility for his own actions and wants to play the “woe is me card.” Once again, this is not about the house or the water bill. It is whether Holton misrepresented facts on his application and whether he received special treatment from the City in the reduction of his water bill.

In regards to the water bill, Holton states in the letter:

Regarding our outstanding water bill, we were not treated differently than any other resident, nor should we be treated differently, as we paid our entire outstanding balance at 1729 La Maderia Dr SW, with some penalties/fines reduced consistent with city policies and procedures. We have recently completed a permanent mortage remodification benchmark, and we are happy this nightmare is almost behind us for the betterment of our children.

(Once again, Holton disingenuously brings his children into this discussion.)

Holton’s statement here is not exactly correct. We looked at other people that had applied for and received reductions in fines and penalties in similar circumstances. It was easy to follow the paper trail of the people going through the Water Department who is responsible for the relief of the water bills on every account. Unlike Holton, the citizens did not go through the City Manager to get their water bill reduced. Nothing like being able to go to the guy who you can hire and fire and ask for a reduction of a bill while the rest of the little people have to work through the bureaucracy. In short, if Holton was not in the house as he claims, it is the City’s policy to relieve the penalties and fees when he returned as long as there was no water use. We take no issue with that relief whatsoever. It is the path that got the relief that is the issue to us. Assuming that he was not in the house, the way the relief was obtained is a distant second to the issue of whether Holton misrepresented the facts on his candidate qualification forms.

It is as if Holton cannot help himself from trying to be the victim in every case. He writes:

This Florida Today Newspaper’s attack, by way of proxy (Thomas Gaume) or otherwise, on me and the personal hardships of my family, is the lowest point of politics and muckraking journalism, to which I have ever witnessed in my twenty years of public service.

A question or series of questions in an email is not an “attack.” A reporter doing his job in gathering information is not an “attack.”

Quite the opposite. In his email to Holton, Price says:

Maybe it’s just a matter of clearing some misconception that are out there and there’s something we’re unaware of in this matter.

That seems more than reasonable to us and far from an “attack” on Holton.

Holton then goes far out of his lane and into the law.

Be forewarned, however, of possible liabilities to you, and Mr Gaume, enumerated under Florida State Statutes 104.271 ‐‐ “False or malicious charges against, or false statements about, opposing candidates; penalty.” Moreover, please read Florida State Statutes 770.02 ‐‐ “Correction, apology, or retraction by newspaper or broadcast station.”

There are several problems here.

First, we have seen others in defending Holton try to use this statute as some sort of warning to candidates. The applicable part of the statute reads:

(2) Any candidate who, in a primary election or other election, with actual malice makes or causes to be made any statement about an opposing candidate which is false is guilty of a violation of this code. An aggrieved candidate may file a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission pursuant to s. 106.25. The commission shall adopt rules to provide an expedited hearing of complaints filed under this subsection. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the commission shall assess a civil penalty of up to $5,000 against any candidate found in violation of this subsection, which shall be deposited to the account of the General Revenue Fund of the state.

The problem is that an identical law was struck down in Ohio. In a case called Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, the Sixth Court of appeals struck down the law after a lengthy legal battle where the case went to the Supreme Court.

As Professor Eugene Volokh wrote at the time:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit just held today, in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, that the Ohio ban on “disseminating false information about a political candidate in campaign materials during the campaign season ‘knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate’” violates the First Amendment.

While some may argue that the Sixth Circuit does not cover Florida, as we said, the Supreme Court had reviewed the case and found the law to be unConstitutional and sent the case back to the lower courts in order that the plaintiffs could pursue legal remedies and damages. The defendants tried a different theory as to why the law was not a violation the First Amendment and the Sixth Circuit said the law was still a violation. The Supreme Court was asked to review the case a second time but declined.

Secondly, generally speaking Holton’s statement on the retraction of articles does not apply to people within the public eye. The standard for people in the public eye was established in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, where the Supreme Court ruled:

Factual error, content defamatory of official reputation, or both, are insufficient to warrant an award of damages for false statements unless “actual malice” — knowledge that statements are false or in reckless disregard of the truth — is alleged and proved

If Holton were to pursue a civil complaint against the FloridaToday, he’d be hard pressed to prove “actual malice” in that Price is asking for Holton’s take on the whole matter. It is very difficult to prove actual malice when the accused is doing their due diligence. This is not to say that people are still not held accountable for false statements made with actual malice, but the second part of the equation is that Holton would have to prove damages. The “damages” would be a lost election which the Supreme Court has already ruled is not a compensatory “damage” as there is no way to prove a different outcome of the election.

A bigger problem for Holton would be “where is the false statement?” The documents support everything that is being said by us, and presumably FloridaToday.

There is another issue of which Holton may not be aware. As a government representative and employee, his threats against the FloridaToday and Gaume (and even us) may fall under the Florida anti-SLAPP law. (SLAPP = Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) The law is designed to prevent people from suing or threatening to sue for the discussion of matters related to the public interest.

We would be hard pressed to believe the topic of whether Holton received special treatment in procedure but not outcome in the reduction of his water bill is not of public interest. We know a discussion of whether Holton misrepresented his residence on a candidate eligibility form is of public interest.

Yet while we address the ancillary issues and the ridiculous letter Holton wrote in response to the legitimate inquiry of the FloridaToday, there is one thing that needs to be remembered:

In cases where one is alleging that they were slandered and or libeled, the truth is the ultimate defense. If the statements of the newspaper, Gaume and others are true, then there cannot be a lawsuit against those people and entities. Period.

That means we are back to the original question of “did Councilman Calvin “Tres” Holton misrepresent where he was living when he completed and signed his Candidate Eligibility form and did he receive special treatment from the City in his relief of the water bill?

Holton himself supplies the answer to the residency question in his response:

In 2014, we co‐leased a rental house seven (7) doors down from 1729 La Maderia Dr SW, ….

By Holton’s own admission he was not living at the address he gave on the application and signed as being truthful under the penalty of perjury.

No matter how he wishes to attack others, to hide behind his family, to blame people for his actions and to imply that he is being persecuted, it appears that Holton was not where he claimed in 2014 on his Candidate Eligibility form.

We have Holton’s word on that.

3 Responses to “Palm Bay: Tres Holton Tries To Burn Florida Today. Pants On Fire?”

  1. Lynn says:

    Furthermore I would like to know how someone signs a form to run for Election with a name that is not on a birth certificate? “Tres” is not his name. His name is Lewis Calvin Holton III.

  2. Third Dimension says:

    Well, well, well, what do we have here? A Palm Bay City Councilman who while defending himself actually slip up and reveal the truth?

    One question I would ask up front, where oh where did he get that kind of money from?

    Obviously, he had to ‘barter’ to get his A/C fixed, that he didn’t have the money for.
    He went into foreclosure in 2009, for not paying his mortgage. And, well doesn’t seem to have paid his water bill either!
    On a councilman’s small salary? Hmmmmm

    Number two for me would be, Did his HOA know of this sub-leasing agreement?
    No HOA I have heard of would ever allow it.

    Now rumors being what they are, Is it true, does Calvin have a gambling addiction?

    Where is he getting money from? Is it tied to David Isnardi? What does his tax return say? Records show Calvin’s wife Ashley was paid by Kristine Isnardi for Political work during her 2016 campaign for county commissioner, where David just worked. (thousands)

    Well, for the record, I know for a fact that last night James Marshal, a Palm Bay employee, was asked “Did you live with Tres, or did Tres live with you”
    Marshal hesitated and said he lived with Tres! Is this the “Co-Lease” Calvin referred to? Living with an employee, who he helped get the job, with no qualifications?
    How do we spell nepotism? Or Quid Pro Quo?

    The rats have been jumping this sinking ship for a while now, sounds like for a few of these people the ship will soon sink!!

    Sink rhymes with Lynk!

    • AAfterwit says:

      Third Dimension,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We are a blog that encourages the “marketplace of ideas.” We hope that from the beginning of this blog, our words and actions have made that clear.

      We love it when people with diverse opinions debate facts and policies.

      We aren’t so thrilled when people debate innuendos and unsupported accusations. We don’t particularly like “rumors” that are made out without any supporting information or facts. (We do like the Rumors album, though.)

      We wanted the posts on the candidate form and the water bill to remain on those two issues. We said in both posts that our concern was not the finances of the Holton family, but on the actions of Councilman (not father and not husband but Councilman) Holton and how it relates to the City of Palm Bay and its residents.

      In our opinion, some of the things you mention in your post are at best unsubstantiated and at worst, cross a line.

      Some of the things you say actually can be taken to allow Holton to roll out the “woe is me” card as well as the “people are persecuting me and my family” card. We don’t see a benefit, no matter who you support, of allowing that to happen.

      There was some consternation over your comment by the staff. Some wanted us to remove it, and some wanted some other action.

      The “some other action” idea won and this response is that action.

      We hope that you understand and if you want to bring substantiated claims to the discussion, we welcome it.

      Thanks again for stopping by and reading the posts.

      A. Afterwit.