Dauphin Island: Honesty, Integrity, Transparency

Candidates Boycott Debate!

By – John D. Watkins – NuzzApp Reporter *Ed Note – A letter from candidates follows this news story.

Amid allegations of attempted intimidation, failure to assure impartiality, and an apparent attempt to exclude some of candidates , the President of the Dauphin Island Chamber of Commerce, Gene Fox, has been notified there are going to be no shows for the Chamber sponsored “Meet The Candidates” question and answer sessions scheduled this week and next.

54% of the Mayoral and Town Council candidates say they will not attend the events and have formally notified the events organizer by letter. ( A copy of that letter follows this article). They unanimously question the Chamber of Commerce, and Chamber President Gene Fox’s impartiality. They also take issue with the way the events were planned, the format of the event, how and who would select questions, and the exclusion of two candidates.

The Dauphin Island Chamber set the dates for the “Meet The Candidates” question and answer sessions for August 9th. That event is supposed to be a marathon three hour session with the thirteen candidates for Town Council. On August 16th, a week later there is supposed to be a two hour session with the three candidates for Mayor; Incumbent Jeff Collier, Virginia Shanahan and Shawn Perloff.

Fox, began hanging posters and making announcements Wednesday August 1st around the Island about the event and that all candidates would take part . These seven candidates feel they should have been contacted or consulted before the announcement was made and before Fox began telling people he had lined up all candidates for the events before the candidates were contacted or consulted. They feel this was an effort to ’force’ them to participate.

Candidate Suzanne Jackson, running for council against incumbent Mary Thompson for Place 2 says at one point, when Fox finally contacted her, she felt Fox attempted to intimidate her. She says when Fox did finally call her about participation, she raised questions about how questioning would be handled and the nature of the questions to be asked at the event. “When I began asking questions he interrupted me and told me “I’ll make sure you get the hardest questions we can come up with”. That scared me, so I told him I would not participate. Jackson is the wife of Dauphin Island Methodist Church Pastor Cecil Jackson.

“The candidate meeting was posted and announced before I had a clear understanding of the intent of this forum. After Gene Fox told me the ground rules, I actually felt it was going to be a “roast” rather than a candidates forum.” Shannon Levio, candidate for Place 4 against Shirley Westfall Robinson, told NuzzApp. “They’re part of the clique. This is the way the cliques operate down here, I know because I was the Town’s building Inspector and Director of Public works for about two years.”

Bill Hibberts, candidate for place 5 against incumbent Clinton Collier told NuzzApp. ”They want to make sure “the” few stay in control.”

The 7 candidates are unanimous in their strongly held opinion that Fox and the Chamber can not be impartial. They point to several reasons why they feel they would not get a ‘fair shake’:

Gene Fox, Chamber President, was appointed by the current Mayor and town administration to a paid position on the new South Mobile County Tourism Authority and he now has an office in Dauphin Island Town Hall.

Chamber Vice President Kelby Linn and his wife Robin have donated nearly $ 900.00 in cash and signs to Mayor Jeff Collier. (Confirmed by a NuzzApp review of campaign filings. The Linn‘s made the donations as individuals)
The Chamber office, located at ACP Realty, owned by the Linn’s, has nothing but signs for the incumbents on their property and vehicles. The seven candidates say these facts certainly call Fox and the Chambers impartiality into question.

“Because it wasn’t a level playing field, I am standing unified with the other candidates. We will not tolerate unequal treatment. Those days on this Island are over.” Mayoral candidate Virginia Shanahan told NuzzApp. “My decision to not attend was based on the fact that some candidates have never been contacted and Gene Fox told me thirteen candidates (out of a total of sixteen) had agreed. I just found out tonight (Sunday) that wasn’t true.”
Mayoral Candidate Shawn Perloff told NuzzApp. “I’m running for Mayor for the right reasons. You have to start with integrity.” The seven candidates, two for mayor and five for council seats say first, Fox and the Chamber went ahead and planned the event, set the dates and then contacted candidates telling them when the Chamber had scheduled the event.

“I’ve never been consulted or contacted by Fox or anyone. This is Sunday night, I still have not been contacted and the forum is this coming Thursday. I’ve never been contacted about this, I am a legal candidate and I haven‘t been included.” Richard McKean III, candidate for Place Three told NuzzApp.

Several attempts by NuzzApp to reach Gene Fox for comment failed, but he did e-mail NuzzApp saying he would have a statement This (Monday) morning.

A copy of the letter from the boycotting candidates sent to Fox appears below in it’s entirety.

5 August 2012

Dear Gene Fox; President, Dauphin Island Chamber of Commerce

We are writing to inform you that we are not participating in the upcoming election debates scheduled for August 9th and August 16th.

Gene, over the past week several of us have discussed with you serious concerns we have about the moderation and procedures that you have failed to address in a timely and adequate manner.
For example:

Failure to provide the candidates with a list of questions so we have time to prepare.

We do not have a clear understanding of how the questions will be submitted, screened, or selected.

You have failed to provide the ground rules of the debate in writing.

You refuse to remove yourself as moderator and we feel you would have a difficult time being an impartial and/or neutral moderator given your current Town appointed position (by the current administration) and your relationship with the “front porch committee.”

You intentionally misrepresented the truth to three different candidates and told them all other candidates have committed to participate in the debate with the exception of one, when the reality is, we the undersigned, have agreed to no such thing.

You have failed to reach out and discuss participating in the debate with candidates Richard McKean and Bill Hibberts.
Failed to give us adequate notice.

Publicized the debate without prior notice.

In closing, we would welcome the opportunity to participate in a fair and impartial debate with all parties treated equally. However, since this is not the case, we respectfully decline.


Virginia H. Shanahan
Shawn Perloff
Richard McKean
Suzanne Jackson
Thomas “Tank” Howard
Shannon Levio
William Hibberts


This entry was posted on August 6, 2012 by in Uncategorized.