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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2011 8 years ago

Developer says he was defamed

by: Jenny Andreasson

Print readers: You can find William Graves' letter to The Observer here

A developer and former Winter Park City Commission candidate says a political mailer distributed before the March 8 election damaged his reputation.

An attorney representing David Lamm mailed a demand letter to community activist William Graves on March 10 regarding an anti-Sarah Sprinkel mailer that incorrectly identified Lamm as a “Carlisle developer”.

Lamm was out of the country and unavailable to comment.

The Carlisle was a proposed four-story building on the northwest corner of Central Park that divided the city for two years before the city government paid developers $3.7 million to walk away.

“Mr. Lamm is trying to get to the bottom of this and protect his good name in Winter Park,” said Lamm’s lawyer, Wade Vose of Vose Law Firm, on Tuesday. “He’s not looking to sue anybody for money.”

Graves, who is listed as the financier of the mailer, admits the Carlisle label was in error, but says he was not behind the mailer. He says that someone he explicitly trusted assembled the mailer and he “quickly scanned it” before it went out under his name to thousands of residents. He declined to identify the author.

“This is a frivolous S.L.A.P.P. (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit,” Graves said. “This could have been worked out over tea.”

The firm is in the process of finalizing a complaint for defamation against Graves as well as any other individuals who funded the mailer, the letter states. Lamm will not pursue the suit if Graves meets three demands: 1) Issue a written apology for publication in the Observer and the Orlando Sentinel, 2) Mail a piece the same size that contains an apology and 3) Disclose the identity of the folks who assembled and paid for the mailer.

Graves submitted an eight-page handwritten response for publication in the Observer (read it here). In it, Graves apologizes and states that “an expert had assured me that the mailer was legal and accurate” and that he did nothing wrong. He also says Lamm should be praying that his “colleagues” don’t succeed in talking him into a countersuit and jury trail.

Vose said that he’s made numerous attempts to contact Graves, and Graves says he’s tried numerous times to contact Vose. Both men hope that the issue can be resolved without going to court, they said.

“I want this to go away,” Graves said.

“We are going to explore the option of filing suit,” Vose said. “I don’t know if we need to go there yet.…I’m looking forward to speaking with him.”

Vose said there have been more instances of expensive mailers going out in Winter Park with anonymous financiers, which is illegal under Florida law.

“This has become an unfortunate practice lately in Winter Park politics … It’s disconcerning when you’re trying to have good and open government,” he said.

Vose said his client is not considering lodging a complaint with the Florida Election Commission at this time.

The question of anonymous contributors also arose in a direct mail piece authored and disseminated by Herb Weiss alleging that Fleet Peeples Park was an environmental disaster. Weiss later said that several people had contributed to the expenses of the piece but that they wanted to remain anonymous.

This has also prompted many to question whether active members of the various citizen boards should be leading such overt activism. Weiss is an acting member of the Parks and Recreation Board.

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