Thousands of emails circulating on ‘underground’ network

‘Shadow’ government attempting to control election outcome with underground email network

An underground network of emails shapes the opinions of thousands living in Martin County – much more so than county commission candidate profiles, forums, signs, mailers, or T-shirts – and it likely will exert a profound effect on the outcomes of all three races.

Two no-growth candidates are depending on that network: Anne Scott in District 3, who has a dark cloud of public records violations hanging over her head and must go to court this fall, and Donna Melzer, the District 5 candidate who raised only $7,000 from contributors and holds the bleakest record of any previous commissioner ever for ignoring laws that resulted in a Grand Jury investigation for abuse of power and other alleged misdeeds while in office in the late ’90s.

Thousands of one-sided, slanted email messages are being circulated now throughout Martin County, which give no opportunity for rebuttal, frequently remain below the surface of public scrutiny, and omit verifiable references. With content written primarily by Melzer, Maggy Hurchalla, or attorney Ginny Sherlock, they prey on residents’ inherent fears of massive, unrestrained development and are primarily simply opinion stated as fact. All of them are indefensible, and all of them endorse Melzer, Scott and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippsich and often attack Harold Jenkins, John Haddox and Doug Smith.

We’re not talking about a few hundred emails, or even a few thousand. We’re talking about tens of thousands of emails. Who “owns” these lists and where did they originate? We don’t know, absolutely; however, the same two names – Ginny Sherlock and Donna Melzer – continue to surface among the organizations that actively solicit email addresses from members and the public with no promise that the addresses will not be sold or shared.

Some residents who have received these political emails, in fact, have recognized email addresses that they’d given only to specific groups, which now apparently are being shared by more than one political candidate – and without their permission to do so.

This is not a new practice. Sherlock and Melzer have been collecting email addresses for years. One of the groups with which Sherlock is affiliated is The Guardians of Martin County, based on Jupiter Island. Sherlock is their attorney and registered agent. Two years ago, Sherlock helped The Guardians, which has its own email database, to form a protest group under the umbrella of its 501(c)3 non-profit status called Citizens Against the Train (CATT). Sherlock again served as the registered agent.

Until this week, the CATT cover page stated its purpose as “Open Public Debate of Major Issues and Policies Relating to the Martin County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.” No mention of the train. Two other train-protest groups already existed when CATT was formed – Florida NOT All Aboard and the Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE-FL), neither of which is associated with Sherlock – thus underscoring the likelihood that CATT’s primary purpose actually was only to collect email addresses and donations.

Although some of the CATT emails may be from outside of Martin County, a large group comprising just Martin County residents is the Martin County Conservation Alliance, which Melzer joined after losing her seat in the 2000 election. The current commission majority of Ed Fielding, Sarah Heard and Anne Scott are members. After Melzer became president nine years ago, the group incorporated with Ginny Sherlock as registered agent, and an email address is solicited from every visitor.

Sherlock also once was the primary writer for Al Forman’s online newsletter, The Defender, with an email database of 5,000 addresses, he once boasted, which likely was added to the Sherlock list of email addresses, as are the email addresses for subscribers to The Martin County Times, an online news aggregate first organized around six years ago by Donna Melzer, with Bill Summers of Palm City as president.

That online newsletter was first established under the auspices of WAAM, Witham Airport Action Majority, another non-profit protest group with Ginny Sherlock as registered agent, and Bill Summers’ wife as treasurer, collecting yet more email addresses.

WAAM recently “endorsed” candidates Donna Melzer, Anne Scott and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, in an issue of the Martin County Times published online August 3, although the WAAM organization was voluntarily dissolved in 2014. Within weeks, Bullsugar Inc. was organized using the same 2336 SE Ocean Blvd. address as WAAM for each of their officers – the address of the UPS store on Ocean Blvd. in Stuart.

Since Bullsugar was born at the height of the 2013 river crisis, and their slick website opens first to a page requesting your email address, they likely have accumulated thousands of their own email addresses over the past two years. Their Facebook page has nearly 200,000 “likes” in two years, and they also endorse Donna Melzer, Anne Scott and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.

Did these groups all share their email lists? There are no assurances on the site that they will not – assurances also missing from the Rivers Coalition website and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch’s own email-subscription blog.

The underground email network also gives credence to those who believe that Hurchalla and Sherlock comprise a shadow government pulling the strings of our county commission majority – as well as two of the county commission candidates, Melzer and Thurlow-Lippsich, who publicly recanted her stand to remove septic tanks at the headwaters of the Loxahatchee River after a Sherlock-Hurchalla public reprimand.

The network certainly gives them great power over county decisions, as described by former Mayor of Jupiter Island Harry Charlston, who once called Melzer, Sherlock and Hurchalla “the most powerful group in Martin County.” They are succeeding in shaping Martin County as a retirement enclave, shutting out families, businesses and industry, which residents are beginning finally to see.

The only hope for Martin County to live up to its potential and to protect the future of this special place is to bring 10 people to the polls with you to vote on Tuesday, or vote this week before the storm hits – and hit “delete” whenever one of the Melzer-Sherlock-Hurchalla emails pops into your inbox.