Jimmie T. Smith secondary

Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith: "We need to make sure that we speak with one voice in a way that is appropriate to the situation."

 

County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith has called out the county’s tourism director for "inappropriate" comments to the press and is asking that all department heads now refrain from talking to the media.

This all stems from the controversial decision by the county commission to block a library digital subscription to the New York Times. That action has created a national backlash.

Smith said it was wrong for John Pricher, director of the Citrus County Visitors Bureau, to assume that tourism is affected based on some email claims he received from people who said they were not coming to Citrus County.

Pricher, who made the comments to a Citrus County Chronicle reporter, said he had not spoken with hoteliers or tour boat operators at the time.

“I feel this wholly inappropriate,” Smith wrote to County Administrator Randy Oliver. “To base a statement that it has impacted tourism, based off of some email claims of not coming to the county is wrong. I may be wrong, but the impact of anything is unknown until after the fact.”

Smith, contacted in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon, said he will meet with Oliver when he returns and explore how to go about enacting a possible policy that would require all county staffers to direct all their comments to the government’s spokeswoman, Cynthia Oswald.

“We need to make sure that we speak with one voice in a way that is appropriate to the situation,” Smith said.

Pricher told the Chronicle when the controversy broke, that he received 10 anonymous and signed emails from tourists who all oppose county commissioners’ actions.

“They disagree with it and most say they’re not coming to the area because of it or they’re changing their plans,” Pricher said. “I’m hoping that it’s just a vocal minority and things just continue to move forward.”

In all, the county received about 3,000 emails and an untold number of phone calls from people commenting on the commissioners’ decision, which has now mushroomed into a national story.

Pricher said Tuesday he stands by his comments to the Chronicle.

“I think I was honest and truthful based on what I was asked,” he said. “We received the emails and that’s what they said.”

Pricher said again he doesn’t believe this New York Times flap will have a significant long-term effect on tourism.

“It’s not something like a red tide event where it lingers for months at a time,” he said.

As to Smith exploring a mandate that he and other staffers only comment through the county spokeswoman: “I’ll follow whatever policy is decided,” Pricher said.

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.

(21) comments

Msfahrenheit

So Smith hasn’t learned from the loose lips of Kitchens or Carnahan? The ones touting “shut up” need to say that while looking in a mirror.

jens

When you don't want to believe facts because you are too ignorant to think for yourself, then your relevance diminishes to the point of absurdity.

DandyCandy535

At a time when the USA is a total political disaster we need a free press more than ever. As for gagging local government officials, that is a really dumb idea, even by the standards of a really dumb Jimmie T Smitts !!

LARRYG

He needs to find a job with new york times,he is not need in this county.

CitrusCo Citizen

You're right. Smith is definitely not needed in this county!

Thelwell

The Commissioners say something incredibly stupid and a national uproar ensues. Then they blame the local newspaper for reporting what they said and silence a government official for admitting to the damage the Commissioners stupidity caused. What a pathetic bunch of clowns.

CitrusCo Citizen

When people vote in the clowns, the clowns bring along their circus.

Markf5FF

Thank You, Citrus County Commissioners for not wasting our taxes on the New York Times

CitrusCo Citizen

Yep. Too many big words and long sentences for ya.

DonaldA

Not really. It's the way those sentences are factually biased that is the issue.

DaleP

I have to wonder if Smith is getting good public relations advice.

LBooth

Just terrific Smith, Now we are not only banning the free press but also free speech. If you could only put as much effort into fixing roads, our trash problem and boat ramps...

ENGELINAW

[thumbup]

CitrusCo Citizen

Agree. And not raise our property taxes to pay for your tollroad to nowhere that nobody wants. As for Smith putting a gag order out on all officials and then controlling all communication through one official who works for him--apparently the Constitution is dead to him. It looks and sounds like Communism to me. Is that where we're headed, thanks to the BOCC?

Ssabmud

Hey, Smith. Ditto on what I posted about Kitchen. You guys are embarrassing.

Phunkasaurus Wrex

I have a great idea.Since people are upset about perceived censorship,let's censor our people. I'd say it's Orwellian but Smitty seems like he'd be a Louise Lamour guy.

DaleP

Mr Smith, I do believe sunshine is the best policy.

Let the light shine in.

Littled

[thumbup]

Miuke Nelson

More and more Trumpian everyday. Don't like what you hear, blame the messenger.

ENGELINAW

[thumbup]

CitrusCo Citizen

No only blame, but also defame. Trump's favorite game is to insult, belittle, deflect, and distract. Rinse and repeat. That's what Smith is trying to do to the Chronicle. This is getting more interesting every day, especially as Smith keeps talking (he just can't help it) and the Chronicle keeps reporting what he says-- because that's their job.

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