Clearwater City Council member and mayoral candidate Kathleen Beckman is pushing back on recent news relating to her campaign, arguing it is the result of “disturbing campaign tactics” by her opponent, Bruce Rector.
At issue is news that Beckman now faces an ethics complaint, which former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard has said he will file, accusing her of using city resources for political gain. Hibbard openly supports Rector in the campaign for Mayor.
Beckman also takes issue with the letter Hibbard sent to Clearwater residents explaining his decision to support Rector. In that letter, Hibbard claims that Beckman “once told our former City Manager Bill Horne that I was evil because I was a Republican.”
Horne has since passed away and cannot respond to whether the claim is true.
Beckman said the letter, and the reference to a conversation with Horne that she disputes, is disrespectful to Horne, who she described as her “mentor during my early council days.”
The ethics complaint in question involves correspondence Beckman sent to certain Clearwater constituents on city letterhead, informing them of actions taken and planned to mitigate flooding in coastal areas of the city.
Specifically, Hibbard is putting Beckman on notice over an email sent Jan. 3 to City Manager Jennifer Poirrier in which Beckman informs that she had “canvassed North Beach yesterday for about four hours,” during which time she said constituents told her that Rector “shared information with North Beach residents about $60 million in funds from ‘planning’ … being allocated to address infrastructure needs on North Beach.”
The email also asks for information pertaining to flooding precautions and a city pump. The email makes clear that she is seeking information for purposes of canvassing, preparing for candidate forums, and obtaining the “most up-to-date and accurate information to communicate to our residents.”
Beckman followed up again with a copy of a draft letter she penned with input from Assistant City Manager Daniel Slaughter.
The final version of the letter was sent to 139 recipients in the north beach area affected by flooding. But all but one of those recipients were women, a fact Hibbard claimed during public testimony at a City Council meeting last week that “statistically that’s an impossibility.” The names, he pointed out, were from VoteBuilder, technology used for political campaign communication.
Beckman denies any wrongdoing and is countering her opponent’s supporters with claims of her own dirty campaign tactics.
“Mr. Rector’s disgraceful campaign tactics reveal a complete lack of ethics and suitability for the mayoral role,” she wrote in a statement Tuesday. “The poor judgment displayed by both Mr. Hibbard and Mr. Rector is unacceptable, and is extremely concerning to me and many Clearwater residents.”
Beckman’s statement references Hibbard’s letter, noting that it was then she “knew I had to call Mr. Rector to address his false statement and ask him why he would campaign on blatant lies.”
“He did not accept accountability for the statements and thought it was part of politics,” she wrote.
“My competitor’s failure to even discuss these matters with me before exploiting them for political gain is not only inexcusable, but also disrespectful to the memory of Mr. Horne,” she continued. “It’s evident that my opponent will stoop to any level to secure an election victory.”
Beckman and Rector are running to replace interim Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst Sr., who has endorsed Rector. Aungst replaced Hibbard after he abruptly resigned following discussion over a $90 million City Hall, which he referenced in his letter announcing support for Rector.