The Mayor of Clermont, Florida is aggressively lobbying area residents on behalf of Wal-Mart — the only trouble is — he doesn’t know it! Reportedly “untold numbers” of a pro-Wal-Mart fliers were distributed to citizens and signed at the bottom with the name of Mayor Hal Turville, with his City Hall address and phone number. Wal-Mart apparently thinks it has the Mayor’s number — but The Lake Sentinel newspaper says Hizzoner is “annoyed that a group is using his name” on their unauthorized flier. The pro-Wal-Mart form urges residents to sign the petition or send a letter to the city supporting the construction of a 187,589 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter at the corner of Rts. 27 and State Road 50. The Mayor has disavowed the letter, saying he wants the issue to have a full airing. “When you see it (the flier),” the Mayor said, “you might think it comes from me.” The newspaper noted that the flier looks as if Mayor Turville “sent the letter and merely forgot to sign it.” The anti-Wal-Mart citizens’ group, Clermont First, says that the proposed Wal-Mart location is one of the area’s most congested intersections. Wal-Mart needs a variance for parking and stormwater retention because the 38 acre site is not large enough. As a sweetener to the deal, Wal-Mart has offered more than $1 million in road improvements to make the intersection viable. Wal-Mart says they are not responsible for the “fake” Mayor’s letter, but company spokesman Keith Morris told reporters that he was the one who suggested the petition idea to a Clermont resident. This tactic of sending out fliers that suggest municipal endorsements landed Wal-Mart on 60 Minutes back in 1995, when the company sent out an anonymous flier in Greenfield, MA, complete with a photo of the Town Hall, suggesting the mailer had town government approval. Wal-Mart later admitted that they had produced the flier. In Clermont, Wal-Mart’s idea for a flier/petition apparently left out one minor detail: the Mayor never agreed to sign his name to the flier. How many citizens have been misled or deceived by the flier? Wal-Mart doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the misrepresentation, and the company has offered no public explanation of the incident.
Who do you suppose paid for the layout and printing of the flier? Will Wal-Mart admit they paid for the petition? What do such incidents tell you about Wal-Mart’s attitude towards the public? Clermont First is now organizing to stop the superstore. For further information or to offer help or money, email: [email protected]