Candidates defend absence at Tybee Island forum

Candidates defend absence at Tybee Island candidate forum

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - Some Tybee Island City Council candidates are explaining why they did not show up to Monday night's candidate forum.

Of the six candidates, only Julie Livingston and incumbent Paul Wolff attended, leaving many in the standing-room-only crowd disappointed.

The four candidates who didn't attend are: Wanda Doyle, John Bremer Sr., Barry Brown and Stephen Friedman.

Freidman spoke with WTOC Tuesday, and said he and the other three candidates who didn't attend had a problem with one of the forum's sponsors, Forever Tybee.

"They actively are supporting two of the candidates, the two candidates who showed up, Paul Wolff and Julie, actively supporting them in the campaign,"

Forever Tybee is a state-registered political action committee, and they do endorse candidates.

But the group's president told WTOC they simply endorse people who meet the beliefs listed on their website, which she says mirror the City Charter.

"We have asked no more than they will swear to if they are elected, but we're just looking for people who buy into that," said Forever Tybee President Freda Rutherford.

According to Friedman, the four no-show candidates wanted to participate but the forum's moderator refused their request that each question be asked of all the candidates.

"They have used these forums to make a mockery of the people that they oppose. And they come in there with these questions that are supposedly from citizens or supposedly anonymous, that in fact are nothing but attack questions," said Friedman.

But Rutherford denies claims of pre-arranged questions and says her group wasn't targeting anybody.

"If you don't think the Savannah Morning News is fair, if you don't think reporters like you sitting there are making it fair, that we were doing some nefarious thing. I mean, I don't know, I'm not that good. It's a charge coming from nowhere, that's I guess a political, a strategy and an agenda," said Rutherford.

The Forever Tybee board of directors will meet Wednesday to officially endorse their candidates for this election.

But according to Friedman, the group already actively supports Livingston and Wolff. The two who showed up Monday night.

A letter signed by no-shows Friedman, Barry Brown and Wanda Doyle says they are "truly independent candidates."

UPDATE: Candidate John Bremer, Sr. contacted WTOC to clarify the reason for his absence from the candidate forum.

"Last Thursday [October 8] evening a very dear friend of mine died tragically in a traffic accident on the Bull River Bridge. Susan Allen Bartoletti and her husband Chris are close friends as well as co-workers of mine at Huc A Poos on Tybee where I work part-time," said Bremer. "My mistake was believing that I could attend Susan's memorial on Monday and then leave for the candidate forum. I was wrong, I needed to stay to continue to support Susan's family."

Bremer says he notified Freda Rutherford, the president of Forever Tybee, via Facebook around 4 p.m. on Monday that he would be unable to attend for that reason.

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