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Nancy Smith

Calling Out a Demonizer: 'Another Psychopath Enlisted by the Brian Mast Army to Harass and Bully People'

February 4, 2019 - 10:00am
Brian Mast
Brian Mast

Ever since the horrific congressional baseball shooting that almost took the life of Congressman Steve Scalise and former Hill staffer Matt Mika -- and came moments before Congressman Ron DeSantis arrived at the field -- members of Congress have been keenly aware that serving in public office has put a target on their backs.

So why on earth would Congressman Brian Mast turn into one of the rabble rousers inciting crazies to make targets of the public officials on the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board? 

That's exactly what he's done.

As the governor's advisor on his $2.5 billion water initiative, Mast makes a point of accusing board members -- the ones he wants out --  of "serving special interests" and making important decisions in secret. He uses broad accusations of criminality, without ever listing what these members' "crimes" are.

Last week he issued two statements commenting on the appointment of two new board members, Chauncey Goss and Ron Bergeron. In each statement he included a line saying the current board has operated for far too long "without any transparency and prioritized special interests above the people of Florida.”  The repetition is conspicuous and intentional. 

If you repeat a lie enough times, it will become fact. Especially if it comes out of a congressman's mouth.

A congressman's words carry considerable weight, don't you agree, particularly to citizens who want to hear that message, who are looking for someone to blame for things in their lives they have no power over. They believe him. And sometimes they act on their anger.

I mention this now because of Melanie Peterson's Facebook video.

Melanie Peterson: I can stay silent no more

Peterson is just one former or current South Florida Water Management District board member who has received threatening or downright terrifying communications from people who hate the SFWMD Governing Board. In fact, every board member -- the ones like Peterson who already resigned and the ones who dug in their heels -- have fielded hate messages or death threats or both.

But Peterson decided to fight back. After a "creepy-voiced" anonymous caller with a Wallingford, Connecticut number told her he hopes she drowns in the polluted, algae-choked water she made, she used YouTube to publicize his phone number.

The caller is Michael Wendroff, 60, who may be a snowbird. One of his other addresses is in Florida, listed as North Venice Beach. By the time I tried to reach him, he wasn't picking up and never returned my call. But Peterson said, "Apparently my mother called this man, he has apologized and regrets making the call.

Sure he regrets it now.

"I am also hearing that employees of the District have been targeted ... My prayers are with them and their families," she said.

Peterson doesn't equivocate on the video. "I blame Congressman Brian Mast for his rhetoric, for his bullying and for perpetuating this kind of behavior, because this is not how civilized people discuss problems or find solutions ..." She calls Wendroff "yet another psychopath enlisted by the Brian Mast army to harass and bully people ..." 

Gov DeSantis ultimately will come to regret the jihad against board members, she says. They are unpaid public appointees chosen by the governor, but the board  itself is a creature of the Legislature. 

Board member Jim Moran from Boynton Beach, showed me a stack of emails -- hate mail all -- some with the same nasty line: "I would like to see you keel-hauled from one end of Lake Okeechobee to the other!  Awe...too bad that's illegal ... but so is what you and your cronies have done." 

"I’ve been called lowlife, scum, a money grubber and a bribe taker," Moran told me. "None of this ever happened in my eight years on the board until Mast came on the scene. This whole issue with demanding our resignations isn’t a result of anything we did wrong but a result of us not kowtowing to an egomaniac bully loudmouth ..."

Moran was one of three members whose term on the board was up in March. Though the three had only one meeting remaining, the governor demanded their immediate resignations anyway.

What’s going on here is as plain as the nose on your face. The Everglades Trust/Foundation whispers to Mast and Mast has the governor's ear. So far the governor hasn't denounced Mast's tactics. Earlier on, when board members wouldn’t resign and the governor found out he could only suspend them for cause, close allies suggested asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate them.

Said Moran, a lawyer, "That's outrageous and illegal."

If Governing Board members have been "putting special interests ahead of the people of Florida for years," then Congressman Mast should be transparent himself -- open up, stop the blanket accusations and show citizens proof board members are criminals. And have been, as he's said, "for years."

I asked for proof. This is the proof Brad Stewart, Mast's spokesman, gave me: "Most recently, hiding a vote on a lease extension with Florida Crystals until 9 p.m. the night before the vote, then ignoring a plea from the governor-elect to delay the vote, then criticizing citizens who wanted to engage in the process as the “peanut gallery” -- as if somehow demeaning citizens who care about the environment justifies anti-environmental, pro-industry actions."

Really. That's the proof of criminality the Mast team offers. A single incident over an issue embedded in Statute.

As Katrina Elsken, editor of the Okeechobee News, comments, "The "surprise" lease deal was no surprise to those who have been following SFWMD for decades. Lease renewals are usually done with no discussion as "consent agenda" items. And this lease actually made it possible to speed up the EAA work. They are out there on the site working on it right now, clearing 500 acres where they will stockpile rocks, doing geotechnical borings, etc., all thanks to the lease agreement."

My point in telling you this story is, board members have every right to be frightened.

In a 2015 decision that weighed the protection of free speech against protecting people from online abuse, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of people being scary nutjobs on the Internet. I remember the case well. Apparently, even explicitly violent posts aren't a crime, they're "therapeutic lyrics" and therefore free speech -- unless you can prove the nutjob's comments were meant to be taken seriously. And you can't really do that until after he's put a bullet in your head. 

So, being a horrifyingly vulgar trashcan of a person isn’t a crime. But it certainly can scare the pants off you. And when you've got a stack of hate-filled emails and social media posts inspired by a U.S. congressman, as every one of these Governing Board members do, you have to ask yourself, what are my odds that one of these writers is unhinged enough to upgrade to violence?

The bottom line here is, Mast should have known better. He knows all about threatening phone calls.

Stewart, his spokesman, having seen Peterson's video, gave me this statement on Saturday: 

"While Congressman Mast and others have disagreed with many of the public policy decisions Ms. Peterson made while she was serving on the board, Congressman Mast absolutely doesn’t condone threats against public officials or private citizens, especially considering that Congressman Mast’s own children have been threatened by a liberal activist in Martin County."

The story,  "Grand jury indicts man on charges he threatened to kidnap, kill Rep. Brian Mast's children," was in Treasure Coast Newspapers (TCPalm) on Aug. 17, 2018 after the threatener was indicted by a federal grand jury. FBI agents had arrested Laurence Key 68, in Stuart two months earlier.

According to the newspaper report, Key said on the phone to an intern at Mast's Washington office, "I'm going to find the congressman's kids and kill them. If you are going to separate kids at the border, I'm going to kill his kids. Don't try to find me because you won't." 

Oh, yes, and look what's happened in Congress since the ballfield shooting:

In 2016, there were 902 threatening incidents and communications against members of Congress. By 2017, the reports had more than doubled to about 2,000, according to the House Sergeant at Arms office.

In response, the House Administration Committee allocated $25,000 to each member in 2017 and again in 2018 to beef up their personal and office security, prompting members to hire bodyguards for events and equip offices with panic buttons and shatter-resistant glass.

Congress is looking out for Mast's protection, as it should in this world of crazies.

But so should Mast and the governor look out for the District's departing board members. Which they can do by stop demonizing them and stop trashing their service to the State of Florida. 

Frankly, I think they owe every board member a public apology, but I won't hold my breath.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith


Oh, poor whiney SFWMD members. The new governor cleaned house and you are grabbing at straws. Melanie Peterson: Really, you feel threatened by rhetoric from frustrated and angry citizens whose livelihoods have been ruined countless times because of your mis-management and lack of professional credentials to even run a water district, no less? Puleeze. You know what they say about people who live in glass houses, yet you can sling your own muck pretty well. [ "yet another psychopath enlisted by the Brian Mast army to harass and bully people ..." ] What evidence do you have that Congressman Mast is behind anyone else's behavior? He has the same freedom of speech as anyone; the SFWMD members ruined this state and poisoned the peninsula. Could it be that the entire south region of the state - from east to west - erupted at the same time from harmful airborne toxins that caused the critical mass and called for y'alls expulsion? Jim Moran: "None of this ever happened in my eight years on the board until Mast came on the scene. This whole issue with demanding our resignations isn’t a result of anything we did wrong but a result of us not kowtowing to an egomaniac bully loudmouth ..." No, it is a result of the departure of your buddy, Rick Scott. Thank God for Gov. DeSantis - A PROVEN LEADER WHO IS HONORABLE. Shame on you, Mr. Moran, for publicly defaming Cong. Brian Mast. That isn't very adult of you. Aren't you aware that a public servant as yourself should not cast stones? Perhaps if you volunteer for anything in the future, one would think your mindset would be to genuinely be a public servant and not self-serving. If you think that we believe your secret deal was an act of transparency, you are only fooling yourself. Enjoy your time off.

Melanie Peterson: I can stay silent no more Melanie, you are not believable. Your arrogance and disrespect of the citizens of Florida are beyond belief. You shuttle between Kentucky and Florida due to your high-end real estate property enterprise which is evidence of your real intent: profits over people. You did the right thing by being the first one to abandon ship. GOOD RIDDENCE.

You people should not be so hurtful to one another. Why isn’t anybody thinking about the aquatic life? The mounds of herbicides that of been sprayed coupled with warmer water and years of biomass building up on the lake bottom is creating the issue we have. You need to look at what is changed recently over the last few years and you will see consistently more and more herbicides sprayed with no regulation. Where do you think all that dead plant life goes when you spray? It falls to the bottom building layer upon layer. That is toxic. Be angry at the chemical companies that are producing these various components that are changing our natural environment and killing our aquatic life. Be angry at the lack of soil testing and water testing that would prove that we have reached levels to create the toxins and therefore the algae bloom. We need to regulate! You want to hear the scarier side of this equation? The water that most communities use to irrigate your trees, plants, and grass in your own backyard is usually pumped from your nearest lake water that also gets sprayed with these same harmful chemicals. Yes, your own irrigation has chemical compounds that cause cellular death. Everybody should go green and stop using harmful chemicals and turn your negative energy and petition to Go Green!

Sadly a monster was unleashed on Florida when Mast was elected. He riles up the "crazies" (cough cough Cyndi). One of two things is happening. He knows what he says will anger the far right and get them all fired up and he loves to manipulate people, like a power trip or he is so clueless what his words do which is just as bad. And I'll be a petty, catty-like... We all know he is a military veteran who lost his legs while serving this great country of ours. I have so much respect for the men and women who serve and the sacrifices they make to protect us. Unfortunately Mast uses this to get the sympathy vote. Why wear shorts in commercials other than to show off the prosthetics? I couldn't imagine the reaction from the general public, including myself, if politicians doing ads or public appearances wore shorts. Please wear pants like every other member of Congress and the Senate does.

here are just some of the issues-like I there are loads of articles. but the fact that you are your friends keep repeating this nonsense just shows how ignorant you are and how no one should even give you the time of day. i don't have words for the insensitivity. Common problems encountered by amputees Bony osteophytes or spurs from trauma or from periosteum that was incorrectly stripped during surgery A fibula bone that is longer than the tibia The failure of a myoplasty or myodesis Osteoarthritis Adductor Roll Poor socket fit or suspension Weight bearing pressure caused by ill fitting socket. The socket must be designed to distribute these forces over as large a surface area as possible and as evenly as possible over pressure-tolerant areas. The presence of ongoing pain, skin breakdown A change in the ability to put on and remove the prosthesis Contractures: Hip and knee flexion contractures affect prosthetic fitting and function. Knee and hip contractures also decrease cosmesis and efficiency of ambulation. Phantom sensation and phantom pain: Phantom sensation is the perceived sense that the amputated limb or part of the amputated limb is still present. Phantom pain: Is the sensation of pain originating in the amputated part. Individuals describe a burning, stinging, or cramping pain. Sweating is a very common problem and sometimes can restrict the wear of a prosthesis Congestion: When the proximal part of the socket fits too snugly on the residual limb, venous outflow can be obstructed. When this is problem is combined with an empty space more distally in the socket, swelling can occur until that empty space is filled. In an acute choke situation, the skin is red and indurated and may have an orange-peel appearance, with prominent skin pores. Dermatologic problems: Contact dermatitis or sebaceous cysts, folliculitis, excessive sweating, and scar management. Energy Consumption: The increased energy requirements of prosthetic ambulation can limit the use of a prosthesis.

it is a sad day in the world when people make things up that are not true. and then pick on peoples disabilities. Nancy Smith you should take this whole post down.

there is no connection between Mast and the person that called Melanie. as far as what Brian wears you might want look up amputees and the issue with long pants- seriously no one is that ignorant. Educated yourself-google is a great place.

Imagine if all the good people who have been driven out of SFWMD, DEP, etc over the last 10-20 years came out on YouTube to whine about how the new administration and their special interest backers had it out for them... That would be a much longer, valid and interesting playlist.

The district has let science lead the way. Unfortunately, that no longer matters. screw science. Republicans deny manmade climate change. Democrats deny simple M/F biology. The everglades foundation has convinced hundreds of thousands of low information idiots (including the king idiot Brian Mast) that water from Lake O is polluted because of the sugar farms south, even though the water flows south, not north. And so it continues. In ten years, we will be worse off than we are today and the fault will likely rest with these idiots that are about to run the SFWMD.

There YOU go again with that "self appraisal" "VotedBlue"; You've lost ALL your credibility, and have become a repetitious, out of control, name-calling, bore, typical of your "nouveau leftist political position" in Congress,... with absolutely NO idea how to sanely develop it ((Communists, since Lenin, have always suffered from the same lack of intelligence and common sense)). To put it bluntly "VBlue": you're too 'juvenilely stupid' too pay attention to...

All of us in the water issues in both sides have been threatened one way or another. i certainly don't condone it. Melanie was really rude to Brian but to suggest he created a social media army to army to harass people is way over the top. and so untrue! Why do this 3 days ago? Melanie was already gone! Believe me when I tell you that people from all over have been going after these board of governors way before Brian Mast arrived on the scene. What a bunch of cry babies! Seriously get real.

I'd just like to say Nancy you are really way off base! I've been threatened multiple don't go whining and crying on You Tube! One guy threatened me on the phone to rip me apart from limb to limb and I took the recording to the Martin County Sheriff and they told me not to worry about because the guy lived in California. Melanie should be happy she is gone! It's tough to let go when you have the power to call people like the Captains for Clean water the peanut gallery, be continuously rude to people -it must hard for her to give that up. But to go after our beloved Congressman who has had his family threatened is over the top for both of you.

I know you Cyndi Lenz of Bullsugar. I would not come after you or threten you but you are hateful and radical to and about some very good people. Bullsugar. Enough said.

lol i'm not with bullsugar. this is the issue. people can't even get their stories straight.

i looked up the guy that supposedly called Melanie. He has not one friend in the clean water movement. I doubt he even knows Brian. He does live in Venice. So i bet this past summer when hundreds of dead fish, dolphin, dead manatees washed up on his shores he did the same thing the rest of us did-have a total meltdown. Prob also couldn't breath. Nancy Smith you gotta stop making things up!

Which is the part Nancy made up? You sound like the one with the imagination.

nancy is writing about something that is in melanies imagination. maybe this guy called her but there is no link to congressman mast. people have been harassing these board members for years before brian even got here. why don't they get unlisted phone numbers? i don't see much a future for sunshine state news with irresponsible stories like this. It is sad because Nancy is a good writer.

Thank you, Nancy Smith. There are just no words for Brian Mast's behavior. It is never ok to threaten public officials, or anyone for that matter, even when you disagree. It is so hysterical that the Stuart News is silent on this issue. Of course, I'm being very sarcastic. They only write about those they agree with, which is so pathetic. Thanks for getting the information out to those of us who are not Mast/Everglades Trust/Everglades Foundation sheep.

he didn't do anything. his family was threatened.

the guy who threatened him was from the west coast. not only any clean water list. so we just makes things up now?

Wow, Cyndi, you just never stop. You are not a victim! Instead, you continue to spread lies about people you know nothing about. People in Martin County have no respect for you or the venom you spew. Wake up!! You are simply a tool for the bully machine that is bullsugar/Everglades Trust/foundation. Let me know when the leaders of these groups invite you over for dinner to say thank you. LOL, LOL, LOL!!

i have great respect for Bullsugar, ET and the foundation BTW. It would be wonderful to go to dinner with the people who are saving our water!

Except they would never invite you to dinner. You are a mouthpiece, a tool, a soldier, they don’t actually associate with people like you, they use you.

i know its horrible when facts=venom. Her behavior shows that she can't be trusted to be on a board because she is actually spouting a conspiracy theory. She literally made this up about this Mast army thing without any proof. @melaniepeterson pull up your big girl pants, stop sniveling and move forward!

I do not agree with rhetoric that paints a target on anyone’s head! However, in today’s political arena the dems constantly call, pay and enlist but jobs to protest and harassment! Let’s not forget Obama & companies rhetoric - if they bring a knife, we bring a gun! Lay blame where it belongs Nancy! As a citizen in the treasure coast it’s sickening ( literally) to see our water ways turned into cesspools summer after summer! Fix the damn problem already! Drain the swamp of inefficient SFWMD and get us clean water already!

If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were from Martin County and deeply imbedded with US Sugar. These folks need to man up. Everyone that was a part of the previous administration should be held accountable for the damage they have done. It is a natural occurrence, but not to the unprecedented levels recently seen. This algae has unlimited fuel essentially thanks largely due to the complete deregulation of our state's water. if they do not like being called out for that, perhaps they should quit their day job at Dixie and move back to the Midwest. Its time for new blood and none that are aligned with big sugar. It's way past time to put Florida and its water quality first. Either you are part of the solution or you are part of the problem.

I am indeed from Martin County. Several of our children and grandchildren still live there. I care very much about the problems Martin faces, and I am not, as you say, "embedded with U.S. Sugar." I do care about the rivers, the Everglades, and the communities of the Treasure Coast and have followed the work at the Water Management District since before the District moved into its posh headquarters on Gun Club Road, when the Governing Board met in a trailer. These boards are not new to me. I can honestly tell you the board just dismissed is entirely honorable and committed to Everglades Restoration and solving the problems discharges present. None of these people are "aligned with big sugar." It is wrong to blame them for Martin's problems.

Ignore the "Trolls" Nancy; It's like playing "Whack-A-Mole"... the "game" never ends (But I love it so !)!!!

For those of us who know the "Real" Brian Mast he is a closet Democrat out of Broward county! Sad that he was voted back in because all people see is his service related injuries. He conjured the sympathy vote! Dave Cummings was the right man for the job! Congressional District 18 needs to WAKE UP! Not all who serve their country are "good"! Keep in mind that he also wants to infringe on our 2nd Amendment!

I have wondered about this... Even after many faxes, calla, and 3mails to his office, I cannot get him to give an honest answer about the problems with illegal immigration, and his commitment (if any) to do anything to protect the LEGAL RESIDENTS of his district. He only seems to care about the water/algae issue. I wouldn't trust trust him any further than I could throw him. Really wished that the FL legislature hadn't redistricted out Allen West...TWICE.


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nancy smith


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