New Smyrna Beach's LOOP advertisement used for private gain by former chamber president
Robert Lott was denied his solicitation of a paid advertisement for the "NSB Waterfront LOOP" for his new business venture, "Eye to Eye," where he is placing advertisements generated from sales with local businesses into restaurant menus. Lott placed the the city's waterfront ad in one of the menus any way without marking it as "paid" or "unpaid."
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- The city's "NSB Waterfront LOOP" marketing campaign, paid for by CRA-supported tax dollars, is being used for private gain by former Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce President Robert Lott, who emerged with his wife from federal bankruptcy court earlier this month having staved off hundreds of creditors.
A banner-sized version of the LOOP advertisement appears at the bottom of a menu for the Dolphinview Restaurant. One of Lott's creditors, Sylvia Roy McCormick, alerted Headline Surfer about the ad menus.
McCormick, a widow since remarried from Edgewater, hadn't been to the Dolphin View Restaurant nor had anybody else she knows. Having lost $50,000 as an investor for the now-defunct weekly Observer in a deal brokered by Lott, McCormick said he actually contacted her in March while bankruptcy proceedings were still going on, soliciting her to take out a menu advertisement in his latest business venture.
"I was outraged," McCormick said of Lott's solicitation before his bankruptcy had even been decided and knowing she had a snowball's chance in hell of getting her $50,000 back.
McCormick was equally disturbed that the city would do business with Lott, and his new company, "Eye to Eye," with his well-chronicled legal and financial issues.
Headline Surfer contacted New Smyrna Beach City Manager Pam Brangaccio, who at first said she knew nothing about it and instructed the Internet newspaper to make a public records request with City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe.
The city clerk said he was told by CRA staff that Lott asked if the city would sell him an ad and that request was denied.
Brangaccio later sent an e-mail, stating: "There is NO business relationship with CRA, City of NSB, Waterfront Loop and a "menu" being published by Lott."
Lott did not return an e-mail seeking comment about the circumstances surrounding his use of the city's ad.
Headline Surfer e-mailed Mayor Adam Barringer, inquiring marked "advertising/city property about possible legal ramifications of a publicly-financed marketing ad being used in private business to generate money. Here is the e-mail sent Wednesday evening:
Barringer has not yet responded to the e-mail inquiry regarding the city's potential liability with Lott placing the city's ad for his profit-making private venture.
Lott, the 2009 president of the Southeast Chamber of Commerce, and his wife, Michele, sought bankruptcy protection from hundreds of creditors, personally and for the now-defunct weekly Observer newspaper under Coronado Beach Publishing, totaling nearly half a million dollars since they bought the paper four years ago.
Sylvia Roy McCormick was one of two widows, who invested in Coronado Beach Publishing through his former "Lott Financial Services" on Flagler Avenue. The other was Mary Crosby, who was 82 years old when she handed over her money to Lott. She sued to try and recover her $60,000, but the bankruptcy put an end to her recouping her life savings.
Lott was represented in that lawsuit filing by Kenneth Bohannon, a member of the city's Planning Board, who was serving as president of the chamber last year when he served as Robert Lott's lawyer, which was not disclosed to the chamber membership.
In addition to serving as president of the chamber, Lott, was also on the board of the Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority, where his wife's newspaper received significant advertising from the hospital.
The Observer ceased printing in November despite tens of thousands of dollars in advertising borne by the taxpayer by the city and its CRA, the county, the local hospital district and the Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority, which receives bed tax revenues from overnight lodgings.
The Observer was re-opened by the Lotts on Canal Street before relocating to his former financial planner office on Flagler Avenue. A year ago, the Lotts were told to leave because of back rent owed. They moved the Observer to their Edgewater residence before shutting it down late last year. They also foreclosed on their house.
About the Blogger
Henry Frederick is editor/publisher of Headline Surfer, Florida's first 24/7 Internet newspaper, launched April 7, 2008 in New Smyrna Beach, and accessed via HeadlineSurfer.com, NSBNews.net & VolusiaNews.net. Headline Surfer is a registered trademark of NSB News LLC. Frederick was the top winner in the 2012 Florida Press Club contest: 1st place for Blog Writing & 3rd place each for General News Writing, Public Safety Reporting & Best Online Presence (with social media). He's received 18 major journalism awards as a breaking news, investigative reporter & city editor for daily newspapers in Florida, Massachusetts, New York & Connecticut since the mid-1980s.
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