MADEIRA BEACH (FOX 13) - Disagreements over everything from approval of development projects to personal relationships in Madeira Beach have spilled over to newly-created websites dedicated to personal attacks.
One such site, madbeachexposed.webstarts.com, goes after Elaine Poe for her position against approving certain projects, and for questioning the personal relationship between city manager Shane Crawford and Cheryl McGrady, Crawford's assistant.
Two other Web sites, madbeachparadise.com and madeirabeachunited.com, are critical of the city's development rules and the two projects in play. They also attack Crawford, McGrady and other city officials.
"It's nasty," city manager Crawford told FOX 13 News Tuesday. "We've got a lot of people that, you know, this is now drama and some people are reveling in it."
Reached by telephone, city commissioner Poe declined to talk about the website aimed at her. Crawford and McGrady both said the personal attacks are irrelevant to their jobs as city employees, but are still taking a toll.
"The nasty emails and the phone calls and accusations and slanderous and libelous activity," Crawford said, "I haven't slept in weeks, lost 20 pounds, it's been brutal."
Madeira Beach is a small town: Population, about 4,200.
"I can't even go to Walgreens and get my prescription filled without having a debate in line," Crawford said, before telling a very local story.
"The checkout lady said, 'I've lived here for 26 years. I've been working at Walgreens my whole life and now you're changing the face of my town,' and the two people behind me are like, 'yeah, we want it to change,'" he recalled. "I just took my prescription and walked out."
McGrady had a similar story.
"I actually went to Publix one day and there was several people who... are on the opposite side and I saw all of them. They all looked at me and gave me looks. I turned around and I left the store," McGrady recalled.
Vice Mayor Pat Shontz is over 80-years-old and told FOX 13 News, "I've been in office several times, and I've been here a long time, and I've seen a lot of nasty things happen."
She said she has seen personal attacks during municipal controversies in the past, and in her experience, the impact of such behaviors are larger in a small community.
"Just takes a little bit of stuff to destroy the city. Takes 10 years to get over it," she said.
"They don't understand this," she said, referring to those behind the websites. "It'll take at least two elections, and maybe more, before we can get back on the right track again."
Perhaps, with two new developments flanking the gateway into Madeira Beach. Perhaps not.