Speculation on who is behind a well-orchestrated but anonymous attempt to derail the campaign of a candidate for the Camden County second district commission seat continues to heat up as last-minute politicking picks up steam.
With just days to go before the Tuesday primary election, candidate Cliff Luber is responding to attacks with rebuttals to a list of allegations that include ethics violations, threats of physical violence and racially-motivated remarks against children.
Luber is ready to challenge the anonymous campaign machine to a public debate.
"As we near one of Camden County’s most important elections ever, I am being slandered by someone who lacks the nerve and respect for voters to identify themselves. They are using half truths, innuendo and outright falsehoods to distract Second District voters from the very real issues that confront our county and in particular the county commission," Luber said in an interview with Lake Sun. "Nowhere in any of their scurrilous attacks is anything said about my plan to lead Camden County forward to a better future. While they wallow in the mud, I will continue to address the issues. If someone has the fortitude to put their name to these false attacks, I will publicly debate them anywhere at any time."
Luber characterizes the actions of those behind the mudslinging as faceless, cowardly, dirty attacks that have taken us down a dark political road to nowhere. "It is time to say enough. It is time to define the challenges that confront us and debate solutions openly. It is time to turn our backs on the politics of the past and look to Camden County’s future," he said.
The anonymous attacks against Luber began shortly after he filed for the second district seat currently held by incumbent Thom Gumm. At least two mass mailings have been sent out and some residents have reported finding documents implicating Luber in alleged wrongdoings have been left at their homes.
In the most recent anonymous attack, Luber is labeled a "bigot, racist, bully" and a "man who threatens children, a stalker and a sexual predator." The letter goes on to say "this is a man who says he is against government and government spending yet makes his living through a pension through the state of Maryland and now he wants to make an additional living off the taxpayers of Camden County."
Gumm and other candidates who responded to inquiries by the Lake Sun deny involvement in the smear campaign as does Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken. At one time Luber and Franken were political allies. Since the 2010 election, that seems to have changed.
The allegation that seems to be fueling the most discussion concerns a report filed on June 22, 2010 with the sheriff's department against a person named "Cliff" who works at High Brothers Lumber Company. The report was filed by Gerald Hauck months after the alleged threats were made. Deputy Joe Botta, who filed the incident report, requested a written statement from Hauck. That was never provided. The allegations in the report were not investigated by the sheriff's department at the request of the alleged victim.
Page 2 of 3 - The allegations in the report involved threats of violence toward children who would be attending a camp Hauck was planning to have on his property, the Sonshine Ranch. There were also allegations of threats from a man named Cliff that he would "blow their heads off" if the children strayed from Hauck's property. The threats were accompanied by racial slurs.
The Lake Sun attempted to reach the Hauck by phone and email but did not receive a response.
Franken said he did request the report but only after receiving a copy in the mail. He does not remember when that was.
The report is not signed by anyone with the sheriff's department and there is no record of who first requested the report, according to Capt. Kelly Luttrell.
The report, being circulated in the anonymous mailings, has a time and date stamp indicating it was printed on March 9, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. at the sheriff's department.
Luttrell verified the report was printed on that date.
According to Luttrell, anyone requesting reports must now sign for the documents. That policy was instituted after the report started being circulated and attracting attention.
Luber said it is difficult to respond to a total fabrication. If this had been a legitimate problem, Luber said he believes an immediate complaint would have been initiated by Hauck, not six months later and only after the alleged victim had problems with others who live near him.
Luber has served as president (and founder) of the Lake Area Conservative Club. Prior to that he was involved in the Camden County Tea Party organization.
What the report says:
Gerald Hauck of Camdenton reported verbal threats to the Camden County Sheriff's department on June 22, 2010. Hauck told officer Joseph Botta that he received threats on three different occasions over a five month period. Hauck is the owner of Sonshine Ranch in Camdenton. The ranch is a non-profit camp focused on reaching youth between the ages of 10 and 16 whose parents currently serve sentences in the Missouri Department of Corrections. The first alleged incident occurred on the afternoon of December 11, 2009 at High Brothers lumber yard. Hauck was at High Brothers with intention of buying lumber to build cabins for campers at Sonshine Ranch. Hauck reported that when he was on the south yard loading his lumber, he was approached by an employee named "Cliff." During their conversation, Hauck told police that "Cliff" used profanity including racial slurs. Hauck reported that "Cliff" said, "he was an ex-highway patrolman from Washington D.C. area and that he owned plenty of guns, and that he would shoot any kids who wondered off the property by blowing their heads off." Hauck also reported that "Cliff" added that he would "blow Hauck's head off also." The next incident reported occurred during the first week of May 2010. Hauck received a letter in the mail regarding the access road to his ranch which is shared by various other property owners. One of the property owners was Ed Nichols, owner of Camdenton Pawn. Upon receiving the letter, Hauck went into the pawn shop and contacted Ed. While at Camdenton Pawn, the two had an hour and 15 minute discussion of Sonshine Ranch. Hauck said that Ed told him that other property owners were not happy about the camp being located near them and asked him how much he would sale the property for. Before the conversation was over, Hauck claims that Nichols told him not to be surprised when his cabins were burned to the ground. The third incident occurred about three weeks later at a homeowners meeting. The report states that the meeting occurred at the residence of John and Amy Webster on Valiant Road. Hauck was under the impression that the meeting was concerning the access road, but shortly after the meeting started he was confronted about Sonshine Ranch. Amy Webster allegedly told Hauck that "those people" are not welcome in their community and that he was not going to be allowed to bring "those people" to his property. Hauck then confronted Nichols about the statement he made weeks before concerning cabins being burned down. Ed allegedly denied it then said that he told Hauck about "somebody" burning the cabins down. Other attendees then spoke up.
Page 3 of 3 - Hauck never turned in a written statement according to Captain Kelly Luttrell with the Camden County Sheriff's Department. The incidents were never investigated further because Hauck stated that he did not desire to prosecute any party involved and because he felt as if "law enforcement contacting his neighbors would simply make the matter worse."