When private thoughts go public

Editor’s note: Recently, a now-former Tump Administration official, Anthony Scaramucci, and current presidential advisor, Steve Bannon, gave reporters what they claim were to be off-the-record interviews. The full transcripts of both interviews soon became public. Neither Scaramucci nor Bannon appear to understand the rules under which journalist agree to receive off-the record comments. Locally, civic activist Phyllis Frey wrote an email to Press Journal columnist unilaterally declaring her comments to be “off the record.”  There is no indication, though, that Reisman made public Fry’s wacky email. It seems more likely Fry decided her rant too clever to keep private, and so shared it with others, perhaps with Vero Beach City Councilwoman Laura Moss. What we do know is that Moss read from Frey’s comments during a City Council meeting, thus making the email to Reisman a part of the public record. Below is the full text of Frey’s message to Reisman. Given Frey’s bizarre comments, that Moss seems to be on the same page with her is a bit troubling. 

Correction: The original version of this story posted August 17, 2017 at 8:01 p.m. indicated that Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss opened the August 10 Special Call meeting of the Vero Beach City Council with a statement that included excerpts from an email Phyllis Frey sent to Press Journal columnist Larry Reisman. While some of Moss’ opening statement reflects Frey’s views, it did not directly quote Frey’s email. One commenter to InsideVero, Susan Mehiel, cnfirmed that Frey’s email was sent to Moss and “was sent to 4 or 5 people after the meeting…”

Related story: Vero Beach Cultural Arts Village will be transformative


Phyllis freyTo: larry.reisman reisman

Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 8:55 AM

Subject: Fw: Follow up to the Special Call workshop: A star performance

Phyllis Frey

Good morning Larry,

Before I get down to a serious strategy, I thought I would impart a few private thoughts—off the record, about yesterday’s star performance by an all-star cast.

I set about my early morning reflections upon the charade that posed as a city council meeting yesterday. If all the world’s a stage, even Shakespeare would have been impressed by the parade of entertainers that strutted, pranced and danced their hour upon the stage, swirling like dervishes before the camera, entertaining all those “wonderful people out there in the dark” in true Norma Desmond fashion.

It was a five star performance by the art village. There were jesters hypnotizing the politicians who sat behind the dais, taken to their own final act of trolling for votes. The original purpose of researching and evaluating the Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan turned into a shadow puppet show then was shown the nearest exit. It was a document too boring, too filled with facts, much too sobering for such a giddy-faced crowd worked into a froth, lined up at the podium to extol the virtues of the arts. When the snake charmer brought the cobra from the basket, Councilman Winger was so entertained he said he would pass the Comp Plan on the spot as is! Bravo, bravo, another Zinger from Winger who was eager for the next act billed as “Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils.”   

Depending on your definition of sanity, there was ONE sane person on scene, Mayor Moss, whose opening statements were stunning in their truths. She was the ONE person who addressed the importance of the Comp Plan and its implications upon our community. She was the ONE person who understood the serious need to give the document its due attention. If there is one thing I love it is an underdog and she was certainly dead last on this totem pole. I also love irony and this is the best part—she was an art major! Doesn’t that just bubble your champagne?

The other council members breezed right past her, busy rolling out the red carpet as Hollywood protocol demanded for the actors who, by their presence were on cue to deliver a carefully orchestrated performance. It was a cast born of drama doing what actors do best, creating illusions with greasepaint and special effects. Everyone was eligible for an Oscar. There wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house by act

III. Everyone was a Sarah Bernhardt.  

When the final act was delivered, four members of the council sat starry-eyed, glazed over in a sugar coating of fairy dust, blissful and compliant enough to put away that pesky Comp Plan. They clicked their heels together three times and basked in the knowledge that there’s no place like an art village. It’s a Utopian warren where citizens can roam, bathed in colored lights, a place where one can lose one’s self in dreamy murals, a place where the Emperor can parade among the crowds in his new clothes. It a place where the Potemkin Village can grow into Tomorrow Land on the flow of taxpayer dollars from that magic source in the town square, the bottomless money well where sugar plum fairies twinkle and the grin of the Cheshire cat hangs like a crescent moon on its back in the night. 

Who can help but rave in the afterglow of such a star performance and rosy promise of the future? My primrose path certainly received the all clear yesterday. Why deal with burdensome facts in an atmosphere that was staged to be all light and fancy?

Today the chamber sits cold and dark, quiet as a tomb. The punishment of surprise—a packet of white papers with a title, “Comprehensive Land Use 2035 Policy Plan. Who left this? Why is it here, this out-of-place tome of jibberish? It serves no purpose in this theater of the absurd. It might as well be written in Korean Nobody understands it. Nor do they wish to. Some janitor will send it to its proper place, a trash bin then on to an incinerator, that hellish pit called reality. Yesterday was a close call. Council nearly had to deal with it. For Shakespeare, that would have been a fete worse than death.  Let’s praise the actors and their troupe for sparing us all.


  1. The lady has a flair for writing and maybe could be (or has been) the author of a best-seller. However, writing is one of those pesky arts. I am surprised the other 4 members of the City Council would share a view on the arts village. Yes, due diligence is usually a really good idea but so is government in the Sunshine. Come to think of it, when Mayor Moss attended the “Love” rally on Wednesday, her last words were for us to attend the church of our choice. We do – but it isn’t any business of government whether we do or not. The arts have helped the downtown attract visitors, and we have a huge number of these talented individuals ready and willing to continue to promote what is left of our wonderful little “main” street area. But this is just my opinion.

  2. Please know that I am a 100% supporter of the Art Village. I invest in art and wish the art village every success. God must have been an artist; why else would he have created so many colors?
    Cultural art comes in various forms—painting, dancing, opera, writing and many other venues. It is the heart of a community that lends itself to diversity and unity all at once.
    I must admit that my primary concerns have been for keeping Vero, Vero. The Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan contains pernicious language that threatens Home Rule of Law and interjects 568 POLICIES which are LAWS that will deny us freedom of choice in having a say regarding the future development of our community for the next 18 years.
    I am deeply concerned that our City council will miss these points, hence my attempt at writing satire. I respect my publicly elected officials. They are our last line of defense against losing Home Rule of Law.
    My little foray in the published article was my amateurish attempt at writing, my personal choice of artistry, and I thank the reader kindly for your remark. I can only hope that the spirit of the written word will guide us into the future and keep us on the path of truth, one that will protect our quality of life and our preference for low density population neighborhoods reflecting old Florida charm with the atmosphere of a small seaside village.

  3. Please share with the public—verbatim—the words you claim that Mayor Moss read from my comments.
    I never shared my comments with Mayor Moss.
    Please share with your readers any verbiage Moss publicly read of mine. This would be difficult since I wrote my comments piece AFTER the meeting.
    If you care about the future of Vero Beach, your time would be better spent reading and understanding the Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan.

  4. Is it possible that Vero lost our home rule when certain candidates accepted large amounts of campaign donations from Indian River Shores and FPL? We must never lose local control or be absorbed by the county.

  5. Most bizarre is the editor’s comments about the email which was sent to 4 or 5 people, after the meeting and not to the Mayor. Specifically, what did the Mayor read and how did you come by the email?

  6. Susan Mehiel. Most bizarre is the editor’s comments about the email which was sent to 4 or 5 people after the meeting and Mayor. Specifically, what did the Mayor read and how did you come by the email?

  7. Susan, How I came by Frey’s email to Reisman is, for sure, none of your business. The fact is, after Frey’s distribution of the email to the Mayor it became a part of the public record.

  8. Well, I guess Phyllis’s email system must have been hacked….like the DNC and Podesta? As she didn’t send it to the Mayor. An even bigger story may be forming – the Russians are operating in Vero Beach!

  9. It is my understanding that the City Clerk’s Office is in possession of a copy of Frey’s email. To you other point, the dysfunction in Washington is indeed also present in Vero Beach.

  10. Your first task as a journalist is to bear the burden of proof. As of this writing you have yet to do so.

    You continue to perpetuate the rhetoric that I forwarded my writing (Your title: “When Private Thoughts Go Public”) to Mayor Laura Moss. I think I would know. After all, my sent file shows no record of your false claim. Your bizarre narrative goes on to perpetuate the prevarication that Mayor Moss read excerpts of “When Private Thoughts go Public” into the public record—another false charge.
    Neither of your claims are true, but only serve to fit your false narrative. Fake news is an unbecoming travesty, pretty thin soup for those who continue to call themselves “journalists” and worse yet, for Americans who hold themselves to a higher standard and trust journalists to report the truth.

    Please, I invite you, I implore you to share with the public verbatim, my words that you claim Mayor Moss read on public record at the August 10th, 2017 Special Call Workshop meeting.
    Your assumptions are—what was your word—“wacky?” Your attempt at connecting non-existing dots are one but more of your fabrications that add to fake news—the pretense that Mayor Moss, or any other council member for that matter, and I are on the same page. I possess no special gift for reading their minds. Do you?

    It is my civic duty as a concerned citizen (not as an ‘activist’ which you mistakenly claim) to conduct my research from the 400-page document “Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan” and report the text to the council members. Whatever conclusions they form is based upon their own research. The fact is that this document will determine where we live, build, develop and travel for the next 18 years.

    What a pity you haven’t done your own homework. You could have been more useful to the community as a researcher rather than as a yellow journalist.

  11. Mayor Moss simply read from the Vero Beach Charter of 1992 assuring “low density and quality of life”- it is my belief the majority of Vero taxpayers maintain this vision of the character if the city we love. Improving downtown Vero is happening now under free enterprise improvements, is the Art Village advocating end of Home Rule by working with regional planners – sounds like a conflict? Do taxpayers now have to choose between a beautiful art village and our important City Charter that has been such a positive for 27 years?

  12. During the meeting, before the meeting, and since the meeting Moss has expressed views on this issues mirroring Frey’s thinking. The irony of the talk of “home rule” is that Moss, Howle and Sykes occupy seats on the Council bought and paid for by Indian River Shores residents and by FPL.

  13. Cool your jets, Phyllis, and read the correction/clarification. If you contend that you did not share your email Moss, then that’s that. Did you not share it with anyone else? Are you of the belief Mr. Reisman released it?

  14. I am pleased that you are directly addressing me, Mark. I offer you the same courtesy.

    As God is my witness I did not share my email with Mayor Moss. My writing was strictly for the artistic entertainment of my four trusted friends, one of them being a professional marketer, writer and frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the others being retired professionals in their own right.

    Funny that you used the term “cool your jets.” As a retired airline pilot responsible for the safety of passengers, my adult life was spent in training and in practice, absorbed in converting technical manuals into performance, a highly specific focus that was my assigned duty.

    As an aside, I kept journals of my worldly travels. Without any formal journalistic training, I’m afraid my friends had to suffer through my amateurish attempts at writing as a creative outlet. They have been kind and tolerant.

    Not only would I have been mortified to have any members of our city council read my ramblings, it would have been counterproductive. If you would take ten minutes to review my agenda presentation on August 10th, (slide the time bar past 12 noon, Part I) you will find me citing a list of concerns regarding the Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan and how it will affect the future of Vero Beach if passed as-is. If we care about keeping Vero Vero, there are some serious issues herein that must be addressed. The 1-day workshop was woefully inadequate to address these matters and that was the source of my “theater of the absurd” writings.

    Please understand that like many, I love this community. I have the utmost respect for the founders who had the wisdom to protect what we have by providing strict zoning codes, ordinances and our City Charter. Much of that protection is about to change. If we do not acknowledge the flaws in the Comp Plan and insert some safety firewalls, Vero has about as much chance of remaining Vero as a snowball in the Sahara. Sadly, the public is usually the last to know in these matters. I have been pounding the drum and sounding the siren song incessantly. But when the coal miners start shooting the canary, one must question why.

    The answer is all too often, “follow the money.” Increased density and intensity changes under new MIXED USE rezoning POLICIES (which are LAWS) will forever change our small town atmosphere and erode our quality of life, all for the benefit of developers.

    As for Mayor Moss or any other council member agreeing, disagreeing or mirroring my thoughts, I have no control over how they think. My documents show that I have given hundreds of presentations on various issues spanning the years not only to our local council, but to other councils, commissions, boards and legislators throughout the state. Many have agreed with me. Many have dissented. My priority has always been to conduct the research and provide the facts so the public and publicly elected officials can make an educated choice about issues and laws that will affect our future.

    As for Larry Reisman, I have no written proof, but if I am any judge of character at all, I am betting London to a brick that he did not release my information. I specified that my writing was personal and off the record. He called me personally to confirm this.

    Thank you for your civil discourse on these and other matters. I hope you and your readers will read the Comprehensive Land Use 2035 [POLICY Plan and/or watch both the August 10th meeting and the July 6th one as well. I encourage the public to attend the September 20th Special Call meeting. Please stand up and speak out for keeping Vero Vero. The direction city council takes will forever change how and where we live, build, develop and travel (which is not for the better as written in the Comp Plan), or they will make the decision to protect our precious gift, one that has come to be known as the jewel of the Treasure Coast. Let us pray for the latter.

  15. Sorry for misleading you Mark, but I mistyped my comment the second time when your site reminded me that I had to include my full name. The first comment was the correct one. I consistently said she didn’t send it to Moss. The obvious way to determine the truth here is the date on the email which you claim is in the hands of city administration. It’s the day after the meeting. Interesting, that because the Mayor used similar language or thoughts that you felt free to declare the email public information and publish it despite the “off the record” preface.

  16. So unfortunate that Vero voters and taxpayers, who pay the bills, have been ignored from the writing of the Comp Plan 2035 – everyone that I know mentions they live here “because we are assured of not turning into Ft. Lauderdale due to strict zoning,” page 2-5 says “maximum density and intensity” with comment that City Charter can next be changed. Our charter is our pride in Vero assuring for 25 years “quality of life and zoning heigth limitations.”

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