Mayor says he has nothing to do with website that bashes his challenger

PENDER COUNTY -- In usually quiet, peaceful Surf City, the politics seems to be getting as angry as the surf sometimes does in this Pender County beach town.

Mayoral candidate Jeremy Shugarts, who also is a town councilman, said someone created a website -- now taken down -- that purported to be in support of his candidacy, but in reality took plenty of potshots at him.

While Shugarts stops shy of blaming the dirty tricks on incumbent Mayor Doug Medlin, he said late last week that there is little else to conclude that the posting of a damning website came from someone “friendly” to the mayor’s campaign -- even if that friendliness was unsolicited.

The website ( wondered why Shugarts had missed so many meetings during such a short tenure on council, noted that his council wages had been garnished to pay for child support, and questioned why two local businesses were in his wife’s name, not his own.

The questions have easy answers, Shugarts said.

He missed one meeting to attend a military affair involving one of his sons. He missed another meeting to attend a daughter’s graduation. He missed a third for a family vacation that had been planned before he even ran for council in 2017. For reasons like these, Shugarts said he would miss those meetings all over again.

He also doesn't owe unpaid child support, Shugarts said. And, indeed, in Ohio, where his child support payments originated, the court garnishes that portion of the wages of all those who are responsible for child support, taking a much more aggressive stand than many other states, according to the candidate.

And, yes, Shugarts' two businesses are in his wife’s name, as is his house. Is that illegal, the councilman facetiously wondered?

The website offered a sign-in icon that, if clicked, sent a confirmation email.

“If you click on the confirmation email,” Shugarts said, “it went back to East Coast Sports, which is a business the mayor owns. I am not accusing the mayor … but it went back to that email.”

There also was an icon enabling donations to the site.

“The site was made to look as if I made it,” Shugarts said, “but the address connected to my name is the home address of the mayor’s son.”

For his part, Medlin said he was unhappy with the whole website-posting episode and immediately spread the word that whoever was responsible should take it down, which has now been accomplished. Medlin said that a posting such as this was not going to help him.

The website at the heart of this issue is a URL address once owned by Medlin, but which has been inactive and abandoned for a number of years, he said on Friday.

“And I don’t know how someone got hold of it. I don’t know who came up with this idea … If it was somebody trying to help me, it didn’t help me at all. Probably hurt me.”

Shugarts filed a police complaint, alleging identity theft and obtaining property by false pretenses -- both felonies.

“The police chief said this is a civil complaint, but I told him I was still requesting that the State Bureau of Investigation look into it,” Shugarts said. “The SBI said that the local election board needs to look into this. I can sue civilly if I want to, but that is not my goal.”

His goal, Shugarts said, is to win the mayoral race in order to provide more leadership that is also far more transparent that what is currently on offer. Too much of Surf City’s business is done behind the scenes, Shugarts said.

Medlin said he's been involved in local politics for 36 years, but never had to deal with a situation like this before.

“We have never had one in town like this before," he said. "I don’t think the blame can be put on me or any of the other council members, all of whom have run several election races. This is not our style. I’m not saying whose style it is, but it is not our style.”

Election Day is Nov. 5, with early voting starting Oct. 16.

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