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Coal ash sign causes controversy at Sanford coffee shop

Posted February 7, 2015
Updated February 8, 2015

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— Employees of a Sanford coffee shop say they were threatened by the former chairman of the state's Mining and Energy Commission after placing a sign in their window protesting the proposed storage of coal ash in Lee County. 

According to employees, former MEC chairman and current member Jim Womack made a visit to Kathy's Java Express last week and advised them to take down the sign.

Josie Seeley, who works at the shop, said Womack came in and asked to speak to Kathy Addison, the owner.

"He just came to the back and asked to speak with Kathy," she said. "Kathy wasn't there."

Addison said as the owner, she is just there to run her business.

"He's not gonna bully me to do it, I mean, make me take the sign out of the window," Addison said.

"She told him that it was his opinion," Seeley said. "But we weren't going to take the sign down."

According to Seeley, Womack, a former Lee County commissioner, said he would discourage people from doing business at the coffee shop unless the sign was removed.

"I was really upset," Addison said. "I couldn't believe that he would do something like that."

Womack said he wanted employees to have the facts and believed the sign could alienate customers.

A response posted on Womack's Facebook page said, "I sincerely believe it is the first amendment right of Kathy's Java Express to put silly signs up in their shop window. And it is also my right to encourage the establishment of a new coffee house in Sanford, one that isn't prone to ill-advised political escapades..."

Addison says that despite the incident, business has been booming at the coffee shop.

"Since this has happened, I have had so many people come in, it has boosted my business," she said.

Addison's daughter filed a police complaint in the case, but authorities say no charges were filed.


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  • James Grimes Jr. Feb 8, 2015
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    However, going to the back of a business to bully the owner of a business could be a crime.

  • John Kramer Feb 8, 2015
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    Oh, my heavens! That is even scarier! Nuclear waste instead of coal ash. Time to change the coffee shop sign.

  • red311 Feb 8, 2015

    Look, because of the clay basin geology, Sanford really is the best place for the coal ash to go, but this guy's behavior is waaaaaaaaaaay out of bounds. Doesn't he know there's a place called Yelp for people who want to be petty and vindictive to small businesses?

  • Jim Frei Feb 8, 2015
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    In Sanford, the shop is probably getting its electricity from the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant, not from a coal plant.

  • busyb97 Feb 8, 2015

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    It may not be a crime, but it her first amendment right to post the sign in the shop and her employees agreed with it. He can take his business elsewhere, he can tell them why he is doing so, and sure, he can tell his friends. But essentially threatening her to take down the sign is wrong. And I am glad to see it IS backfiring!! And I hope MORE businesses speak their mind with "silly signs". Haha. That might make him happy.

  • qgirl232 Feb 8, 2015

    Wow. When did it become a crime to walk into a business, not like what you see, and say you are taking your money elsewhere and that you are going to tell your friends? Seriously people. I wonder how many of you call Timewarner, Dish, Directv and do the same...just over the phone? Would you like them to publish your phone number? Btw that email address won't work because he isn't a commissioner anymore!

  • tri123 Feb 8, 2015

    Coal ash is good for you... if you'll just let me mansplain that for you. Good grief.

  • Road-wearier Feb 8, 2015

    His email is commissioner.womack@gmail.com

  • Road-wearier Feb 8, 2015

    Classic right winger tactic - threaten those messengers who can't fight back. Classic.

  • LetsBeFair Feb 8, 2015

    good grief ... he went about that all wrong. He should have brought 30 folks in and bought a 1000 dollars worth of business and 'LISTENED' to Kathy.