BROOKSVILLE - Dr. Johnny Johnson, a retired pediatric dentist, has declined Mayor Lara Bradburn's invitation to debate a nationally known fluoride opponent.
Bradburn announced Monday Dr. Paul Connett, author of "The Case Against Fluoride," would attend an Aug. 27 budget workshop at Brooksville City Hall.
Bradburn is planning a "presidential-style debate," and invited Johnson to speak in favor of fluoride.
In an email sent Wednesday night to Bradburn and City Council members, Johnson said he had already explained the community benefits of fluoridated drinking water during a May workshop.
"You and I discussed scientific research which isn't peer reviewed, credible nor published in reputable journals," Johnson wrote, referencing studies Bradburn discussed during the workshop. "While that type of literature may appear on the surface to be legitimate, that same literature has failed to meet the standards that the scientific community demands for credibility. Unfortunately, that is the kind of flawed, incomplete or irrelevant information that is circulated by Paul Connett - the man you asked me to 'debate.'"
Johnson called Connett "fringe and disreputable," and respectfully declined Bradburn's invitation.
In an email sent to reporters and Brooksville City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha on Thursday morning, Bradburn wrote she was "disappointed that he (Johnson) seems unwilling once again to have a open and honest discussion on this matter."
"Instead, he chooses to lob disparaging remarks against anyone who disagrees with him," Bradburn wrote. "That approach serves no one."
Bradburn said she hopes Johnson will reconsider debating Connett. If not, Braburn wrote she has asked the Hernando County Health Department to recommend a replacement.
"If they truly believe water fluoridation is safe and necessary for our community's consumption, they'll jump at the opportunity," Bradburn wrote.
The workshop is planned for 6 p.m. on Aug. 27 at Brooksville City Hall, 201 Howell Ave. The talks will be broadcast on the county's television channel.
Fluoride was added into Brooksville's drinking water from 1986 through 2011.
If added back in to the community water supply, fluoride would cost the city about $7,000 a year.
During a July 1 City Council meeting, Joe Bernardini, previously undecided on the contentious issue, announced he would be in favor of adding fluoride back into drinking water but would also like city residents to decide during election time.
Council members Frankie Burnett and Joe Johnston III have said in the past they favor fluoride.
Bradburn is a staunch opponent of the additive, as well as Vice Mayor Kevin Hohn, who works as an account manager for a company that sells fluoride products and believes there is a better way to fight cavities than fluoridated water.