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‘Stand up to bullies, stand up to hate’: Muskegon official creates support group in wake of cyberbullying battle

Muskegon County commissioners voted 5–4 to refer the censure vote against Zach Lahring to the human services committee for further review.
Posted at 8:09 PM, Jun 29, 2021

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Bob Scolnik’s phone has been ringing nonstop ever since his story about battling cyberbullying made the local news last week, including on FOX 17, he said. He’s a Muskegon County commissioner and has been an elected official for 30 years. And, after the story aired, not only did people called to show support but there’s been over 4,000 comments of support online.

“It feels great but it isn’t fun,” Scolnik said during an interview with FOX 17 on Tuesday. “If people think I’m enjoying this whole thing, I’m not. It’s something that needed to be done.”

Scolnik said he’d much rather spend his time focusing on issues and ways to make Muskegon a better place for its residents and visitors.

However, he said for months he’s been cyberbullied by fellow county commissioner Zach Lahring. Recently two posts were found on Lahring’s personal page, one of Scolnik kissing an old friend on the cheek and another of him holding up a woman’s pink platform shoe.

“Some of the things that have happened lately basically pushed me over the edge,” Scolnik said. “He used the word queer as an insult, but he not only insulted me, it was hate speech. He insulted a pretty wide group of people in Muskegon County.”

Scolnik was fed up, he said.

Lahring had other posts on his page that were controversial, like one referring to BLM as "belt loops matter."

“He’s coming up with all these kind of nasty insults. He had been insulting me for months and he essentially got me to the breaking point,” Scolnik said. “If he wanted to poke the bear, the bear is responding.”

Lahring’s Facebook page is no longer public.

Meanwhile, Monday night Scolnik created the Bob Squad, a group that he hopes many of his supporters will join so they can be vocal during public meetings on issues Scolnik stands for, like inclusion.

“[Lahring] either has some kind of a phone tree or a mass text list and they’ll get people to call in and support just one side of the issue. I need somebody to call in and help me and support the other side of the issue and just let people know that it’s not a one-sided issue,” Scolnik said. “It has been frustrating when there’ll be 50 phone calls and 48 of them will be supporting something that I know is wrong, and only a couple of people will call in. So, I’m hoping the Bob Squad will be people that’ll help keep common sense, sanity and good moral decisions in Muskegon County.”

FOX 17 reached out to Lahring for an interview and comment on Tuesday and have yet to hear back.

Tuesday evening, during a regularly scheduled Muskegon County Commissioners meeting, there was a motion to censure Lahring for his comments. Activists and dozens of others rallied against Lahring outside the courthouse. Inside the room where the commissioners met, it was packed with supporters for both Scolnik and Lahring.

Commissioner Malinda Pego said that Lahring’s posts were on his personal page and that he was protected by the First Amendment.

In the end it was voted 5–4 to refer the censure vote to the Human Services committee for them to review.

Nevertheless, Scolnik said Lahring’s speech was “hateful and vile” and has done a lot of damage to many in the community. He wants him to be held accountable for his actions.

“Somebody needs to stand up and do the right thing and stand up to bullies [and] stand up to hate,” Scolnik said. “Try to get things back to where people are doing what’s best for the people and not just following party lines all the time.”

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