A private matter, a public apology

Plant City's vice mayor apologizes to his wife during a city meeting for an extramarital affair.

Published July 11, 2007

PLANT CITY - Robert P. Brown sat through the City Commission meeting with a dozen roses stashed below his desk and a burden on his heart.

When it was his time to speak, the vice mayor started off with mundane matters, like installing a new turn signal.

Then, he asked the audience to bear with him. He talked about choices. He said he had made some bad ones.

"I chose the easy way. I chose the fun way," he said. "I chose poorly."

He didn't name his sin.

But later, he said he took up with another woman.

She was a high school sweetheart. She found his picture on the city's Web site. They started to correspond.

Brown, a savings and loan officer, had recently lost an eye to cancer. His son and daughter are graduating from college this year. He's 48 years old.

He thought to himself, Maybe it's my time now.

So in June he moved out of the house he shared with his wife of 25 years, Wendy. He thought it was for good.

"Nobody leaves if they don't think that's the way to go," he said.

It made his children furious. His daughter deleted his name from the family's answering machine message.

At first, things went fine with the woman Brown calls "the other gal." He said he planned to make a new life with her. But inside him a feeling was building.

He tried to ignore it.

The first Sunday in July, Brown and the other gal went to an out-of-town church together. And later that day it hit.

It wasn't like a voice spoke to him, he says. "It just didn't feel right."

The next morning he sat down at the computer.

I got myself in quite a bit of trouble, he wrote to Wendy. I can't get out of it myself. I need some help.

He and Wendy met at the house. They talked for a long time. Then Brown sat down with the other woman and told her it was over.

But in a town like Plant City, everyone knows each others' secrets.

That's why, on Monday, Brown stopped to buy a dozen red roses before he headed to the commission meeting.

And there, in front of fellow commissioners, in front of the mayor, in front of his wife, he read a statement he'd written and rewritten.

"I apologize for my behavior and for any hurt I have caused," he said. He asked the town to pray for him. Then he called his wife to come forward, and he gave her the roses.

On Tuesday, Wendy Brown didn't want to answer questions about the affair. Instead, she talked about her faith, about God's love and the importance of forgiveness.

"The roses were beautiful," she said. "I know my husband loves me. And that's enough, for now."

S.I. Rosenbaum can be reached at 813 661-2442 or srosenbaum@sptimes.com.