Mayoral candidate plagued by inconsistencies

Holmes Beach Josh Linney campaign
Holmes Beach mayoral candidate Josh Linney feels he’s ready to take the reins at city hall. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Mayoral candidate Josh Linney is facing a lot of heat for the number of inconsistencies in his self-told background.

Despite his open and honest platform, misinformation and changing biographies are causing the public to question Linney and what he stands for. Though Linney can’t be disqualified for misrepresenting himself or altering the information in his self-written biography on the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections website, the inconsistencies are consistently placing him and his background in the public spotlight.

Biography versions

Updates to Linney’s online candidate biography have been noted by The Sun on July 4, July 23, July 27 and August 4, the latest as of press time. In each incarnation, new details have emerged and some have changed or disappeared.

In the first version of his biography, Linney made several claims including declining ROTC scholarships and admission to West Point in favor of guaranteed airborne and Army Ranger training. He noted that he finished second in his Army Advanced Infantry Training class. His biography also said he was deployed for a year to Iraq and suffered a traumatic brain injury from a one-story fall from a building.

The July 23 biography lists Linney as a Gulf War veteran and changes his deployment location to the Middle East. The detail about the fall from a building was omitted.

The July 25 biography said at recruitment he was guaranteed an assignment in the Army’s airborne division and admission to the Ranger Indoctrination Program. It also said he graduated from AIT second in his class from U. S. Army Quartermaster School in 1994 and spent nearly a year traveling through the Middle East before returning stateside in 1995 and being diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome along with other medical issues. A July 27 change took his status from Gulf War veteran to a veteran of the Gulf War period. In his Aug. 4 biography, Linney is listed as a Gulf War veteran who participated in Operation Vigilant Warrior.

Military training

His military records state that Linney entered the Army on Sept. 15, 1993, and served as a private first class before receiving an honorable discharge for medical reasons Aug. 6, 1996, followed by disability. In addition to passing basic training, he completed three weeks of basic airborne training, one week of combat lifesaver training and one week of driver training.

Linney never completed any infantry training. In an Aug. 5 interview, Linney said the claim of attending Advanced Infantry Training was an error he made after seeking help from an advisor on the biography with the full name of the training he knew as AIT. The Army website lists AIT as Advanced Individual Training.

Both airborne division soldiers and Army Rangers are listed as specialty schools and training disciplines on the Army’s official website. His military record shows his only specialty as food service.

At the time Linney was in the Army, soldiers were evaluated in a three-week Ranger Indoctrination Program before qualifying for Ranger program training. At enlistment, soldiers can volunteer for airborne training if they meet the criteria, but cannot be accepted to the Ranger training program without first being enlisted and completing the required pretraining and passing the screening process. Completion of basic airborne training does not qualify a soldier for acceptance into a specialized airborne division, according to the official Army website.

Education

Linney said he was invited to attend West Point by school representatives in a letter after scoring in the top 1 percentile on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. School representatives would not confirm or deny Linney’s acceptance. The school’s website says admission to West Point requires prospective students pass each step of the rigorous acceptance process, including receiving at least one nomination from Congressional representatives, the Vice President of the United States, the Puerto Rican governor or resident commissioner, the Secretary of the Army or a military official. Linney said he had no nominations.

Injuries and Gulf War Syndrome

In a previous interview with The Sun, Linney stated his traumatic brain injury was caused by the fall from a building, but in an Aug. 5 interview said it was caused by a fall from a truck during a training exercise in California in preparation for going overseas. After he recovered from the fall, Linney said he went back to training and was deployed as scheduled with the other members of his unit.

When he was discharged, Linney said he was diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. The illness is defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs as “a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms” ranging from headaches to PTSD. Because of the widespread physical and mental symptoms documented in soldiers who served in Southwest Asia, it’s assumed that certain chronic, unexplained symptoms that persist or get worse over a six-month period are related to the syndrome. Soldiers can apply for benefits due to the syndrome if they served on active duty in the region prior to the end of 2021.

Linney served in Southwest Asia for 43 days, his only recorded deployment. The dates of his deployment line up with those from Operation Vigilant Warrior, a mission to dispel an Iraqi threat on the Kuwait border. Linney said he was a cook in the dining facility of an armored division attached to the third brigade infantry division verified to have participated in the operation. Though he did not serve during the Gulf War, Linney qualifies as a Gulf War veteran according to the VA along with any other soldier serving on active duty from Aug. 2, 1990, to present.

Despite inconsistencies in biographies, articles, or social media posts, Linney’s name is still on the November ballot for Holmes Beach voters. Though inconsistencies can’t disqualify him, voters will be left to assess a candidate with a past record in dispute who is running on an honesty platform. Linney has had several run-ins with the law, more than a dozen with the Holmes Beach Police Department whose budget he would oversee as mayor, been convicted of two driving under the influence charges, and also faced drug-related and theft charges.

These days, Linney says he lives his life free from alcohol and drugs other than those prescribed by a doctor and medical marijuana, of which he is an advocate. He says he hopes voters will not judge him based on the issues of his past, though he denies issues in his present, saying that he wants to be as “open and transparent as possible.”

In the weeks leading up to Nov. 6, he invites anyone with questions to contact him directly by visiting his website.

“I don’t have anything to hide,” he said.