The Fairhaven Board of Selectmen has instituted a new policy: Town letterhead should be used only for communications signed by all three members of the board and voted on in open session.
Hardly seems necessary, except the chairman in June sent an “official,” individually signed, letter to the Rhode Island School of Design without the approval or knowledge of his colleagues that prompted the new rule.
Chairman Brian Bowcock used the letterhead to alert RISD’s president that one of his employees, Fairhaven resident Henry Ferreira, “has reached a point where his threats against the chairman of the Board of Health have become a police matter.”
“I bring this to your attention in the hopes that harassment charges will not need to be brought and your institution will not be required to appear in court.”
The other two members of the board, Bob Espindola and Charlie Murphy, followed up Bowcock’s letter with one of their own – not on town letterhead – clarifying to the president that the original communication about Ferreira was not from the board, but from an individual selectman.
We hope that the record has been set straight at RISD.
This started with one sentence in Ferreira’s complaint to the Board of Health regarding the health effects he reported because of his home being so close to the controversial wind turbines erected on town property: “Peter DeTerra deserves all that will rain upon him.”
Board of Health Chairman DeTerra reported this to the police. “I am a victim,” DeTerra told The Standard-Times Monday. “My life was threatened. My family was threatened. My wife was upset. I was upset.”
We can understand how DeTerra might have interpreted Ferreira’s language as menacing, but local police investigated and found that it did not constitute a physical threat.
And we should not forget that the comment that started it all came from a man who, from his perspective, likewise feels victimized by the effects of the turbines. Now, more to the point, he probably considers the letter from Bowcock to RISD’s president as a threat to his job and a further victimization.
Asked about his letter to RISD, Bowcock said, “I don’t have any problem defending my action. If this hypothetical person is going to send a threatening hate email to somebody in today’s day and age with the killing in Newtown, Conn., and the Colorado movie theater shooting, I think we need to take these things seriously.”
Ferreira is now livid that he would “hypothetically” be tied to the terrible events to which Bowcock alludes.
It’s time to stop and take a breath here.
The wind turbines remain a hotly contested issue in Fairhaven, but that is not an excuse for the sort of overheated language that this newest incident has provoked.
And a longtime public official like Bowcock should know that using his position to potentially undermine a private citizen’s job is just plain wrong.
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