FAIRHAVEN – A letter written by Select Board Chairman Brian K. Bowcock to a Windwise activist’s employer became an issue at candidates night March 20 with reverberations continuing this week.
The incident happened last summer, but was brought to the fore at a candidates event sponsored by the North Fairhaven Improvement Association at Hastings Middle School last week.
Mr. Bowcock used official board stationery in a letter to Windwise activist Henry Ferreira’s employer, accusing him of writing threatening e-mails to Health Board Chairman Peter DeTerra. Mr. Ferreira is a department head at the Rhode Island School of Design.
The letter to the college president was provided to the Advocate by Mr. Ferreira. In it, Mr. Bowcock says Mr. Ferreira’s “threats against the Chairman of the Board of Health have become a police matter and the police have advised Chairman DeTerra to pursue a restraining order.”
Mr. Bowcock said the e-mails were written on a college e-mail account. He said if the situation continued to escalate the “evidence contained in the computers may be introduced in court.”
Mr. DeTerra confirmed later that he had contacted the police. He said he felt that he and his family were being threatened by the e-mails as well as by Mr. Ferreira’s antagonism at board meetings.
The main e-mail comment that was mentioned last week was sent to the Board of Health on an online complaint form. In it, Mr. Ferreira says, “Peter DeTerra deserves all that will rain upon him.”
Mr. DeTerra would not provide details of any other comments he considered threatening when asked Monday but said he’d received many e-mails from Mr. Ferreira at home and work and that Mr. Ferreira had been threatening toward him at Board of Health meetings.
On Monday, Fairhaven police Sergeant Kevin Kobza said the police are not pressing charges. He said, “No charges were filed. We investigated it.”
Sgt. Kobza said police spoke to Mr. Ferreira and “once we determined that he had no intent” to harm Mr. DeTerra, they decided not to press charges.
“There was no crime committed,” Sgt. Kobza said. “We did not find it gave rise to a crime being committed.”
Mr. Ferreira denied making any threatening comments in any e-mails.
“This has to do with abuse of power,” Mr. Ferreira said.
He said Mr. Bowcock’s decision to write a letter to his place of employment was in retaliation for his activism involving the wind turbines. He said now that it’s all come out in public, Mr. Bowcock and Mr. DeTerra are “building themselves a web of lies” because they know he has filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission and that this could result in a lawsuit.
Mr. Ferreira said Mr. Bowcock was so angry about Windwise, “They were just trying to cost me my job.”
Mr. Ferreira denied he’d ever not opened the door for police, which Mr. DeTerra alleged. He said he went to the police station on his own initiative after the lawyer at his school contacted him and provided a copy of Mr. Bowcock’s letter and attached e-mail.
Mr. Ferreira said the police chief said there were “no threats” but that Mr. DeTerra felt intimidated.
The police report, which Mr. Ferreira gave the Advocate and which the police would not provide, was written by Officer Matthew Botelho. It says Mr. DeTerra provided copies of the e-mails sent to Health Agent Patricia Fowle and that they “read (like) normal concern about noise … But on one email sent by Mr. Ferreira he writes, ‘Peter DeTerra deserves all that will rain upon him.'”
Officer Botelho said, “I informed Mr. DeTerra that this was not a direct threat and could be interpreted in a number of ways. I told him I would talk to Mr. Ferreira and advise him that this is not the way to get things accomplished and that if any threats are made he will be charged criminally.”
Mr. Bowcock defended his decision to write to the president of the college saying Mr. DeTerra “felt that he was threatened and that his family was threatened.” He said he “wrote to the head of the school as chairman of the Board of Selectmen” and told Mr. Ferreira’s superiors that he “imagined the school has a policy” against using company e-mails for such purposes.
Selectman Robert Espindola sent his own letter to the college, which Selectman Charles Murphy signed. In it, he says he hadn’t been involved with or aware of Mr. Bowcock’s letter. Mr. Espindola said when he asked the board’s secretary if she had a copy of it on file, “She confirmed there was not.”
Mr. Espindola said he asked Mr. Bowcock to allow a discussion about the letter and was hoping to have it retracted, but that Mr. Bowcock “declined my request.”
He said Mr. Bowcock’s letter did not reflect the opinion of the board, “nor did we ever give Mr. Bowcock the authority to write any such letter on our behalf. He did not represent us or the Town of Fairhaven in any way.”
Mr. Bowcock defended his decision to write to the school president on his own. He said in light of the deaths that happened recently in Newtown and in Colorado and at Acushnet’s Ford Middle School years ago, “I have no problem sending something out like that. When you have this kind of behavior, it needs to be brought to someone in authority.”
Mr. Bowcock said if the other two selectmen collaborated on their letter outside of the board meeting they violated the open meeting law. He said this is true even if their letter is not on board letterhead.
But Mr. Murphy said he didn’t think they violated the open meeting law because they didn’t use official board stationery.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding