FAIRHAVEN – It’s not unusual for candidates’ lawn signs to suspiciously “disappear” in Fairhaven as Election Day approaches. So it follows that, like in the April election before it, signs have been going missing for the September rematch of the Board of Health face-off between incumbent Peter DeTerra and challenger John Wethington.
But this time the antagonism has taken to the Internet, too, with barbs traded on social networks not between the candidates but their supporters. The rivalry has gotten so heated that it includes a boycott of a local rock band, threats of lawsuits and potential breaches of confidentiality.
One dispute started over Labor Day weekend, when the turbine-opposition group WindWise, which supports Wethington, posted a link on its Facebook page to a letter to the editor in support of Wethington published in The Standard-Times.
James Gagne commented on the post using an expletive, saying “… WindWise … clean energy is good.”
His post, which was sent to The Standard-Times by a group member, was deleted by the WindWise group administrator, who then posted on Facebook explaining that Gagne has written “a vile post” that “has since been deleted.”
Gagne could not be reached for comment. His Facebook profile does not list the pro-turbine “Friends of Fairhaven Wind” as one of his “likes,” but in its post the WindWise administrator (the group has three or four administrators) characterized him as a member of Friends of Fairhaven Wind and also mentioned Gagne is a member of the band Shipyard Wreck.
“We make this statement in hopes that you will support those who support us and show compassion to those who are effected (sic) and not support those who seemingly could care less about those who are being impacted and support their position with vile and disgusting comments,” the administrator wrote.
Three members of the group then commented on WindWise’s post supporting a “boycott” of Shipyard Wreck.
That entire post and its comments were deleted after The Standard-Times inquired about it via Facebook message. The WindWise administrator who responded to the Facebook message declined to give his or her name and denied organizing a boycott.
“We have not put out any statements that people should boycott his band. If anyone in our group chooses to not patronize an establishment where (Gagne) is playing that is their prerogative as well,” the administrator wrote.
The administrator also criticized Gagne saying he “came on this site using language we feel is inappropriate.”
WindWise member John Methia confirmed that he is one of the “three to four” administrators of the Facebook page, but said he was not the one who responded to The Standard-Times.
He would not name his fellow administrators but defended the decision to delete posts.
“Our site is not a forum, it is a place for those affected and impacted by the turbines to come and get information,” he said. “We ban plenty of people … we don’t want this to be a bully pulpit or an open forum.”
In a separate Facebook incident occurring over the weekend, Methia reported to The Standard-Times that the Friends of Fairhaven Wind Facebook page, administered by Dan Freitas, had breached the confidentiality of the town’s wind turbine complaint form in a Facebook message sent to a WindWise member.
In the message, Freitas called turbine opponents “idiots,” making his point by giving the date and time that a specific complaint was filed and saying he had done research to find that the turbines were not running at the time of the complaint because there was no wind.
Methia forwarded a screenshot of Freitas’ message to The Standard-Times but did not provide any parts of the conversation before or after the point in question. Asked about the message, Freitas could not provide any more detail about the conversation, but said it took place in July.
He added that he only knew about the complaint because he had overheard Methia discussing it with fellow WindWise members outside of Town Hall in July. Freitas also accused Methia of “holding it back” until the week before the election in “a last-ditch effort to get votes for his guy.”
Methia said he had only recently learned of the message, and added that, “I would never be talking about these specifics within earshot of Dan Freitas.”
WindWise member Kenneth Pottel said the group is looking into filing a complaint with the state’s attorney general’s office and Ethics Commission against Freitas for a breach of confidentiality. He also alleged that Freitas could have received his information from DeTerra in an effort to undermine those complaining of health impacts and sleep disruption from the turbines.
This week, Freitas was also banned from Facebook for 12 hours after WindWise members filed a complaint with the social networking site.
Methia said those complaints were the result of Friends of Fairhaven Wind “trash talking” about individual members of WindWise, something Freitas said he has not done.
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