Cohasset Selectmen to investigate anonymous blogger(s) that might be hiding out at Town Hall

David McMorris and his wife Ronnie addressed a packed selectmen’s chambers during a five-minute public comment period and held them spellbound.

David appealed to selectmen to take action against the anonymous commentators on a Patriot Ledger blog site who have “been defaming my family.”

After a long public comment session, selectmen vote 5-0 to give Cohasset007 and frozenturkeys (frozenturkeysforall) 72 hours to come forward and apologize or selectmen would seek them out via whatever legal means was possible.

“We are a family who believes in public service,” David said, saying how he and his wife Ronnie were active in their church and their community. David is a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and is on the Board of Directors at the Community Center. Ronnie served as a three-term selectmen and is also active in the First Parish community.

“There is a price to be paid by public servants,” David said, and asked that the town conduct an investigation to learn the identities of these individuals. “If it turns out they are town officials or appointees, I ask that they be dealt with.”

Ronnie told selectmen that she had two emotional experiences during the past week. The first was reading about herself in a blog comment in the Patriot Ledger. The second was when her daughter Leah, running her first Boston Marathon, was stopped half a line from the finish line when the bomb went off. “I am so grateful that our family and our friends and safe tonight,” she said.

“I served this community for 9 years on this board. Like each of you I raised my hand and took an oath to act in the best interests of this town.” Ronnie said almost 10 years after leaving office she is now paying for the role in which she participated as Select Chair in 2003 in two police officer’s disciplinary hearings.  One officer was now the current Acting Police Chief, then a patrolman. “It was a difficult and complex time for the town,” she said. But she said it was clear that the abuse is focused on her now, and those wounds continue to fester a decade later.

A commenter on a Patriot Ledger blog last week went after her kids. She refuted the commenter by saying: “One of my kids was not arrested for public drinking or for any other violation of the law. “Those hearings involved allegations of misconduct of police officers.

“This is about everyone who chooses public service, and the chilling effect it has on all of us” she told selectmen “Any decision you make or that you have already made, will be fodder for the bullies.  Ten years from now, will the cowards be after you?” she urged selectmen to “Ferret them out, hold them accountable, and send the message we will not tolerate intimidation in this town.”

Citizen Stephen Brown said “In light of the fact that the attacks on McMorris are related to a potential candidate for police chief, I hope the board decides to have an open search for the police chief. If the(Internal candidate) gets the job they will have additional credibility from (having won the job) from a national search.”

Selectman Martha Gjesteby said that injured parties do have the means to go to a newspaper and find out who is commenting on blogs

Selectman Diane Kennedy told the McMorris’ that she felt their pain. “I am getting similar messages myself. I almost didn’t come here tonight. We are trying to do the best job we can do. I implore the media to find a way to identify people.

Kennedy added that the acting town manager has also been subjected to anonymous commenting, too. If the vote goes 3-2 and you’re on the 2 – you move on in best interests of town. It should not make me fearful of coming to a  selectmen’s meeting on a Tuesday night.”

Carlson noted that the Wall Street Journal requires commentators to give their real names. “That’s the type of blog I respect. I hope we can find a way to unearth people on all sides of this issue. We’ll try.”

Selectman Fred Koed said “This board needs to take action.  I’ve seen confidential personnel information released on the blogs. He said in the same Patriot Ledger blog in which McMorris’ daughters were libeled he was being “spanked by the firemen’s union for positions I have taken. I have been attacked for asking for process.” Koed said he wanted to take action and fully investigate the commenters.”

Carlson said the board would be on tricky, legal grounds,…constitutional issues and so forth. Town counsel should advise us.”

“We have certain powers,” Koed said. “We can assure the McMorris’ that this is not coming from town hall by searching town hall computers right now. We have the power to hire an investigator, the power to get subpoenas. We can subpoena the Patriot Ledger for IP addresses

“Nobody  has the right to lie about someone’s family,” Koed said.

Citizen Agnes McCann said she was discouraged to hear the conversation steering away from Koed’s motion to investigate the issue. “I see no reason to hold off on that. She said the board hardly had any power over newspapers or their policies. “The subject is what happened, what you can do about it, what you should do about it.”

Carlson said:  “There’s no evidence attacks on the McMorris’ have been done on town computers. We can also criticize what’s being said on other blogs.”

McCann said:  That’s (town computers) what you’re supposed to investigate.

Koed said selectmen should subpoena the Patriot Ledger for the addresses of these commentators. See if they’re coming from town hall.”

Carlson: “Why town hall?”

“It’s the first place to start,” Koed said.

Selectman Lee Jenkins wondered if newspapers can control comments on their site.

Milanoski said that the Mariner was looking into it.  He noted that the New York Times requires commentators to pay $1 for a lifetime right to blog. And every time they do, their credit card name comes up.

McCann:  “We do not control newspapers nor should we. We can investigate this…see if there is any connection to anybody who is supposed to be serving this town. I urge you to make this the focus of your vote on this motion.

 Clerical Union and the Permanent Firefighters Union critical of

 Milanoski’s letter to voters in the warrant

 Jack Hernan, president of the Cohasset permanent Firefighters Local 2804 union read a statement saying “Firefighters Local 2804 feel that the statement accusing the unions of violating the law and releasing information about bargaining proposals after an agreement has been reached is totally inappropriate and inaccurate. The union categorically denies any utilization of any form of on-line media that may undermine any of the bargaining that we have undertaken in good faith.

Mary Snow, a member of the clerical union read a statement from her union  president, Ellen Warren, saying Milanoski’s letter was inflammatory and painted the union in a very bad light. She said the union was not aware of anybody blogging about any aspects of the negotiations on the blog

© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed

  7 comments for “Cohasset Selectmen to investigate anonymous blogger(s) that might be hiding out at Town Hall

  1. April 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Don’t worry your little head about this.
    This BOS is not going to lift a finger to investigate anything.
    If the McMorris’ truly desire to find out whose defaming them they will have to get a court order to have Gateway hand over the IP addresses in whch they are interested. After that, they’ll know who owns the computer from whence the e-mail was hatched.
    Unless of course the defamers have changed their Tor.
    Then they may never be found.
    They will have to endured forever.
    Was reading the thread of a Gateway blog today…what absolute dribble.

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