Sept. 25 — To the Editor:
This editorial is stunningly ignorant of the facts of the Eliot Select Board meeting, the Rules of Order and historical facts of the divisive sewer issues in Eliot. They did not contact any member of the Select Board, the town manager nor did they view the video streaming of the meeting. They know nothing of the chaos and near violence of that evening by speaking to the participants of that meeting in the audience.
“Thumbs Up” they say for Mr. Warrender that absolutely refused to obey a two-minute speaking rule agreed to by the entire Select Board prior to the meeting of some nearly 100 citizens in attendance. “Mr. Warrender was not 100 percent right in what he did” they state in this article when in fact he was 100 percent wrong in both rules of order and content of his arguments. There are dozens of court precedents that limit the public’s right to speak at public proceedings and clearly support establishing limits and rules. This meeting must be put into context of the previous meeting held at the middle school with an even larger crowd in attendance. In contrast, that meeting was without limits of any kind and the chairwoman was criticized for the long, drawn out, non-productive meeting full of personal attacks and irrelevant content. At all previous “town meetings,” the citizens have voted for a two-minute limit. Mr. Warrender consumed over six minutes of meeting time and concluded with wanting one question answered. I answered his question, which was not acceptable to him, and he continued refusing to stop speaking. He rejected the efforts of the police to remove him. He pulled away from the grip of the police officer attempting to remove him and continued to resist efforts by the police officer stating that he “wasn’t going anywhere.”
Ignorant to the impact that Mr. Warrender’s actions were having in a packed room, the editorial crucified the chairwoman for ending public input. Members of the audience were in fear of fisticuffs and violence as arguments irrupted. Vulgar comments were being shouted out and families of board members were being verbally accosted. My own wife feared my leaving the meeting without police escort.
The core issue to be decided that evening was the disposition of sewer repairs that have brought two warning letters from DEP for potential fines to the town, along with the potential legal liability for damages to private property from a sewer spill. “That was worthy of more than two minutes” the Herald stated. The town voters rejected a TIF sewer expansion four times and a sewer bond three times prior to that evening over a period of four years. The time for debate had ended and the Select Board had a legal obligation to provide leadership and move to a solution.
The Portsmouth Herald has inflamed an already divisive issue in the town of Eliot and without the benefit of any facts, research or knowledge. The editorial encourages public disorder and “anarchy” at public meetings. The worst of that editorial was the personalize attack on the chairwoman of the Eliot Select Board which they described as “lacking the basic social skills and finesse” to diffuse the situation. In reality, she did an outstanding job at avoiding an eruption of violence and was fully supported by the entire Select Board and town manger. Shame on the Portsmouth Herald. They owe Chairwoman Davis a public apology.
Selectman, Eliot, Maine