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Politically-Motivated Poison-Pen Letter Roils Groton’s Civic Comity

"It Was Written By Someone Feeling Bitter, Petty, Small and Ugly"
[Ed Note: The text of the letter referred to in this article is presented in full following this article.]
 
by Russell Harris
 
On December 19 School Committee Chairman Marlena Gilbert received a poison-pen letter at her home via USPS, an anonymous and malicious communication intended to anger and upset her.
     In addition to having the motivation of upsetting and perhaps intimidating her, the letter appeared to have a primary political motive. The author[s] of the poison-pen mocked and disparaged Gilbert’s efforts to be appointed to both the newly-created Capital Planning Committee and to an open seat on the Community Preservation Committee.
     The letter could be interpreted as a warning to Gilbert, Chairman of the School Committee, to refrain from involving herself in municipal financial issues separate from school finances.
     Ultimately, it is the fact that this letter attacks a public official with a political purpose that makes such a poison-pen letter become a story to be reported in this newspaper.
     In a private message to the Groton Herald, a resident wrote, “Groton’s greatest wealth is its volunteers.” The writer went on to say, “of concern is whether this type of berating of any volunteer is acceptable.” The message’s author wrote, “My response to this is to request of every chairperson of every committee who has a representative on the CPA to write a letter to the public stating how unacceptable that behavior is, stating that no candidate running for public office should be treated that way.”
     The private message to the Herald went on to say, “Any candidate who runs for public office should be respected, their opinions listened to. Every committee who has volunteers should state that publicly.”
     Besides posting the poison-pen letter on the local Google-group’s bulletin board talkaboutgroton, Ms. Gilbert also sent a copy to the Groton Herald. The full text of the letter is posted on page two of this newspaper.
     Responding to the political nature of the communication, Gilbert wrote on talkaboutgroton, “Let me just say that I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I appreciate respectful debate and even criticism. However, sending an anonymous harassment letter to my private residence crosses a line that has now affected my family. I can only hope the behavior of the author of this letter does not represent the majority of our town.”
     Despite the upsetting content of the letter, Gilbert had a message for the author[s]. She wrote, “To the author who may have the opportunity to read this post, please know that I am not discouraged nor intimidated by your letter. In actuality, it has further strengthened my desire to continue to work even harder than I have over the last 3.5 years to advocate for our schools and our town as a whole.”
     Ms. Gilbert said that since her 15-year-old son enjoys opening the family Christmas cards, she allows him to open all envelopes that appear to be holiday greetings. Unfortunately, the poison-pen missive was in a pile that looked like a Christmas card, so her son opened and read the letter before she could screen it.
     Later that day, she wrote that because of the “harassing nature of the letter and because it was sent to my private residence, it is a safety concern for my family,” she had decided to “hand over the letter and envelope to the local police department” because she wanted to err “on the side of caution.”
     Ms. Gilbert also wrote that she had received numerous supportive emails and private messages. Comments on talkaboutgroton were uniformly supportive of Gilbert. Former Selectman Stuart Schulman wrote, “What a terrible thing to receive! Public life such as you participate in can always be difficult. When I was on the BOS many years ago, I received an anonymous letter, in fact quite a bit more negative than even this one. Fortunately, I was the only one that had to read it. I’m sorry that your son was affected.”
     Another post termed the letter "cowardly" while still another called it "sickening." A third wrote, “What a gutless, sleazy thing to do to someone. I'm sorry this happened to you, Marlena.”
     Another poster weighed in writing, “This letter communicates more about the person writing it, than you. It was written by someone feeling bitter, petty, small, and ugly. Disagreeing with you or even having a negative opinion about you, that is fine. But investing their time to write you a note about it and sending it to your home address, anonymously is something else.”
 
Text of Poison-Pen Letter Sent to School Committe Chair Marlena Gilbert 
 
Dear Marlena,
     For the past few years we have read about your hard work on the School Committee and thought you were doing an excellent job as a Groton volunteer. More recently, your actions have given us serious pause for concern.
     Several weeks ago, you applied to join the new Capital Planning Committee. After a convoluted speech regarding your qualifications in front of the Select Board it was clear you were the least qualified candidate. Realizing this, you smartly removed yourself from consideration. What followed, however, started your walk down a very slippery slope. The Groton Herald issue following the Select Board Meeting contained a very whiny, sour grapes rant from you that somehow your candidacy for the Capital Planning Committee was not given proper consideration. For those in attendance and watching from home your ONLY qualification was that you had some experience fixing up a few commercial buildings in a business you owned that was now closed. Must have been a huge success .......
     Fast forward to your most recent debacle where you doubled- downed on trumpeting your amazing qualifications to join the CPC. This time you start quoting chapter and verse of the Groton Master Plan as if that somehow had anything to do with the State regulated CPC, and when your candidacy once again was rejected, you proceeded to again issue a whiny and threatening statement to infer that you have the ability to call upon those loyal to you to make changes at Town Meeting. How did that work for you when you last needed an override for GDRS? Good luck next time sweetie ..... .
     You nave now made clear in the past few weeks to those of us who really didn’t know who you are that you are not only unfit to be on the committees the Select Board so correctly denied you a seat, but you probably shouldn't be allowed on any board/committee in Groton.
     Thank you for waking up the citizens of Groton!
 
Concerned Citizens of Groton
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