What, exactly, is Pelham Town Hall worried that former Treasurer Cari Pupo will say? Pupo was dismissed in 2017, for reasons never made public, during a time of financial upheaval. As noted in the introduction to her commentary, Pupo contacted the Voice over our holiday break and said she had a message she wanted to impart to Pelham residents.
In the normal course of business, a news outlet will typically not fact-check letters to the editor or opinion commentaries, as opinions are inherently subjective. “Man-made climate change deniers are idiots” or “Trudeau’s smarmy smile is nauseating” aren’t objectively provable or disprovable.
Pupo’s statement, however, contains assertions involving conduct by identifiable individuals. The responsible course of action is to request comment from such individuals, and to give each an opportunity to respond however they wish.
Last week the Voice copied relevant portions of Pupo’s remarks to those concerned, requesting their response. Well, one would have thought the newspaper had mailed anthrax to Pelham Town Hall.
Late Friday, the paper received the letter reproduced below. Clearly intended to intimidate us into spiking Pupo’s commentary, it only reinforced the notion that she has something to say that Town Hall fears will be said. But who might be afraid? No one at the top.
The letter was not authorized by CAO David Cribbs—he was on vacation in Mexico. It was not authorized by Mayor Marvin Junkin. It was not authorized by Town Council, whose members were unaware of the letter’s existence until the Voice sent them a copy.
Reached for comment, Junkin responded: “I had a meeting with senior staff on Friday morning, at Town Hall, to discuss the implications, if any, to the Town if the Voice were to publish the article it had received from Cari Pupo. It was decided at that meeting not to do anything until Monday morning, when the Town CAO would be returning to work. I then went home and worked at putting metal roofing on my house. When I climbed down and checked my phone some five hours later, I was very surprised to find that staff had contacted Town lawyers and sent a letter to the Voice, without any input from me, and definitely without my knowledge. I can only assume that they decided that this decision was above my pay grade—after all, I am just an elected official. For the record, I never would have approved of sending the letter. It was a very stupid thing to do, reminding me of a not-too-long-ago media desk episode.”
Reached over the weekend upon his return from vacation, CAO David Cribbs diplomatically declined to identify who authorized the letter in his absence, or whether it was appropriate, saying, “The Town of Pelham respects the role of the media and celebrates free agency to make fair commentary as a necessary part of a functioning democracy. The Town also takes its obligations seriously under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect staff from bullying and harassment.”
Thus we are left scratching our head.
“Disgruntled former employee” can be a cheap way to discredit a legitimate whistleblower. One such individual almost single-handedly brought down a billion-dollar cannabis producer last year. What else might Pupo say if not restricted by a non-disclosure agreement? And who most wishes that she just keeps quiet? Two questions that for now remain unanswered. ♦