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Williamstown Officials Condemn Threatening Email, Call for Respect
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:15AM / Thursday, June 02, 2022
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board and the Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee  issued a joint statement Wednesday condemning an email directed at the latter panel and calling for more respect in public discourse.
 
In their second joint meeting in six days, the Select Board and DIRE Committee reviewed and edited the statement that grew from a May 26 executive session regarding, "an email that included violent imagery sent to the DIRE committee on May 23."
 
According to Wednesday's statement, that email was sent by a resident of the town and was investigated by the Williamstown Police Department, which consulted the State Police and FBI.
 
No charges resulted from the investigation, but law enforcement determined the message was "was sufficiently threatening to be charged as criminal harassment if additional harassment continues," the statement reads.
 
"While a chargeable crime has not occurred, the sender was informed that criminal harassment could be enforced if this type of behavior continues."
 
The contents of the email in question were not revealed during Wednesday's meeting.
 
Throughout the hourlong virtual meeting, it was clear that the members of both committees wanted to send the strongest possible message that such harassment has no place in town politics.
 
Calling to mind past distrust of the Select Board in the wake of earlier revelations of inappropriate behavior in town government, member Jane Patton emphasized that this time the reaction was swift and certain.
 
"I want it to be crystal clear to everyone in town that we're not messing around with nonsense like this, period, full stop," Patton said. "I don't mean to speak so strongly, but I'm passionate about this. I want people to know that this is not acceptable."
 
Patton pushed for stronger language in the joint statement, arguing that it was not the time for the committees to be "too polite about a situation that is terribly serious."
 
The panels agreed on language that commends the work of town committee members and pledges to "work to protect our committees and the people who serve on them, from intimidation acts of all kinds."
 
The one-page statement, which will be posted on the town's website, includes one sentence in bold-face type: "All of our voices are valuable and need to be heard as we work toward more transparency and citizen participation in our town government."
 
In addition to making tweaks from a draft statement to make it more direct and eliminate redundancies, the Select Board and DIRE Committee discussed whether the finished product's tone might come across as directing residents to discuss public issues in a certain way.
 
"I'm looking for a little bit of a call to action here – like, 'Please do not make personal attacks or utilize violent or threatening language,' " Select Board Chair Hugh Daley said. "I understand we're talking as us, but we're projecting out to the community. This is the tough sentence [DIRE Committee member Shana Dixon] had a good thought: Are we telling people what to do, or how do we want to come across here?"
 
"We're trying to make a strong statement, and I stand by that statement," Select Board Vice Chair Jeffrey Johnson said. "I'm not trying to tell citizens what to say and what to do, but I am saying no one should [use violent or threatening language]."
 
In the end, the panels agreed to language that reads, "No one should be making personal attacks or utilizing violent or threatening language. We commit to treating each other with the respect that everyone deserves."
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