To the editor:
As the recent and very short-lived Greenwich Democratic candidate for First Selectman, many have asked me to make a statement to clear my name and reputation, a reputation built on decades of selfless service to the people of this town that has been forever sullied by those in town with political motives and those with a flawed special cause.
After decades of work and volunteer service to people from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds in this town and across our great state, I learned firsthand just how vicious and devoid of ethics some with political aspirations and self-interest can be. I cannot state more clearly that I have never felt that date rape was any different from rape, the alleged misquoted allegation that created this turmoil.
Just a day ago I learned that although I had stepped aside, my name was still on the ballot for the Democratic First Selectman seat and that the only way it would be removed was through my sending a letter requesting that of the Town Clerk.
I received numerous calls and e-mails from party members and others not to submit that letter. I told the search committee that I would not submit that letter until a candidate stepped forward so Greenwich would not have a vacancy in its top seat for the 1st time in Greenwich history. This, of course put me and my family at risk of re-opening the tirade of cowardly personal and family attacks. I was willing to face that if no candidate stepped forward. At the Democratic Town Committee Kick-off Picnic held Sunday (Sept. 8, 2013), numerous additional requests to not step down or remove my name from the ballot were also made from many in attendance at the picnic.
In the interest of Party unity, however, I have thrown my full support to attorney Beth Krumeich, who has so courageously stepped up to carry the Democratic banner the rest of the way in her quest for the First Selectman’s seat.
Democrats cannot afford in-fighting. We are the party for ALL the people of our town and we have to reserve our fighting for that battle, especially here in Greenwich. Beth is highly qualified and is and has been a strong and loyal supporter of the Democratic Party ideals in which I so strongly believe and for which my family and I have suffered greatly.
Clearing one’s name after a vile and public smear campaign is not an easy task and more difficult yet when others are fearful of speaking out on your behalf. David Rafferty, President of the Old Greenwich Association, had a brave and insightful piece Sunday (Sept. 8, 2013) in the Greenwich Time that courageously shines light on the whys and wherefores of such a vile political ambush here in otherwise civilized Greenwich. I am most grateful for his show of public support.
An exposé in the Greenwich Post newspaper and e-version showed remarkable daring by Editor, Ken Borsuk. He exposed his insider view of an orchestrated crusade designed to annihilate the Democratic First Selectman’s opponent through the cowardly process of brutal character assassination; vile comments and innuendo were submitted to all the local media, but not to be published or to have their names associated in any way with the letters they wrote; cowards to be sure.
Mr. Borsuk wrote, “Heavens no, they weren’t making accusations, ‘simply asking questions’…”. He says they were “suspiciously similar in tone and phrasing” and referenced alleged comments made by me to a Greenwich Time reporter in an interview of which I have no knowledge or recollection. The Greenwich Time Editor told me when I requested them that they have no tape or transcript, merely the reporter’s notes to back up his account of an interview of which I have no recollection or record of ever having occurred. Although I’ve requested to see the reporter’s notes, I have not received anything; a reporter incidentally who sat at all the committee and televised and recorded RTM meetings where I presented and thus knows exactly what I DID say and that has been misquoted and taken out of context. Mr. Borsuk’s unbiased article on the other hand, disclosed the true story needing to be told. He identified that what occurred behind the scenes “had all the marks of a coordinated [smear] campaign”, and that “it stunk like one”. Where were these comments when this article came out in 2010? I never saw it. To what depths have we stooped in Greenwich politics?
All my actual words, not paraphrased or out-of-context phrases can be accessed on your home computer at http://gctv.greenwich.org/programs/archive/rtm. As you will see and hear, these were all comments made in opposition testimony to the flawed child safety zone proposal presented to the RTM by Mr. Tesei.
My comments were made in September, 2009 and again in September, 2010.
All RTM meetings are recorded and archived by Channel 79. This proposed piece of legislation was turned down by the full RTM two years in a row; it was voted against by virtually every RTM Committee on numerous grounds. It eventually was left to die on the vine as was appropriate. For some reason the proponents of this hoped-for legislation have given me the credit for its failure and while the opposition was broad and plentiful, I happily accept the credit for that.
All of my misquoted comments related to the fact that teens on a date (not date rape) having consensual sex could, AND HAVE ended up with the teenage boy being placed on the (non-categorized) sex offender list in Connecticut. I don’t consider that to be the same as rape (or date rape). Do we really need our sexually active teens on the sex offender list; I think not. I also discussed that of the 4 (and then 6) sex offenders in Greenwich, only one had a pedophile charge and that even he had never touched a child; he was arrested for taking pictures of the GHS boys’ swim team in the pool from the viewing window.
It is absolutely unbelievable to me that as one who has worked for decades for women’s’ rights, women’s sexual and reproductive rights, human rights, animal rights, and the rights and needs of our minority and immigrant populations, as well as for social justice issues, would be so maligned on this topic. It astounds me that as one who has so actively supported the work of the Greenwich Domestic Violence Program and the Stamford Sexual Assault and Crisis Education Center, and who has worked in this Town that I have served selflessly in work and volunteer efforts for over 30 years, that any allegations based on such despicable and unsupported comments as those being made about me would be believed by anyone. I have done nothing my entire career but work in the service of people in general and of this town in particular; shame on those from any party who fed into this atrocity for personal or political gain.
I suppose it was too much to expect that I would get an honorable and issues-driven campaign for the 1st Selectman’s seat as I did in the State Representative race with Steve Walko; a true gentleman, a good and decent family man and an honorable person; he debated political issues solely from the viewpoint of the different perspectives that he had from mine. I noted recently that I was unclear why any such old material would be dredged up and such vile comments made in this year’s campaign process when the prior election stuck to campaign issues as it should have done. I could see no difference as where I stand on subjects and the tragic issues in my family life have been an open book since day one. I’m a very transparent and honest person. The person with whom I was speaking put it in a nutshell in saying that the difference was that I had a different opponent and the stakes were higher for the GOP. I would never have dragged out the skeletons that are in Mr. Tesei’s closet as part of a campaign or for any other reason. I am far too much of a lady and a decent and honorable person to do so; nor would I ever have encouraged, turned a blind eye, or allowed anyone else to do so on my behalf. One’s family affairs should never be dragged into political campaigning. A true leader would have stopped this. Let’s both Parties put a stop to this vile practice going forth. We don’t need to destroy people with whom we disagree.I’ve known Peter Tesei for decades and I’m so disappointed in him that he has contributed to letting this character assassination go on by doing and saying nothing. He, too, knows exactly what I said at each RTM meeting. He sat in the row right in front of the podium where I spoke at each meeting. He could have reigned in his Party members and the child safety zone posse that so badly wanted and still want to impose that flawed piece of legislation on our town. He could have taken the courageous and honorable road that Senator McCain took when he corrected a wrong being spoken by a lady when he was campaigning against President Obama. He could have stood for putting some decency back into campaigning rather than saying “it’s a Democratic party issue”. Now that that would have shown true leadership in governance and some intestinal fortitude! Perhaps the GOP should be looking to Mr. Walko for their next Selectman candidate. He has demonstrated true leadership by choosing to take the high road and do the right and decent thing when he, too, could have done otherwise. I guess it’s just too easy for people to tread down the low road when they want something too badly. “All it takes for evil to prevail is for one (person) to do nothing.”
Stephanie R. Paulmeno, MS, RN, NHA