Sandy Hook Parent Frustrated To Learn About Trump Letter
When Newtown resident Mark Mattioli went to the town website to review an upcoming Board of Finance agenda with an interest in possibly attending the meeting to hear about local budget matters, he was taken aback by a referenceÃÂ to a letter to President Donald Trump about disavowing one of the country's most visible Sandy Hook "truthers." As the father of James Mattioli, one of the 20 child victims of 12/14, Mr Mattioli said such a letter has no place being mixed in among the finance board's business.See related story).at, if you want my support, I will sign it."
Sitting in the rear of the Municipal Center's main meeting room January 27, Mr Mattioli spoke up several minutes into an intense discussion among finance board members, some who also questioned whether representing the board as a whole was appropriate.
Coming to the public microphone, Mr Mattioli said that up until he saw news of the proposed letter on the finance board agenda earlier that day, he did not know anything about it.
Stating that the proposed letter to the President "doesn't represent my interests," Mr Mattioli questioned why anyone thought asking President Trump to disavow Infowars.com truther and radio host Alex Jones would do any good.
Saying the town already had the support of former President Obama, Mr Mattioli observed that it made no difference as hoaxers and those who deny the tragedy ever occurred continued to operate in the public eye. He also expressed concern that sending such a letter could "give oxygen to something that doesn't deserve it."
He then suggested that if town officials individually, or the collective boards that they serve on, are claiming to be representing the people most effected, they should have circulated a draft of the letter to all 26 victims' families out of consideration.
Finance board Vice Chairman James Gaston replied that he thought originators of the letter on the local Democratic Town Committee had done just that, and eventually supported tabling any further discussion until there was some confidence the families most impacted supported the effort, or at least had been afforded an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
Leading up to Mr Mattioli's observations, and afterward, the board members seemed split on whether to support signing the letter as a board, or leaving it up to individual members as to whether they would sign it.
Prior to President Trump taking office, Democratic Town Committee Chairman Eric Paradis penned a letter he requested to be endorsed by several top elected town boards, asking the nation's new leader to denounce those across the country who believe that the Sandy Hook tragedy never happened.
The letter, in part, asks that President Trump "intervene and stop Jones and others hoaxers like him." He closes reminding the president that one of the victims' families received death threats from a hoaxer, and asks that Mr Trump "denounce any and all who spread lies that the tragedy was a hoax," and to "remove your support from anyone who continues to insist that the tragedy was staged or not real."
On January 17, the Board of Selectmen received and reviewed the letter for the first time in public. After suggesting a few minor edits, along with removing partisan party references in the introduction, selectmen unanimously agreed to support and sign it. That same evening in another venue, the Board of Education discussed but held off approving the letter until the Legislative Council and finance boards weighed in.
The following night, council members received copies of the draft as correspondence for review, but did not have discussion or action on signing it as a matter of business on its agenda, so the issue will likely be taken up at a future meeting. On February 1, the school board voted to have its Chairman Keith Alexander sign the letter on behalf of its members (
During brief deliberation among finance officials before tabling any action on signing it, Chairman John Godin, Sandy Roussas, and Kelley Johnson all expressed reservations.
Ms Roussas specifically took issue with the request to the president to "intervene," saying that such an action would violate citizens' constitutional rights to free speech.
Mr Godin and Ms Johnson both seemed more concerned that sending such a letter could inflame hoaxers to propagate further pain and harassment of Newtown residents and especially those closest to the immediate victims. Ms Johnson also said she had never heard of Jones.
"I never heard of this man but will support your recommendation," she said referring to the first selectman. "P
"I've never been a victim of a hoaxer - but I don't want to enable this guy to make it worse," Mr Godin said, adding that nonetheless, the individual referred to in the letter is "outrageous, despicable," and "a jerk."
Finance Board member Mark Boland said he felt the letter still contained an uncomfortable level of political overtones, and wondered if it might be better to let individual elected leaders sign on. Mr Gaston and board colleague Aaron Carlson both admitted to having been targeted by truthers.
"I've received personal attacks from hoaxers and fully support what you are doing," Mr Carlson said.
"I received hate mail," Mr Gaston said. "Families have been threatened and sometimes you have to speak up as someone who had conspiracy theorists supporting him. We're asking him to recognize that 26 were killed - denounce all who spread lies - and to not support those who are promoting something hurtful and untrue. We're not asking to pass a law, we're asking for support. We received support from President Obama, now we're asking for support from President Trump."
Mr Gaston continued saying that signing the letter should be a board decision, not left to individuals to sign or not.
"If you're being bullied you don't sit there and take it," Mr Gaston said. "This has been going on four years. This is the time to stand up - we have a unique opportunity and maybe it will make a difference. If the President recognizes this, maybe it will help our community."
At the same time, he expressed great concern that the families most affected by the tragedy may have not reviewed, or even been aware, of the pending letter, and was supported in his suggestion to table further discussion until officials received any feedback from those family members.
Copies of the draft letter were circulated to victims' families on Friday, January 27 - and by Wednesday, February 1, nearly half the parents of 12/14 student victims contacted said they had either received, and/or reviewed the draft.