By all appearances, violence isn’t just OK in Gardner. It’s encouraged.
The message we’re receiving from the top on down is that council member Dennis Pugh’s alleged actions are acceptable.
At least one city employee gave electronic encouragement to Pugh’s actions during the city council meeting on Nov. 21. That’s the meeting in which Pugh stormed out of council chambers as he told council member Larry Fotovich that he would drag him to the back and beat the s—t out of him.
As Pugh stomped through city hall and the rest of the council concluded its meeting, Public Works Director David Greene emailed Dennis to say, “Dennis, hang in there.”
The email was sent at 9:51 p.m. – just two minutes before Gardner Police responded to a report of assault and battery at council member Fotovich’s home.
We don’t know for certain what occurred at that home. We do know that the police reported to the scene at 9:53 p.m. and that some of the officers responding to the house attended the city council meeting. We know that Pugh and Fotovich were at the scene, and we know that Fotovich’s $300 Samsung video camera was confiscated by police.
No one was arrested, although by reports on blogs and from the television news, we’ve learned that some sort of altercation occurred.
We also know it was videotaped by Fotovich and that video evidence exists. At least one officer who reported to the scene confirmed the existence of video, and police say video evidence was turned over to the district attorney’s office. There’s still a question of where exactly that evidence sits today.
On Monday morning, Gardner police said the video evidence was copied and sent, along with police reports, to the district attorney’s office. By noon on Monday, the district attorney said his office did not have the evidence.
Police again told us the evidence was with the district attorney. At that point, the DA’s office said the evidence could be in transit.
We also know that no one was arrested. Police officials told us they can’t make an arrest unless they see a scuffle occur. That seems to be a dramatic change of policy, and it makes us a little nervous. It sounds as if anyone could physically assault anyone else in Gardner and if police aren’t there to see it, there will be no arrests. Maybe even no tough questions.
We feel less safe as a result.
To date, no one at city hall has issued a single statement saying that violence will not be condoned. The silence sends the message that it’s just fine as long as the one on the receiving end of it isn’t in lock step with the Mayor or city staff.
What little information we have from city staff, by way of public information email requests, appear to show support for Pugh’s actions in the council meeting.
The entire episode is a disgrace to the city of Gardner, and we can’t believe the appearance that it’s business as usual at city hall. We’re also quite disgusted by some of those making comments on our web site. We understand that there are those who want more evidence before jumping to conclusions.
We don’t understand those who think that if the alleged assault occurred that it’s OK – that somehow Fotovich was asking for it by being difficult. This makes us frightened for what those people are teaching their children – children that likely go to our public schools. We shouldn’t have to remind the people of Gardner how devastating bullying can be.
A few years ago, a Gardner Edgerton High School student was killed as a result of bullying.
By what we’re witnessing and hearing today, bullying isn’t just to be tolerated – it’s to be celebrated if the person being abused doesn’t share your point of view. That’s the message we’re receiving fairly loudly from city officials, and our kids are hearing it too.
We’re dreading the next city council meeting. As always, a representative from the newspaper will be there. Instead of sitting in the front row, however, our representative will be sitting behind the police officer. Hopefully, the officer assigned to the meeting believes in protecting all residents – not just those who agree with the Mayor.